Beauty of the Bighorns

By Jesse Maloney

I’m from Minnesota; the land of 10,000 lakes. Our watery oasis is a geological miracle in of itself but sometimes you want a change of scenery.

Over the years, I’ve traveled most of the United States. They are all remarkable and endowed with ageless beauty. Even so, I usually find myself heading west when I want a longer break from straight lines, and signs. The vastness of the west allows the wanderer to roam freely without encroachment. It’s a sensation that penetrates. I love it.

Having been to most of the big scene national parks, I thought it would be nice to hike some lesser traveled, but no less majestic, paths this trip. I spent hours poring over satellite maps looking for the obscure. I’ve learned that not every treasure is found within a National Park. After scouring dozens of digital cirques, valleys, rivers, and canyons, I identified several spots that looked like they might be worth the time it takes to get to them.

I had seen the Bighorn Mountains on the map my whole life. I convinced myself that a mountain range that takes up a good portion of the state of Wyoming must house some real gems. I extended my search and spotted an area called North Beaver Creek Falls. It was only a two mile walk from one of the few small highways that break up the range. The satellite image looked promising so my son and I loaded up our packs and followed the sun westward.

We were not disappointed! Beaver Creek starts high atop the range and flows down through rolling crests. There is a trailhead that follows the creek and is a sweet homage to wildflowers and babbling waters. My son and I merrily wended our way along this path. After a mile or so, the valley began to tighten and we walked through a stand of evergreens. When the arbor veil parted, my heart began to pound wildly. A Shangri-La of ethereal beauty stunned me. My owl-head-turn left no disparaging path of vision. I began to become emotional; not against my will but without announcement. The glazing of my eyes gave me better clarity to see the miracle before me. There were deep circular terraced pools of transparent water fed by the creek. They gradually descended over pink granite to a narrow chute that poured 50 feet into a verdant valley below.

I gazed across the creek to my son who descended alongside me. He was affixed in a trance that I had never seen with him. When he finally looked my direction, his mouth was open and his eyes cast a sense of disbelief into mine. I smiled at him and asked him if he could believe this place was real. His unintentional gape stretched into a full blown grin.

There are places out there whose beauty exceeds what my mind can envision. Beaver Creek Falls is a location that holds this honor. Even with satellite prefaces afforded by the internet, nothing can prepare you for the authentic and sensational experience that awaits the trekker here. It’s splendor may be enough to wish that your years on this Earth could be prolonged so you could get to more of places like this.

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