Last checked/found: 17-SEP-11
Trailhead: The West Rosebud Trailhead is located approximately 80 miles southwest of Billings. To reach the trailhead, take the Columbus exit from Interstate 90, and take Montana Highway 78 through Absaroka and then turn west on 419 (Nye Road) toward Fishtail (approximately 17 miles from Columbus). From Fishtail, drive west and south for 1 mile, turn south (left) to the West Rosebud Road.
Watch for the sign for West Rosebud Lake, approximately 2 miles down the road, and turn left. Follow this rough and graveled road for 14 miles to the West Rosebud Trailhead, which is on the left. The trailhead has toilet facilities and a parking area. The trail actually begins up the road about 200 yards, and is reached by walking through the Montana Power Company facilities where the trailhead is clearly marked with a Forest Service sign.
Distance: 6 miles round trip with 1,200’ elevation gain (mostly gradual ascent)
Time: 3-4 hours
Start up the trail to Mystic Lake on your “Vision Quest”. Here is some information to inform & educate you along the way:
Some historians believe the early home of the Crow-Hidatsa ancestral tribe was near the headwaters of the Mississippi River in either northern Minnesota or Wisconsin. Later the people moved to the Devil's Lake region of North Dakota before the Crow split from the Hidatsa and moved westward. As the Crow moved across the plains, they found the territories now known as Montana and Wyoming to their liking. Those who settled north of the Yellowstone River in the more mountainous country became known as the Mountain Crow.
The Crow adopted all aspects of plains life. They became nomadic and gave up their permanent earth lodge homes in favor of the easily moved tipi. They abandoned farming, but did continue to grow tobacco since it was such a valuable commodity for trade with other tribes. They became skilled hunters with the lance, and bow and arrow. It was not until the end of the 19th Century that guns replaced the traditional weapons of the Crow. Like other plains hunters, they learned to cover themselves with animal skins to mask their human smell, and to stalk their game against the wind to control both noise and suspicious odors.
Tall and strikingly handsome people, the Crow were vain in many ways. The women had no equal on the plains for their skill at tanning hides, and for the elegance of the highly decorated clothing and other possessions they created. The designs stitched by the women were geometric and were created by every possible material including human and animal hair, hide and fur strips, quills and even various grasses, flowers and plants. Eventually beads, cloth, yarn and ribbons became available to the women to even further enhance their art.
The Vision Quest was of paramount importance in the life of a Crow. Both boys and girls began their Vision Quests around age 9, and it was believed that the villages carried the combined power of all the visions received, and that this power joined forces to be shared by the tribe as a whole. Until visions were received and explained by the village medicine person or shaman, the child had no standing in the village, or in the tribe. The Vision Quest was repeated at intervals set by the elders and medicine people until visions were received, but to lie about success was unthinkable and an unforgivable sin. However, if there were repeated failures in the Vision Quests, the individual was ostracized. Such repeated failure was cause for dishonor and for scorn as such individuals were not allowed to marry and take their rightful place in the village, or in the tribe. In order to preserve self-worth and dignity, a person could buy a part of the vision of a tribal leader, elder or medicine person until such time as he received his own messages.
We hope you are successful on your quest today. You’ll need to ascend the trail to the lake, and then descend to the beach.
The Vision Quest is a period set for solitary prayer at a remote place. A person will usually spend three or four days of fasting on the vision quest, saying his prayers during all that time. He goes away up in the hills, gets away from people, and goes off by himself, and there fast and prays for either the three- or four-day period he selected before he began his quest. There are many intentions that a person may have when he prepares to make a vision quest.
The Crow would scatter, each by himself, putting in his days. Some would stay four days, some less. Some of them might have received something by the time they came back; some may have come back without anything. Some of them would have been successful and might have had a vision, have been visited by an animal, or have had a dream or something to bring back, and that is good – that meant something. Another would come back and say that he did not receive anything. It means that he would have to try again later, and usually he would. He would try again later on and try again and again.
Many of them ended their days by saying, “I tried not once, but a number of times, and finally I was visited by a bird or animal that gave me medicine, and I finally have some medicine, some kind of power or understanding.” And that was the way in those days. They would have kept trying until they got something. Some of the most sincere ones would probably receive something the first time they went on a vision quest. It depended on the sincerity of the person. It they have a good, strong intention, then they may have been the ones who were successful in their dream or vision right away.
Perhaps you will be visited by a mystic fish on your quest. Native American spirituality regards the fish as a being symbolic of deep, mystical insights due to its ability to swim into the depths of the unconscious. Hopefully you are also sincere enough to find the Montana Crow on your quest…
After the beach, continue on the trail a short ways to a large rock overhang on the left. Then take ~60 strong steps to reach a rock chair. Take a bearing of 140° from the restful chair and then walk to a triad of large boulders. The Crow awaits you behind the front left boulder, hidden under some smaller rocks.
Please be respectful of the tribe and carefully restore this honored member to his remote and hidden vision quest location before you retrace your steps.
Please let us know if your vision quest was successful, since our home is far from the Crow Nation.