Friday, September 7, 2012

Indian Ridge

Day 2 of the Labor Day Mountain-Trail-a-Thon

It seemed like a good idea to get another early start Sunday morning, because it seemed to work well for us; as a group, we were getting a comfortable pattern established.  The word “early” is relative… and my relative is in agreement with his retired cohorts that 8:00 a.m. is plenty early.   So, the second day began with a leisurely breakfast and more interesting conversation.  “Somebody” started with a bowl of cereal, then had yogurt and granola, followed by some coffee and a cinnamon roll, and then when my brother offered to fry up some eggs, he finished with a final course…3 eggs over easy.  An interesting judgment call that prompted a few chuckles.  No question that he had sufficient nutrition to start another day’s high mountain adventure!  We had already saved some time, because everything but food and clothing was loaded.  I think we were out of the driveway by 10:30 a.m., headed for a ride on Indian Ridge.
We arrived at a nice campground area off Bear Creek Road, unloaded the machines, and then the two-part preparation process began…
We're unloaded.  Put on all the gear.

Kick, kick, kick, adjust, kick, kick, kick...

That darn Honda!  There’s some mechanic work ahead!  But without question, the next bike, we were told, will have a push button starter! 

I headed out wearing a t-shirt, but a mile down the road I decided to put on a sweatshirt; the wind was a bit brisk. Very soon we started climbing the ridge.  For me, it got a little rough riding because of the rocks and washed-out gullies, but the rough parts were sporadic.  We moved right along and soon saw Wiggin’s Fork Creek in the valley far below us.  We stopped a few times to look at the mountain peaks surrounding us.  My brother pointed out Washakie Needles to the east (a peak we had climbed many years ago…but that’s a whole other story!). I was really hoping we could see Gannett Peak (highest peak in Wyoming at 13,809 ft. and one my brother and I have climbed).  Although we searched the horizon in the area where we should have been able to see it, we just couldn’t make it out (despite my insistence that it had to be right where we were looking).  So, we continued further up the ridge, stopped to look again, and there it was!!  No question!  There are so few places where you can get a glimpse of it without hiking in, so it’s a treat to see it.
We're up around 8,400 ft, from where one can see Gannett Peak.

Further up the trail, we stopped to see what has been identified as an area where the Sheep Eaters built a sheep trap to catch and kill Bighorn sheep.  Quite a bit of mystery surrounds the Sheep Eaters, and we were prompted to do a little research (after we got home).  

In brief, I’ll share some highlights here.  They were an Indian tribe which was a branch of the Shoshone, often called the Mountain Shoshone or Tukudeka (Sheep Eaters).  They got that name because of what they ate for sustenance.  In the same way, other tribes have been called the Salmon Eaters and the Buffalo Eaters. The Sheep Eaters may have lived in the Yellowstone area, including surrounding areas in Idaho and Montana, for about 10,000 years.  What most distinguished them is that they often lived above 7,500 ft. in the mountains, close to the most powerful spirits, believing they could absorb some of their powers. The Sheep Eaters were considered the best Medicine Men by the Shoshone.  Also, they did not fully embrace the introduction of horses and rifles as did other tribes, but preferred to cling to the traditional ways.  These people were not aggressive and stayed in the high country. Unlike other tribes, they used mountain ridges and windswept slopes for travel. It was observed that they lived in what some have called extreme poverty, used wolf dogs, and made very powerful bows made of Bighorn sheep or elk antlers.  They did not live in teepees, but in wikiups, a structure of poles, branches, and skins. (Although I have seen the remnants of a wikiup like the one below,  I did not take the following two pictures, but found them as images on the internet under Sheep Eaters.)
This is an image of the remains of a wikiup.
This is an image of the remains of a Sheep Eater's Bighorn sheep trap. 

Through the years, many have viewed this tribe through mystery and superstition, but that is mostly attributed to what was recorded by the white man when they first encountered the Sheep Eaters. (Lewis and Clarke were the first to meet them.) However, more recent investigation proves these ideas untrue.  The white man simply came from such a different culture, they did not understand the culture and beliefs of the Sheep Eaters.  Unfortunately, it was the white man’s diseases, specifically small pox, and the insistence that the tribe be moved to the Wind River Reservation that was the demise of the The Sheep Eaters.

Here is a view of the Pinnacles above Brooks Lake.

Wiggins Fork Creek is seen below winding toward the Double Cabin area.
After this stop, we continued to the end of the road, where we ate lunch and thoroughly enjoyed the smell of pine, the quiet of the mountain, and the rugged peaks on the horizon. 

This picture was taken where there was a great expanse of scenic peaks, and the trail ends a few miles below.

We started back down Indian Ridge after lunch and made very few stops, getting in the rhythm of the undulating trail winding through tightly strewn trees, crossing barren hills, and negotiating rocky slopes. We came out in about an hour.  However, my brother hit a rock somewhere along the route, which eventually  caused  a leak in the brake fluid line, and he had no front brake toward the end of the ride! 

That could put a kink in the plans!!  So, a stop at Walmart for supplies preceded getting home, and the mechanic work began.  I have to say that these guys are really good problem-solvers:  knowledgeable, patient, persistent, and resourceful.  However, they would not know if the wet-welding job worked until they could put it all back together after a 15 hour wait…which meant 10:30 the next morning.  

To cap off the evening, my brother grilled up a boat-load of his famous shrimp for dinner.  My favorite!!  We all ate…too much.

Day 3 lay ahead.

1 comment:

  1. An amazing collection of photos, memories, and information. I look forward to reading about Day 3.