Postcards from Big Sky Country

by chuckofish

First, I want to say how delighted I was to see my dear DP blogging again! I’m thinking of you constantly as we wind our way west. We made it to Idaho (yay!), but it will take a few days for my nerves to recover from hairpin turns in mountain passes. The DH loves driving through mountains (I kid you not) but his devoted wife is not a fan. Since my Tuesday post, we’ve done many wonderful things. We braved the crowds at Mt. Rushmore,

and hiked around the Devil’s Tower,

which is also awesome up close.

After the crowds at Mt. Rushmore and the Devil’s Tower (we got there early so it wasn’t too bad), we were the only visitors at Rosebud Battlefield State Park, site of the battle in which Gen. George Crook and his men, including a young trumpeter in Company F, Arthur Newell Chamberlin, our great grandfather, battled Sioux and Cheyenne Indians to a draw on June 17, 1876. It’s a neat place,

and easy to imagine the action. According to the site information, the army lost 9 men and the Indians about 25.

The battle raged all day and eventually Crook withdrew, which is why the Indians claim victory. Given their losses, however, I’d say that Crook had the upper hand. From there, we drove the short distance to the Little Big Horn, where we were NOT the only visitors. It’s a beautiful area and well organized.

The battlefield spreads for miles along a ridge; Custer split his forces and tried to defend too much area, or so it seems to me. We didn’t stay to long because bad weather was closing in, but I’m glad we went.

We spent the night in Billings, MT, and got an early start the next morning in an attempt to enter Yellowstone through the northern gate. Alas, after surviving the tortuous tailbacks on this wild mountain road, we found the pass closed by snow (that rain we encountered at the LBH was snow in the mountains) and had to turn around and do it all in reverse! But the view was great.

We backtracked and drove around to the eastern side of the park, through Cody, Wyoming. To give you an idea of the distance, from our start in Billings to our entry of the park from Cody took about five hours. Once in Yellowstone, we braved the crowds and visited Old Faithful (another couple of hours to get to). Here’s my old faithful squinting happily:

Yellowstone is very beautiful, but I found the car-accessible parts too built up and crowded for my taste (of course, I was right there with the other tourists, so part of the problem). If I had had time and were younger, I’d have ventured into the interior, but we made do with famous places like these boiling water pools at the Thumb.

It was an incredibly blustery, chilly day — perfect except for the wind, but we did not get blown away. From Yellowstone, we drove through Jackson Hole, Wyoming (about 75 miles south). I’ve always wanted to go to Jackson Hole. When I was in graduate school we joked half-seriously that we would move to Jackson Hole and open a bar at which unemployed Ph.D.s would work. Well, I must say, that I absolutely loathed the place. The hills/mountains loom over it so that you feel as if an avalanche will crush you at any moment (I guess that’s why it’s called Jackson HOLE), but worst of all are the hordes of tourists, the traffic, and the realization that no one actually lives there. It is certainly not the place for an obscure, hole in the wall bar. But enough of that. After enduring the hour-long traffic jam, we finally made it out. Once clear of the place, we had our first moose encounter!

As we turned the corner, we came face to face with a young moose standing in the middle of the road. Although I grabbed the camera quickly, it was off the road by the time I got the shot.  But, still, a moose! That was the perfect end to a long, 12-hour day in which we started in Montana, drove into Wyoming, and ended up in Idaho, but it was well worth it.

Today we are going to take it easy, maybe go to an estate sale in Hailey, and do laundry. Stay tuned for more adventures… Be well and stay safe!