Editor’s note: What did you do over the long weekend? Enjoy the adventures of our friend and Pendleton ambassador Greg Hatten, who took the Bighorn blanket home to the Bighorn Wilderness.
The Bighorn Mountains of Montana are larger than life – just like the mountain men and trappers who explored them in the early 1800s. Many of my favorite characters from that wilderness era explored the rivers, forests, mountains and meadows as they crisscrossed their way through territory that is now called Wyoming and Montana. On a recent trip west, I set out to chase the ghosts of Jim Bridger, John Colter, Hugh Glass and retrace just a few of their paths.
Much of what I saw looked the same as it did over 200 years ago – especially the skyline with the snowcapped mountains that stretched high in the blue Montana sky. I found a clearing and camped with a view of the mountains – it snowed that night.
I rowed my boat down the Bighorn River where the water was icy cold and clear. It reflected the blueness of the sky in a hue that I had only seen one other place…Crater Lake Oregon.
One night, I camped beside a small stream running fast with snow melt in the Bighorn National Forest and the trees were so thick it blocked out the night sky but felt warm and safe next to the cold water.
It was a trip back in time and my boat was the time machine that took me there. Quite a trip – quite a place.
In 1825, the Bighorn River called famed mountain man Jim Bridger to build a raft of driftwood and ride it through the foaming rapids. Part of the river was dammed to create Bighorn Lake, but the spectacular canyon it carved remains, named for the Bighorn sheep that travel its rocky, treacherous paths. Located in Montana and Wyoming, about one third of the park unit is located on the Crow Indian Reservation. One quarter of the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range lies within the Bighorn Canyon Recreation Area.
See it here: Bighorn Blanket