My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Friday, August 31, 2012

A Visit to the Site of the Battle of Little Bighorn

I have two weeks between meet-ups with friends, so I'm planning to drive three hundred miles or less on each leg, and spend a couple of days at each stop, provided I find interesting things to keep me there. I'm finding possible camping sites, and also looking at what might be interesting to visit. Then I'm just leaving time to visit possible interesting sites I stumble across on my journey.

The first "stumble across" site I found was the Battle of the Little Bighorn (also known as Custer's Last Stand).  I barely had to leave my route to reach it, so decided to take a couple of hours off and see what it was all about. I'm not a big history buff, but do enjoy history as seen through the eyes of individuals.

This is a very simple visitor center but it has lots of displays and a great store inside
I found this site very engaging and touching. First of all it is a national crematory and has received the bodies of soldiers from other sites that have closed down. The rows of mostly identical white markers, many without any names, against the view of the vast rolling hills was very touching.

A small part of the cemetery
Relatives of soldiers can also be buried here
I barely arrived in time  the last movie about the battle. The movie was very interesting since it was told from the perspective of both American historians and descendants of several of the Indian leaders. There was also a discussion of the battle by a ranger but I skipped that in order to walk and drive the refuge.

 Both the bodies of the American soldiers and the Indians (to a lesser extent) were marked - the site of the soldiers' bodies  with poles taken from the Indian village, and the Indian bodies' sites with rock cairns. Subsequently, the sites have been marked with markers.

Markers showing where soldiers fell during the battle
Markers for a few of the fallen Indians were added, starting in 1999
The only marker that had flowers by it
 So by walking the site, and using the booklets supplied by the staff, one can begin to "see" how the battle happened. There was another battle, led by Marcus Reno, the highest ranking officer under Custer, that took place 3-5 miles away. He was supposed to be helping Custer contain all the Indians within the village. (Custer's plan was to invade the village before the Indian warriors knew he was there and take the women and children captives and use them for human shields to prevent the warriors from firing on him.) He too, was quickly overrun by the Indians and later had to stand trial for possible misconduct during the battle after his troops ended up in an every-man-for-himself retreat, first to the woods near the Indian village, and then  the troops crossed the river and ran to the bluffs. That area is also part of the national monument.  I didn't get to tour it  as most of it requires long walks, the evening was getting late and I hoped to get to my destination before dark. Also, along the auto tour to this area, there are lots of stops with explanatory signs about what was happening in each area.

Markers along the trail to deep ravine

An explanation of the fighting in Deep Ravine

Deep Ravine as it looks today
The soldiers who died in this battle are buried in a mass grave here.

View of the mass grave area

A dead tree along the auto tour
And one living tree in a huge treeless landscape
A view of the Little Bighorn River from the auto tour  road
A herd of horses just beyond the battlefield area
But  the walks I did, especially into Deep Ravine, gave me time to think about how little we have changed for the better.  This war was directly due to the fact that the Americans were invading the Black Hills, the most sacred of all the places to the Indians, and to the complete refusal to respect the Indian's rights to any lands or to allow them to maintain their culture. I see the same attitude today when businesses build toxic waste plants in poor areas of cities and when industries are allowed to poison the air and water, with ordinary citizens not getting to have any say over this damage to their health. And most wars end up being about the haves wanting even more and figuring they can win a war against the people they are stealing from.  For instance, I saw the Iraq war as mostly a way to get control of more oil. So I was pretty sad when I left this place. 

Another thing that impressed me about this site was the respect I saw from the huge crowds that were there. Even small children were walking quietly with no running or loud voices.

Find more information about this site here

And there is an annual reenactment of this battle, held nearby.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hyalite Creek Hike

I've been visiting my friend, Kathy, in Bozeman, Montana for a few days.  She kept my car while I flew to New Mexico. Last Friday we did a short but beautiful hike along Hyalite Creek. The creek and the canyon are named for a large opal found in the area.

View of Hyalite Creek from a turnout

Another creek view

View of a nearby summit from trailhead
The mostly shady trail starts above the reservoir that supplies Bozeman with water. An accessible trail goes to the Grotto Falls.

Columbine leaves - most were still green


View of creek from trail

A few of these bushes grew in sunny spots

Choke cherries were ripe
Kathy and me at Grotto Falls

Water flowing over colorful stones in shallow creek

Arch Falls - we could not get a clear view of the arch any more
The trail goes up another three and a half miles to a little lake and then continues on further to a summit. We turned around here and went back.

Rocky bluff along trail

Butterfly with stained glass wings

This is a very popular local hike and we saw at least ten groups of people and dogs on the trail. One lady was even pushing a jogging stroller.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Best City for Senior Health?

We are learning that seniors can modify their brain heath by eating the right foods, getting aerobic exercise, and changing their activities and environments. I think that if cities competed for the best locale for seniors, Santa Fe just might win.

I thought this while on my early morning walk through the area surrounding the plaza, and then on a second, early afternoon walk along Canyon Road. The walks completely engaged my mind, and I anticipated finding another jewel around every turn.  And the jewels included art, architecture, and gardens. I also passed the oldest church in the United States as well as the oldest house, at least in Santa Fe, and stopped to learn a little about their history.  If I lived in Santa Fe, I would want to go to a different locale every day and walk until I couldn't put one foot in front of the other. And if I was rich, I'd want to stop at a different eatery every day and try out an entree I'd never had before. The city offers all sorts of cuisine, including that based on Indian foods,  and hotel chefs that compete to be the most famous. And I'd take shorts trips out into the countryside for even more stimulating activities.

Great mix of art and architecture 

Great Egrets

Statuary for sale

Street Art - just add water

Steel Art

Beautiful arch with view

Head from building blocks
San Miquel Church - build in 1610 by Talxcalan Indians
Oldest House
Artful arrangement
Apache Plume beauty

Graphic art as building detail

Leaf art

Architectural detail

Puma with geraniums
Statues for sale
Artful fountain
Resting rabbit
Storefront beauty
Scissors wins
Because of all the art, beautiful views, and wonderful food, I left Santa Fe felling exhilarated.  Now if I could find a spring, summer of fall job near this wonderful city, I'd be able to visit more of it. Past visits have made me want to see more of the surrounding area as well as other parts of the city. The railroad area is another place where one can spend an entire day when the farmer's market is open. And on one trip, I got to go to the International Folk Art Market, which was a wonderful experience. Then there must be hundreds of museums, galleries, and churches to visit. (We tried to visit the Native American Museum just across the street from our hotel, but it was closed on Tuesdays.) Several pueblos and archeological sites are nearby. A ride to Sandia Peak by the sky tram is a thrilling, scenic way to access the trails. There is hiking and biking in summer and skiing in winter.  Heck, I could move here in ten years and never run out of things to do before I die. And I bet my mind would stay healthy until the end of my life.

I've scheduled this and the next blog to come out while I'm traveling, mostly off the Internet.  I'll be visiting campsites and interesting places in Eastern Montana, northeastern Wyoming, South Dakota, and Minnesota for two weeks before paddling in the Boundary Waters for eight days. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wild Interlude in Santa Fe

Last Tuesday, after breakfast, Hulin and I decided to go visit the Randall Davey Audubon Center which is at the end of Upper Canyon Drive. The property adjoins the Nature Conservancy's property and you can hike both properties. The Audubon property is more for strolling with intermittent standing or sitting to watch the birds, squirrels, and chipmunks coming to the feeders.

We had to get back to the hotel before checkout time at noon, so only had time to sample the Center and take a short hike on the Nature Conservancy Lands.

But the gardens were beautiful and the city noise was completely gone.  It was a lovely, peaceful interlude and we got to see the the first Lewis's woodpecker - an immature - ever seen on this site.

Steller's Jay

Ground squirrel and chipmonk
Feeder youngsters

One of several painters

Part of Randell Davey's house
We decided to take a quick look at the Nature Conservancy trail, which started across the road from the service entrance to the Audubon Sanctuary. We only got to walk about a half mile before time was up and we had to rush back to our hotel.

Hulin on  the Nature Conservatory trail

A large- flowering paintbrush
Unknown flower
Trail view