The night before we left Whistler, BC a massive thunderstorm hit a good portion of the Pacific Northwest including Glacier National Park setting off a firestorm with smoke traveling for miles in all directions. What was supposed to be our first visit to this illustrious park became an unknown as we traveled across British Columbia staying in Kamloops on August 12 then Invermere. We had a couple nights booked in Waterton Park, Alberta (basically, the north end of Glacier NP). When we arrived at the inn within the park, we were told our room wasn’t ready and to wait an hour - only to be told they lost our reservation when we checked back in with them. Interesting, since we had called twice ahead of our arrival once the fire started. That was fine with us as visibility was an issue, and we really didn’t want to hang around if we couldn’t see the park. What was unfortunate was that all the wasted time made for a rather long travel day. That night we ended up in Lethbridge, Alberta and left the next day for Great Falls, Montana to plan how we might work our way to Colorado over the next week.
With a plan to drive away from the smoke-filled skies, we canceled our reservation at the south end of Glacier NP and drove across Montana. Our next stop was Bozeman and a night out with friends at the last Music on Main of the year. Then onto Billings before driving south into Wyoming. We found we were close to a couple national monuments, so as we left Billings on August 18 we drove out to see Pompeys Pillar then onto the Little Bighorn Battlefield.
Pompeys Pillar National Monument, Montana
This is where Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition carved his name and date on July 25, 1806. At this point in the journey the expedition was heading back home, and Lewis and Clark had split for a time to explore different areas. Ds ancestor from this expedition, Sergeant Patrick Gass, was with the Lewis detachment up north. The sandstone pillar is 150 feet tall and rises majestically above the Yellowstone River. It was named by Clark after Sacagawea’s little son Pomp - whom he called Pompy. It was originally named Pompys Tower by Clark. The tower had been signed by many people before (Native American Crow petroglyphs) and after Clark by pioneers who were moving west after the expedition. What’s notable is that Clark’s carving is the only remaining physical evidence of the grand expedition of the Corp of Discovery.
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana
On 2 days in June 1876 Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and 260 soldiers and attached personnel met defeat and death. The site memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their way of life.
Following our monumental pit stops, we stayed the night in Sheridan, WY at the historic Sheridan Inn established in 1893 and home to William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody. Yup, Cody kicked up his boots here from 1894-1902. The inn was recently updated and reopened to the public in 2015. What was once a 64-room inn on 2 floors with 1 bathroom on each floor is now 22-themed rooms (named and decorated after Cody’s friends) with en-suite bathrooms. It had been closed for 50 years prior to the recent revitalization and we have to say it’s beautiful, quiet, and within walking distance of the lovely old town center. We enjoyed good food, a walk around town checking out some of the eclectic street art, and a good night sleep. The next day we drove through the grassy hills to Casper.
We stopped in at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center on the way to our hotel. Casper is the main convergence point along the Oregon, Mormon, California, and Pony Express Trails as they crossed the North Platte River in Casper. The center covers the early days of the westward pioneer expansion. It’s a well-done encapsulation of history told in 8 dioramas. It was interesting, and it was free! We had good rates, and an upgraded room in a newer hotel, so we decided to stay an extra night to check out some of the sights around Casper. The next day we hiked a bit to Garden Creek Falls, explored the lovely old downtown and neighborhood with self-guided walking tours, and took a drive down to the river to see the famous pioneer crossing points.
Thanks for joining our journey.