Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
June, 2019 - Mount Denali, Alaska

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Bismarck, North Dakota to Wisconsin

After leaving Medora, North Dakota, we headed to Bismarck for a few days. We toured the State Capitol building which was constructed in 1935 in the art deco design.  Only four states have this type of design. We've also toured the one in Nebraska. Florida and Louisiana are the other two. Apparently, this style was chosen over a rotunda because there is much less wasted space.

The hour long tour was led by a very knowledgeable guide, and was very interesting. North Dakota legislators are part time and only meet 80 days every other year. During that time, they take care of all the state's business, and are able to come up with a two year balanced budget. We need these guys in Washington, DC.


Next to the capitol grounds is the North Dakota Heritage Center. It is a very well done museum with many interesting displays. We wandered around in there for a good hour. They were featuring a display on horses. This one was beautifully painted.



As we drove from North Dakota to Minnesota, we saw some large sculptures along the road. It's amazing what you can see traveling down America's highways.



We spent 2 nights in Ashby, Minnesota. I often check a website called Roadside America for interesting or unusual attractions to see along our route. Ashby's claim to fame is an American Coot statue. It's about 10 feet tall, but could use a new paint job.


Our next stop was Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. This is where the Leinenkugel's Brewery is located. Kevin has been enjoying their beer for years, and has always wanted to visit. While living in Wisconsin, we never got around to it. Now, we have finally accomplished that mission. They have a fairly new, very nice, visitor center.


The brewery was begun by Jacob Leinenkugel in the late 1800s. Some of the original buildings are still being used. The tour was very interesting.


We couldn't resist sitting in the big chair!


We are now at Fountain Lake RV Park near Waupaca, Wisconsin until the middle of September. We've been visiting friends and family, and taking care of doctor and dentist visits. Summer is winding down. September is my favorite month as far as weather is concerned in the Midwest. We'll make a stop in Iowa and then 10 days in Lincoln, Nebraska to visit with Korey and Cathryn.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We finally left Montana and headed to Medora, North Dakota. Our daughter-in-law Cathryn, who is from Moorhead, Minnesota, had told us of her memories of vacationing in Medora with her family.

The town is located at the entrance of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It appears it is a tourist town open in the summer. According to 2017 census records, only 130 people actually live there. I'm thinking its a ghost town in the winter. The history of this town is quite interesting. It's amazing how it has been able to reinvent itself several times to survive.

We wandered around and checked out the shops. There are a number of restaurants and some shows featuring gospel and cowboy music. The town has been around since the late 1800s and cowboys are a definite part of its history. There is even a cowboy museum.


 We chose to attend the Medora Musical in the evening. It is located at the top of one of the hills. The amphitheater style seating is built into the side of a hill. They are celebrating their 55th anniversary this year. In the mid 1990s, the entire theater was redone. The setting is beautiful.


The show featured a band and singer/dancers. They did musical numbers based on the history of the area with an emphasis on Teddy Roosevelt. It was a very family friendly show, and I really enjoyed it.


A couple of times horses were even on stage. For the finale the stage opened up and the hills behind were illuminated to look like the American flag. Horse riders came down from behind the Medora sign on the hillside. Fireworks were an awesome finale. Very well done!


The next day we visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Teddy originally came to Medora in 1883 to hunt buffalo. He fell in love with the area and returned a year later to grieve the loss of his wife and mother. They both died on the same day due to illness. He eventually moved back to New York and remarried. He credited his Dakota experience as the basis for his groundbreaking preservation efforts and the shaping of his character.

As president he established the US Forest Service and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which he proclaimed 18 national monuments. With Congress he created 5 national parks, 150 national forests, and dozens of federal reserves, over 230 million acres of protected land. Teddy's original cabin in the Dakotas, the Maltese Cross Cabin, is on display at the park.


We drove along the loop road through the park. Part of it was closed due to a landslide, so it was a 24 mile drive in and drive out trip. We were actually at this park almost exactly 20 years ago on August 1, 1999. At that time we had seen wild horses and bison. This time the only wildlife we saw were lots of prairie dogs. They sure are cute and fun to watch.



 The scenery is beautiful. We have also been to the Badlands in South Dakota. I must say that area is a bit more impressive, but this park is still very nice. It was actually established in 1947 as a national memorial park to honor President Roosevelt and to provide a place for everyone to experience his beloved Badlands.



About 15 miles from the south unit of the park is the Painted Canyon Visitor Center. It is another beautiful view of the North Dakota Badlands.


Plans are underway to open the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in North Dakota in 2020. His legacy is an important and beloved part of the history of this state.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Little Bighorn Battlefield and Pompeys Pillar National Monuments

Yesterday we took another road trip to two National Monuments within an hour's drive of Billings. Our first stop was the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. We started off by watching a very well done 20 minute video about the battle. At the end, the narrator summarized by saying both sides were fighting for what they believed in at the time, trying to protect their culture and people.

This battle took place on June 25, 1876, just a few days before our country celebrated its centennial. By the next day over 260 soldiers were dead. The park has a unique feature where you call a number on your cell phone, and then dial the different talking points along the way. By listening, we learned a great deal about the battle.

At the time of the battle a village of over 1,000 tepees was set up along the Little Bighorn River in this valley consisting of about 7,000 Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians including 1,500 to 2,000 warriors.

The war between the Army and these Indians began because the treaty of 1868 had been broken by the United States. That treaty included the land in the Black Hills in South Dakota. When gold was discovered, thousands of white gold seekers swarmed into the region in violation of the treaty. The Indians left the reservation and resumed raids on settlements and travelers. The Indians were ordered back to the reservation. When they didn't comply, the Army was called in to enforce the order.

After the battle, the soldiers bodies were buried in shallow graves and marked. In 1881 the remains were moved to a mass grave, and a monument was erected with their names engraved on all four sides. Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was the commander of the 7th Cavalry. I'm sure you've all heard of the famous Custer's Last Stand. This was the place.


In 1890 the Army erected 249 headstone markers across the battlefield to show where Custer's men had fallen. This is the only National Battlefield that has individual markers for all soldiers lost. It is an eerie feeling looking out over the grassy plains and seeing these markers scattered about.


On a hill that has become known as "Last Stand Hill", 210 of these men died with Custer. The markers are very close to each other. It must have been awful!!!


The Indians took their dead warriors away with them. There is no exact count, but in 1999 the National Park Service began erecting red granite markers at known Cheyenne and Lakota warrior casualty sites providing visitors with a balanced perspective of the fierce fighting that occurred.


In 2013 an Indian Monument was erected across the road from the Army monument. It is built in a circle which is a sacred symbol. The inside walls display the names and words of those who fought here. I thought this quote by Crazy Horse made a lot of sense.


A Spirit Warrior sculpture is also part of the memorial.


In 1991 President George H. W. Bush signed an order changing the name of this site from Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Bighorn National Battlefield Monument.

Our second stop was at Pompeys Pillar National Monument. It is the only site along the Lewis and Clark trail where the public can see visible evidence of the expedition.


Since we left Seattle, we have been seeing many markers along our route referring to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. On their return journey, they split up for part of the trip. Clark's group stopped along the Yellowstone River near what is now Billings, Montana. At this 150 foot sandstone pillar, William Clark carved his name and the date into the rock on July 25, 1806. Years later when the railroad came through, the carving was covered to preserve it. Thank you railroad!!

Clark named the pillar Pompy's Tower in honor of Sacagawea's son, nicknamed Pomp. It was later changed to Pompeys Pillar.



We climbed over 200 steps in 96 degree temperatures to see the carving. Sometimes, it's just worth it. The view from the top was beautiful. Here is the Yellowstone River.


Clark's group carved two canoes out of cottonwood trees while they were here. Up to this point they had been on horseback to cross the Rocky Mountains. These replicas are on display.


President Jefferson organized the expedition to explore the lands purchased in the Louisiana Purchase. In a two year period, Lewis and Clark covered 8,000 miles from St. Louis to the Pacific Coast and back. They kept detailed journals and maps. Amazing!!!

So, I had conflicted feelings about our visits. In 1806 our country was excited to be exploring this vast country. In 1876 the same country was fighting wars with Indians. I know there are two sides to every story, but this just made me sad.

Today we did a little exploring of downtown Billings. We didn't find much of interest. The Moss Mansion which was built in 1903 for the Moss family who made their fortune in banking, utilities and other ventures. It's a beautiful building which is now a museum. We didn't go inside.


We also visited Thirsty Street Brewery and Montana Brewing Company breweries. I had a huckleberry ice cream cone instead. Much better than beer.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Beartooth Highway

We're in Billings, Montana for several days. Yesterday we did a six hour, 240 mile road trip to experience the Beartooth Highway. It is a 68 mile road completed in 1936 to connect the town of Red Lodge in Montana to the northern side of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

The road climbs through the Beartooth Mountain Range with lots of switchbacks. The views were incredible.



We walked out to the Rock Creek Vista Point at 8,000 feet.


Although there was supposed to be all kinds of wildlife visible on the drive, all we saw were some very tame chipmunks at the overlook. They were eating sunflower seeds right from the palms of some kids.


We continued on to the highest point on the road. It looked like we were at the top of the world, even with the tops of the mountains. At times it was a little scary!


We made it to the Beartooth Pass Summit.


You can see for miles and miles. You can also see some of the winding road heading down.


I was surprised at the alpine meadows at the top. Lots of pretty wildflowers were growing, with colors of white, blue, pink, yellow and purple.


As we headed down, we saw lots of lakes created by the snow melt. The summit gets over 200 inches of annual snowfall.


This is Beartooth Lake.


We cut off at the bottom onto Chief Joseph Scenic Highway in Wyoming to head back to Billings. The Clark Fork Yellowstone River has carved a 1,200 foot gorge.



Dead Indian Pass is at the summit at 8,000 feet.


In 1877, 600 Nez Perce Indians fled from the US Cavalry who wanted to put them on a reservation. They came through these mountains and passes to escape. They left a wounded warrior on this mountain. He was found by Army scouts and killed, thus this spot become known as Dead Indian Pass. The Nez Perce were led by Chief Joseph. They were fleeing to Canada, but were captured just 10 miles south of the border in Montana. So many sad stories in our American history.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Butte, Montana

We spent the last few days in Butte, Montana. What an interesting place! All the welcome signs refer to it as "The Richest Hill on Earth". Here's the reason why.

We took a two hour trolley tour sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Our driver was super knowledgeable, having grown up in this area. Butte came into existence due to the discovery of gold, silver and copper. Mining has been the main industry here since the mid 1800s. By 1887 Butte became the world's leading producer of copper, and for the next 30 years produced 50 percent of all copper in the United States.

There are 10,000 miles of mine tunnels under the city. Eventually, they switched to open pit mining. There is still mining happening here, but not at the levels of the past. At one point there were 100,000 people in Butte. Today's population is about 35,000. Here is one of the open pit mines.


Our tour took us the the Berkeley Pit overlook. This pit was closed in 1982 and measures 1.25 miles wide and 1 mile across. The depth of the water is nearly 1,800 feet (that's equal to an 180 story building). When this mine was closed, pumps were turned off and water was allowed to fill it in. That water also flooded the underground tunnels. The water is extremely toxic. So much so, that noise cannons and drones are used to scare off birds. If they drink the water, they die.

In fact, the mining here caused a great deal of pollution. A super fund was created to clean up all the toxic chemicals in the streams and waste dumps. They are nearing the end of a major clean up operation.


We learned so much about mining on the tour. We also learned about the history of Butte. The Dumas brothel was opened in 1890 and closed in 1982. It was the longest running brothel in American history. I guess those miners needed entertainment.


One of the copper king families were the Clarks. When their son got married, he honeymooned in Europe. Upon their return, his dad built him this French Chateau style home. Nice dad!


Upon entering town you can see a white statue at the top of a mountain. She is Our Lady of the Rockies. She was completed in 1985 by countless volunteers, and sits 3,500 feet above the city. She is 90 feet tall and weights 51 tons. A sky crane helicopter from the Air National Guard lifted the statue in five pieces. She is built in the likeness of Mary, mother Jesus, and is dedicated to women everywhere, especially mothers. Tours are available, but we didn't feel the need to see it up close. It is beautiful from a distance, especially at night when it is lit up.


Several miles west of town in the town of Anaconda is this huge smokestack. You can see it from miles away. It was completed in 1919 as part of a smelting company for copper. It measures 585 feet tall and is tallest surviving masonry structure in the world. Smelting is no longer allowed in the US due to the pollution created. Copper is now shipped to China for smelting.


We drove about 30 miles to Deer Lodge to visit the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. It is the only site in the National Park System dedicated to cattle ranching and cowboys. We took a tour of the main house led by a very knowledgeable park ranger.

The original owner was Johnny Grant who drove 400 cattle to market in 1859. He sold the ranch to Conrad Kohrs, a German immigrant. By the 1880s Kohrs was shipping 10,000 cattle to the stockyards in Chicago. The house has been added onto several times. Kohrs was a millionaire in his time, and the inside of the house reflects that. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside.

From 1860 to 1890 the cattle roamed over 10 million acres in free range ranching. Once farmers came west and started putting up fences, Kohrs purchased 25,000 acres surrounding his ranch and began growing hay. He also owned ranches in other parts of the country.


There are horses and cattle still being kept at the ranch. We also got to see a chuck wagon with "Cookie" telling us about how the cowboys survived on the trail driving the cattle to market. There was also a blacksmith on site sharing information. Another great place to visit and learn about history.


Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!