This morning began early with breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe in Medora, North Dakota. The food was good (amazing bacon and sourdough bread), but the cool part was all of the pictures. This place really honors the local ranchers and cowboys who settled the area and made it great. Several of the locals, whose pictures may very well have been on the wall, popped in for breakfast, too.
We finished quickly so that we could get into the South Unit early. The weather was still a bit cloudy, but visibility was better than the day before and it was a really nice drive with little traffic. They were doing some road construction in the park, which made the first few miles rough road, but not too bad. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves about the views. We saw lots of buffalo, some mule deer, hundreds of prairie dogs, wild horses, and bighorn sheep. The latter were far up on a hill, and we would have missed them if it weren’t for MW’s eagle eyes. The drive took about 1-1/2 hours, and every moment was filled with amazing stuff. This park is definitely on my list of favorite places!
After returning to the campground to get Penelope hooked up, our next stop was back in Medora at the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. This museum celebrated North Dakota cowboys and had some interesting Indian displays, too. We ran into a couple from Norris, Tennessee, which is a planned community about an hour from Sneedville. They were traveling back east after coming across the country in a minivan modified to have a bed in the rear. They stopped us to ask about towing the trailer and any issues we’ve had. We chatted for a bit and traded contact information so that we can get in touch when we are back in Tennessee. We finished up at the museum and and hit the road west headed to my favorite state…Montana!
Crossing the eastern border we almost immediately saw a large herd of antelope in a field and saw five or six more herds on the trip through the grasslands. Traveling on I-94, we continued past Forsyth, then exited and took the back roads though Lame Deer and Muddy, headed over to Custer’s Last Stand. Along the way we drove through the reservations of the Northern Cheyanne and Crow tribes.
Little Bighorn is very interesting. The Custer National Cemetery takes up quite a bit of space and is open to veterans of all wars. It is a powerful place. There is a visitor’s center, and many trails lead through various parts of the battlefield. Having read some of the information out there on the battle of Little Big Horn, I found it interesting that the signs and information here unequivocally state that Custer was following the orders of General Terry and was a hero. They never mention that, prior to Little Big Horn, he was court-martialed for desertion after
walking away from his troops to go home to Libby. One thing they do say that most folks don’t know is that he wasn’t a General when he fell. He was a Lieutenant Colonel. (The General came from his service during the Civil War as part of a volunteer regiment. He did not keep the rank later.) The plan was for a three-pronged attack surrounding the enemy. However, Custer’s troops went ahead of the other two and engaged them alone. The contradictory viewpoint that is never mentioned at the monument, but is believed by many scholars and historians is that Custer was arrogant and looking to grab more fame causing him to ignore the scout reports and lead his troops to their death. We may never know the whole story, but the battlefield is very interesting and worth the trip. We walked around the cemetery and then up to the hilltop where Custer and his closest men were killed. As you look down across the field to the river, you can see the white stone monuments marking the spots where various men fell. It is sobering to imagine the battle. I found it so interesting that, as we were walking back down from the hilltop and I was looking all around the field at the monuments, I stepped right off of the sidewalk, twisted my ankle, and fell hard on my new knee and both hands. Nothing broke, thankfully, but I was REALLY sore later.
Back on the road, we took I-90 through Billings. (Did I mention that the speed limit is 80?!) This is my third trip into Montana and MW’s second, and we’ve determined that the only places that aren’t scenic are the cities, where the oil refineries and factories are located. We arrived at the Itch-Kep-Pe City Park in Columbus, Montana at about 6 PM. This is a free RV park on the Stillwater River. There are no hookups, so it was our first opportunity to boondock. It went well. The fridge and water heater were on gas and the battery handled the slide, lights, and water pump. We were careful with the lights, but seemed to have plenty of battery power left in the morning. Since we were planning to leave very early, we did bring the slide in before turning in to cut down on noise in the morning.
More pics from today:
Today we had to get on the road early to make it to Washington, so we left very quietly at 6:15 AM. The scenery through the rest of Montana, Idaho, and eastern Washington was spectacular. We stopped for lunch at a rest area that was really nice with beautiful, grassy areas under the trees and covered picnic tables. Twelve hours after we started, we finally arrived at the Mardon Resort RV Park on the shores of Potholes Reservoir near O’Sullivan dam. This was a sprawling resort with cabins, full-time RV spots, and lots of activities. It wasn’t busy at this time of year, but we could see where it would be crazy in the summer. Our site backed up to the beach, and it was really beautiful. We sat outside before dinner, and a flock of some type of quail one-by-one popped up out of the high grasses by the beach. They went up the hill to find food, and we saw them later when we walked around the campground.
More photos from today: