Wednesday 7th October
Said goodbye to Cody this morning. Since arriving in Cody last week we have found out a bit more about the ‘wild’ west and its characters.
We left town on the Wyoming 120 north, across the same territory that we travelled on Monday but this time in daylight. We soon came to the open rangeland
with the Heart Mountain on our right and quickly reached 6,000 feet with marvelous views of the high mountains and rolling grassland as far as the eye could see with no evidence of human habitation. Wyoming has a very small population for the size of state and it is easy to go miles and miles on the minor highways and see no one. The first westerners finding this land for the first time must have been quite awestruck. Apparently, when the first travellers to see Yellowstone reported back about the landscape and the geysers, hot springs and mudpots they weren’t believed. Wyoming has got a lot going for it, wonderful scenery, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, it does live up to its nickname of ‘Big Wyoming’
The picture changed as we got to the fertile irrigated farming area of the valley through Belfry and Bridger and back into Montana. Stopped off just outside Bridger in a rest area for brunch. To the east are the Pryor Mountains and the Crow Indian Reservation. We past Billings on Interstate 90 and over the Yellowstone River around into Big Horn country. Billings is the largest city in Montana and sits in the Yellowstone Valley surrounded by dramatic cliff rims. Its biggest claim to fame is, of course, that Peter and Suzan Batey lived there when they were oil magnates and worked for Conoco.
We entered the Crow Indian Reservation lands with views over the plains of eastern Montana where the buffalo once did roam. It is easy to see why this is called big sky country. Just off the I-90 is the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. The monument memorialises one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life. In the Visitor Centre we watched a short film about the famous battle and the history behind it. In the valley of the Little Bighorn River on the 25th June 1876 the 7th Cavalry of the US Army lead by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer came across a large Lakota-Cheyanne-Arapaho camp containing about 7,000 people, under the leadership of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and other war chiefs. A battle ensued in which Custer and 210 men died – Custer’s Last Stand. There is a one lane drive around the battlefield with interpretive signs at crucial points of the battle. It is a well laid out trail explaining how the battle unfolded and finally finished. The landscape hasn’t changed since 1876 and most of the trail is on the hills overlooking the river which gives a full picture of the terrain and makes it easy to imagine the scene. There are memorial markers placed across the battlefield denoting the places where Custer’s men fell and known sites where Cheyanne and Lakota warriors fell. Eventually the remains of Custer’s command were buried in a mass grave on Last Stand Hill around the memorial pillar where their names are written.
The remains of the officers were taken back to eastern cemeteries. Custer’s remains are at the US Military Academy, West Point. We had a fascinating and thought provoking afternoon. Although the tribes won the battle, as we know they eventually lost the war.
We went a little way down the road to Garyowen and stayed at the 7th Ranch RV Camp. Which is up in the hills just south of the battlefield. We had the place to ourselves with a great view over the plains into the sunset.
Thursday 8th October
The good weather is continuing, temperatures in the 20’s. Took a walk up the hill at the back of the campsite where we got a good 360 degree view across the countryside and the battlefield to the north.