Little Bighorn

Once again we awoke to cold weather, about 29 degrees.  Driving out of Billings on I-90, we saw several big refineries, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and other smaller ones, some with huge piles of coal visible from the interstate.  I wasn’t aware that Billings was such a refinery center. About an hour out of Billings, on I-90 is a place that I have heard about since childhood.  Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, encompassing 765.34 acres, lies within the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana.  Watching the 25-minute orientation provided a sobering perspective of this historic battle.  Below are some photos from the museum.

Indian Veteran Drawing collected from Prison notebook

Drawing from veteran in Prison Notebook

Former warrior of Little Bighorn in 1921

Clash of Cultures

Cheyenne Battle Participants 50 Years Later

The National Cemetery, originally created in 1879 to protect the graves of the 7thCavalry troopers buried there, was later designated to include burials of other campaigns and wars.  We were told that the cemetery has since run out of space and is closed to burials.  The last veterans buried there were from the Vietnam War era.

Bighorn National Cemetery

Bighorn National Cemetery

Spanish American War Veteran

World War I and II Veteran

The Indian Monument, honoring Native Americans who died on this sacred ground on June 25 and 26, 1876, was authorized by law on December 10, 1991, and unveiled on June 25, 2003, on 127thanniversary of the battle.  The same law changed the name of the monument from Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Bighorn National Monument.

Native American Monument

Indian Marker

Crazy Horse Statement

Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull

The Indian Encampment, consisting of about 7,000 Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho, including around 1,500-2,000 was entrenched along the Little Bighorn River.  Under Sitting Bull, the designated leader, the people refused to go to reservations, preferring instead to continue their traditional nomadic way of life. From the Visitor Center we drove the 5-mile Battlefield Road to view the various sites of battles.  The most well known site is Last Stand Hill.  It was here that Custer and approximately 41, realizing that they were trapped, shot their horses for protection and to make a last stand.  Approximately 10 men, including Custer, his brother Tom and others were found in the vicinity of the 7thCavalry Memorial.  Other soldiers were found nearby.  The Indians removed their dead, around 60-100, placing them on scaffolds and hillsides.  Later Custer’s remains were reinterred at the US Military Academy at West Point.  Later the remains of others were buried in a mass grave around the base of the memorial, bearing the names of soldiers, scouts, and civilians killed in the battle.

The Memorial on Last Stand Hill

Memorial Marker

Graves in the Field

Soldier Grave

Reno Benteen Defense

Retreat Crossing/Little Bighorn River

The drive was so impressive and historical. I could go on about the history, but the reader will have read other sources.  I recommend a CD I heard not long ago, The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, by Nathaniel Philbrick.

Bighorn Battlefield

We spent about 3 hours exploring the monument, then headed to the Custer Battlefield Trading Post, where we enjoyed Indian tacos (enough for two!).

Indian Taco

Then we took the scenic route, Highway 212 for miles and miles.  At Alzada, we turned toward Devils Tower.  Almost immediately we crossed yet another state line into Wyoming.

Wyoming

Finally made it to Devils Tower just before dark.

Devils Tower

Taking Rt. 16, we crossed into South Dakota.

South Dakota

Our home for several nights is the Rocket Motel, one of only 3 open in the winter in Custer.

Two States

397 miles today October 26, 2012

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It’s Cold in Montana

Leaving Missoula, it was about 33 degrees and snowing lightly.  We were a little nervous about road conditions, but were assured everything was okay to Butte.  Then there may be some snow on the pass beyond there.  Yep, we bought some warm hats…not exactly fashion statements, but they work.  And, the Starbucks sign over my head just adds to the humor.

Polly with her sippy cup and fashion hat

Nancy’s fashion statement with Starbucks on top

The weather got a bit worse near Deer Lodge, site of the old Montana State Prison, so we stopped in the town to find some road condition information.  Our first sign of trouble was the Chamber of Commerce person whose dialect told us he was from Great Britain.  We went over to the old prison to use the facilities. The attendant there maybe said three words to us.  So off we went in the snow.  Pretty soon it quit.  We stopped just outside Butte at a truck stop and were told that the roads were okay.  Our lunch consisted of a couple of pieces of barbequed chicken eaten in the car because of the cold.  All day long we were in and out of light snow, crossing the Continental Divide at 6375’ and 23 degrees.  We were a little tense with the big trucks and possible ice, but never really had any trouble.

Montana Mountains

Our one sightseeing experience was at the Missouri Headwaters State Park.  This is where the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin Rivers join to become the Missouri.  On July 4, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson had enlisted Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the 45 members of the Corps of Discovery to “explore the Missouri River and such principal stream of it, as by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean…may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent.”  On July 25, 1895, Captain Clark became the first recorded non-Indian to read the Headwaters.  Two days later Captain Lewis and the rest of the party joined him.  Later the Corps of Discovery party was able to find the Shoshone Indians, secure horses and make it across the Rockies to the Pacific.

Missouri Headwaters

Our biggest regret of this week is that we had to give up seeing Yellowstone.  The weather was just too bad.  But, we both remember Old Faithful from our 1950’s trip with our parents.  Maybe we will return someday.

Tonight we are staying at a Springhill Suites in Billings, MT.  It was a long day and the temperature hovered around 28 degrees most of the day.  Us Georgia girls are just not used to this cold. Brrrrrr!

346 miles today

October 25, 2012

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Two States Today and Headed East

Okay, I have really been behind in my posts.  I know there are some of you who are checking in almost daily.  So I am going to try posting the most recent days and post previous days when I can.

We left Spokane around 9:00 in foggy weather.  Before long we saw blue sky.  Spokane is very close to the Idaho border, so we pulled off at a rest area as soon as we entered Idaho.  The rest area was beautiful with cedars and other evergreens surrounding the building.  We met Ron, the attendant who was kind enough to witness our crossing the border tradition.

Idaho Border

One of the brochures that Ron gave us was Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park. We debated whether to take the time to stop since we were a bit concerned about the weather.  When we saw it just off I-90, we knew that was a sign that we should check it out.  It stands serenely on a hillside about 20 miles east of Coeur d’Alene.  Catholic missionaries and the Coeur d’Alene Indian tribe jointly constructed it 1850-1853.  The church is Idaho’s oldest standing building.  The stone foundation was dug in the mountains half a mile away.  Timbers and rafters were dragged by the Indians and put into place.  It has been many things to many people over the years but now stands as a monument to the past.

Old Mission in Cataldo, ID

Confessional in Old Mission

Confessional in Old Mission

Another brochure mentioned Wallace, ID.  A Colonel Wallace, who purchased 80 acres of land that became the site of the present city, started the town.   A fire in 1890 destroyed the entire business district of wood buildings.  New brick buildings, most of which are still standing, were constructed.  After 1900, it became the hub of one of the world’s richest mining districts.  By 2011, the district had produced 1.3 billion ounces of silver.  Silver, lead and zinc are still mined from the mountains.  It was the kind of place in which we could have stayed for hours.

Wallace, ID

Laundry in Wallace, ID

Vintage Games in Wallace, ID

Polly in Vintage Games

Slot Machine in Wallace, ID

Nancy in the Spaceship

The climate and landscape changed dramatically as we crossed Lookout Pass and crossed the Montana border.

Lookout Pass

Montana Border-Lookout Pass

Then it was down the mountain to St. Regis where we had an unexpectedly good lunch of potato soup and salad.  In fact, we had enough to pack up for dinner in the evening.

Lunch in St. Regis

A couple in the restaurant suggested that we take the scenic route to Missoula instead of I-90.  We learn so much from fellow travelers.

Tonight we are in the Best Western Grant Creek Inn.  We have not been disappointed in the Best Western chain on this trip.  Of course we had to celebrate the Montana state line crossing.

Margaritas in Montana

Nancy in Missoula, MT

October 24, 2012

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Sisters Head to Sisters, OR

Everyone needs their breakfast.  After we finished ours and checked out of the hotel in Nampa, Polly had to make sure the horses were fed.

Stay tuned, more later.

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