Monthly Archives: August 2020

Bismarck, ND Part 2 AUG 26, 2020

While in Bismarck we visited nearby Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. Fort Abraham Lincoln was an infantry and cavalry post from which Lt Col George Custer led the 7th Cavalry to the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. The fort provided protection for the railroad workers and survey crews from Indian attack. It also provided protection to settlements being established in the area.

Due to increased attacks by the Sioux, Congress authorized a cavalry post to the fort. Lt Col George Custer arrived in 1873 with six companies of the 7th Calvary.

The fort was abandoned in 1891 and local residents disassembled the fort for its nails and wood.  It is said that many old homes in the Bismarck area have lumber and pieces of the old fort in them. In 1907 President Theodore Roosevelt signed the land over to the state of North Dakota for a state park. IMG_20200829_113937

From 1934-38 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a visitors center, roads, reconstructed blockhouses and placed cornerstones where fort buildings once stood. All 250 members of this CCC were Great War (World War I) veterans 

Also in the park the CCC replicated Mandan earthen lodges to recreate a Mandan village called “On-a-Slant Village”. IMG_20200829_115539IMG_20200829_124113

The original Mandan Village was established in the late 16th century and was inhabited until 1781.  It consisted of approximately 86 earthen lodges with a population of between 1,000-1,500 and was located where the Heart and Missouri Rivers come together. IMG_20200829_124043IMG_20200829_124132IMG_20200829_124318IMG_20200829_124414IMG_20200829_124454IMG_20200829_124517IMG_20200829_132207

In 1781 a smallpox epidemic killed over three out of every four villagers. After the epidemic the Mandan moved north.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1804-05 with friendly Mandan.  They stayed again in 1806 on their return trip. The Sioux eventually drove the Mandan from the area. IMG_20200829_115844

A reproduction of Custer’s house was built in 1989 in time for the state’s centennial celebration. Custer and his wife Libbie lived at Fort Abraham Lincoln from 1873 until Custer died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. IMG_20200829_120742IMG_20200829_140706IMG_20200829_140920

We walked to one of three reconstructed blockhouses once used to defend the fort. I waited down below while Bill climbed a staircase followed by a steep ladder to the observation post. It was a beautiful day with great views including the capitol building in the distance, the only tall building in Bismarck. IMG_20200829_133622IMG_20200829_134002IMG_20200829_134019IMG_20200829_133702IMG_20200829_133726

Inside the blockhouse was a nest of baby swallows. We saw the mama bird flying in and out of the building. IMG_20200829_134134

While in the park we traveled down to the river where the Heart and Missouri Rivers converge. IMG_20200829_135445

Next we drove to Keelboat Park along the Missouri River with a 55 foot full scale replica similar to the keelboat used by Lewis and Clark. The Expedition’s keelboat carried a number of plants and animals collected on their journey including live magpies, a prairie dog, a prairie grouse hen, 108 botanical specimens, 68 mineral samples, pronghorn skeletons, insects, mice, and various animal hides. It also included a 45,000 word report to President Thomas Jefferson with descriptions of teepee, Indian myths and customs and other ethnological observations and maps. IMG_20200829_143805IMG_20200829_144111

Also in the park were unusual metal sculptures of Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea painted the colors of traffic lights. IMG_20200829_144411

Another sculptures is called “Thunderbirds”. To the Native Americans the thunderbirds are part of the Great Spirit who lives among us in the clouds. The thunderbirds bring lightning flashes from their eyes and produce thunder by the flapping of their wings. IMG_20200829_143459

We enjoyed our stay in Bismarck. 

Next up: South Dakota! 

Bismarck, ND Part 1 AUG 22, 2020

We left Medora and headed to Bismarck for a ten night stop. It continued to be very hot, with the heat spell finally ending a few days before we left. When the weather finally changed it went from very hot days to days with beautiful blue skies, pleasant temperatures and cool nights. At last! 

Along the way to Bismarck we saw signs of oil drilling, wind turbines and fields of canola and sunflowers. IMG_20200822_110144_1IMG_20200822_112131IMG_20200822_114322IMG_20200822_134603

Several roadside signs warned us to wear masks. IMG_20200822_110404

We also passed over the Missouri River where we saw a parade of boats celebrating President Trump. IMG_20200822_133249

We took these two pictures from our TV on our local news.IMG_20200822_224220MVIMG_20200822_224335

As you know by now, we also like to visit state capitol buildings. Since North Dakota is a new state for us, we had a new capitol building to visit. IMG_20200828_151749


Statue Honoring Frontier Families

This capitol building was very different from others we have visited. Most of them are modeled after the US Capitol with columns and a dome. This capitol looked like an office building. With 19 floors, it was the only high rise building in the city of Bismarck (pop 61,000) and therefore easy to see wherever you are in the area.

The capitol tours were canceled because of the pandemic but we were allowed to take a self guided tour. After having our temperatures taken and answering three questions we were allowed through security. The building, built from 1932-1934, is just as plain on the inside as it is on the outside. Other than a series of photographs on walls on their North Dakota Hall of Fame hallway, there were no other statues, paintings or murals anywhere in the building. The Hall of Fame included Lawrence Welk, Angie Dickinson and Roger Maris to name a few. 


Lawrence Welk


Angie Dickinson


Roger Maris

We saw the Senate and House of Representatives galleries.


Senate Gallery



In the House of Representatives gallery the lighting called “Stars and Moon at Night” was very different. IMG_20200828_143533

These two pictures were taken from the 18th floor observation deck. IMG_20200828_142008IMG_20200828_142018

The elevators doors leading to the observation deck had raised sculptures representing pioneers. IMG_20200828_142539IMG_20200828_143049

North Dakota was the 39th state (1889), but at the time the seal was designed it was unknown when they would be granted statehood so the seal has 42 stars. IMG_20200828_143202IMG_20200828_143210

On the grounds of the capitol is a statue of Sacajawea (also spelled Sakakawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman) and her baby son which was dedicated in 1910. IMG_20200829_150818

Mink (Hannah Levings) of the Arikara, Hidatsa, Mandan Nation posed as a model for the statue. IMG_20200829_150914

It is believed Sacajawea was sixteen years old when she first met Lewis and Clark in 1804. She was married to a French fur trapper by the name of Charbonneau. Her son was born in 1805 and traveled with her on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It is believed she died just south of what is now the border of North and South Dakota in December, 1812 at the approximate age of 25 (believed to happen during childbirth). We recently learned that William Clark adopted Sacajawea’s son and they lived in St Louis. 

Next up: Bismarck Pt 2

Bison, Prairie Dogs & Horses, Oh My! AUG 18, 2020

After two months in Montana we entered into North Dakota, a new state for us. Unfortunately the very hot weather followed us. Our first stop was the tiny town of Medora, pop 128.  Our reason for coming here was to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park. IMG_20200818_150523IMG_20200819_114704IMG_20200819_115655

This 70,448 acre park, located in the badlands of North Dakota, became a national park in 1978.  The North Dakota Badlands were formed through large volumes of sediments of sandstone, siltstone, mudstone and clay being deposited into the plains. IMG_20200819_114944MVIMG_20200819_115017IMG_20200819_115156

Over time the Little Missouri River carved the terrain into many strange and brilliantly colored formations. Erosion from water and wind continues to shape the badlands today. Theodore Roosevelt first came to the badlands in 1883 at the age of 23 to hunt bison and experience adventure in the west. IMG_20200820_122721IMG_20200820_122725IMG_20200820_122910

After the tragic death of both his mother and wife only hours apart on February 14, 1884, he returned to this area to grieve in solitude. He liked the area so well he established a ranch and adopted a rancher’s lifestyle. Even though the ranch failed, his love for the beautiful rugged land brought him back time and again for the rest of his life. During his presidency he signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, proclaimed eighteen national monuments and worked with Congress to create five national parks, 150 national forests and dozens of federal reserves. This resulted in 230 million acres of protected land, earning him the name “Conservationist President”. IMG_20200819_150942

At the South Unit Visitors Center we saw Roosevelt’s cabin which had been moved to this site. IMG_20200820_134328IMG_20200820_134225IMG_20200820_134240IMG_20200820_134217

The park is divided into a North unit and a South unit. We spent the first day exploring the North unit which was located an hour from our campground. In the park was a fourteen mile scenic drive with colorful majestic formations. We also saw some bison. IMG_20200819_121326IMG_20200819_124158IMG_20200819_124327PANO_20200819_130223.vr

Another day we drove the South unit of the park with a 36 mile scenic drive. The entrance to this section was located less than a mile from our campground. We had a wonderful day seeing bison, prairie dog towns and herds of wild horses. IMG_20200819_144958IMG_20200819_150423IMG_20200819_150449IMG_20200820_110910

We saw many herds of bison, one of which walked down the middle of the road, passing on both sides of the car. This time of year is rut season for bison and they can be more volatile and quick to anger than usual. IMG_20200820_121200IMG_20200820_113925IMG_20200820_121258


Taking A Dirt Bath

It was more than a little unsettling to have them so close, especially after seeing a news report on TV of a bison attacking a car and destroying a tire with his horns. IMG_20200820_121313

Click this link below to see our bison video. VID_20200820_121344

We also saw plenty of really cute prairie dogs as we passed through several prairie towns. IMG_20200820_102700

We loved seeing them pop up out of their holes and look around. Since they were very close to the road we had to be especially careful with driving. IMG_20200820_102959IMG_20200820_104157MVIMG_20200820_104318IMG_20200820_111743

Our favorite part of the day was, seeing several herds of wild horses. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the few national parks where you can see free roaming horses. By the late 1800’s European settlement of the plains had reached the Dakota. Ranchers turned horses out on the open range to live and breed. When needed, they would round up horses and their offspring and use them as ranch horses. When the area that would become the park was fenced in 1954, they removed 200 branded horses. IMG_20200820_112946IMG_20200820_120728

A few small bands of horses eluded capture and went unclaimed. These horses continued to live free range in the park in stallion led groups. The park conducts roundups every three or four years and sells horses at public auction. IMG_20200820_130306IMG_20200820_130536

We were told this little foal was just two weeks old.

We had a short, hot but pleasant stay in Medora. IMG_20200820_132306

Next up: the capital city of Bismarck.


Billings, Montana AUG 11, 2020

We drove from Lewistown to Billings (pop 104,000) for a one week stay. The weather during our stay was hot, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees on our last day! 

Billings most striking feature is the Rimrock, a natural feature rising 500 feet above the Yellowstone Valley. Legend says that in 1837 two Crow warriors, dressed in their finest and singing death songs, rode a solid white blindfolded horse over Sacrifice Cliff from the Rimrocks. They did this to appease their gods in order to halt the spread of smallpox among their people. The Native Americans call the cliff “The Place Where the White Horse Went Down“. The Crow, who had no immunity to the disease, had contracted smallpox from the people of the American Fur Trading Company. The disease caused great loss to the Crow people between 1837-1838. IMG_20200814_142111

The Rimrocks sandstone formations were formed 80 million years ago. The Western Interior Seaway, where Billings is today, slowly rose and fell over time, leaving behind compressed sand that became this massive formation. The Yellowstone River has been cutting into it for a million years, leaving a canyon in the bedrock. IMG_20200814_144013

We drove along the top of the Rimrocks with nice views of the city of Billings below. MVIMG_20200814_143927

Then we visited Riverfront Park where we found a geocache and got a glimpse of the Yellowstone River. We had several views of the Yellowstone River flows through Billings. IMG_20200814_155839IMG_20200814_152617

We also stopped by Boothill Cemetery, the final resting place between 1877-1881 of three dozen individuals, many who died with their boots on. This is one of many such named cemeteries throughout the west. Buried in this cemetery was Muggins Taylor, the scout who brought the world the news of Custer’s last stand. There was a large rock memorial with quotes on each of the four sides.

Quote 1:
“This Monument Marks A Historic Site
Where Thirty-Five Lie Buried
For Fortune and Fame
Lost Their Lives Lost Their Game” 

Quote 2:
“Upon This Rugged Hill
The Long Trail Past 
These Men Of Restless Will
Find Rest At Last” 

Quote 3:
“The Stream Flows On But It Matters Not
To The Sleepers Here By The World Forgot
The Heroes Of Many A Tale Unsung 
They Lived And Died When The West Was Young” 

Quote 4: was unfortunately too worn to read IMG_20200814_154906

On Saturday we drove to Red Lodge, Montana to begin driving the Beartooth Highway (All-American Highway) which goes from Montana into Wyoming. Charles Kuralt called this “the most beautiful roadway in America“. IMG_20200815_143822


Can You See The Bear’s Tooth?

It is also designated one of the most dangerous roads in America as it climbs to 10,947 feet with numerous switchbacks.

On our GPS you can see the five switchbacks which gain about four thousand feet. IMG_20200815_125116IMG_20200815_111529PANO_20200815_115105.vr

Completed in 1936, it provides views of some of the most rugged and wild areas in the lower 48 states.  Along the way are visible twenty peaks over 12,000 feet, 950 alpine lakes, glaciers, Rocky Mountain goats, waterfalls and wildflowers. It took us eight hours to make the round trip drive with all the scenic overlooks. What a beautiful drive! IMG_20200815_121312IMG_20200815_122042IMG_20200815_131837IMG_20200815_122318IMG_20200815_131631IMG_20200815_130922

This is a herd of Rocky Mountain Goats, many are still shedding their coats. IMG_20200815_125852_1IMG_20200815_125854


Pilot and Index Peaks

We saw Lake Creek waterfall and snagged a short video with sound. MVIMG_20200815_140748

Lake Creek Waterfall
Select this above link to see and hear the video. MVIMG_20200815_140844

We went to Crazy Creek waterfall and turned back for home. IMG_20200815_142828

We liked this old wrecker we found in one of the small towns we passed through. It looks like one of the cars (Mater) in the animated movie “Cars”. Mater is the rustiest, trustiest tow truck in Radiator Springs. IMG_20200815_165750
And an interesting sculpture as well! IMG_20200815_165828

After two wonderful months in Montana, it is time to move on to North Dakota. 

Next up: Medora, North Dakota 

Lewistown, Montana AUG 4, 2020

Our next stop in Montana was in the small town of Lewistown (pop 5,800) for a seven night stay. 

It continued to be very hot (mid 90s) but the hot spell finally broke our last couple of days here and we had some pleasant temperatures. One nice thing about Montana is that even though the summer days are very hot, it cools down quickly after sunset. The last couple of nights in Lewistown we had nightly lows in the middle 40’s.

No matter where we travel we always find interesting and unique places to visit. First we visited the National Register of Historical Places: Lewistown Satellite Airfield Historic District. This satellite airfield was constructed in Lewistown during World War II as one of four training facilities for B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft crew members. IMG_20200807_133431IMG_20200807_140351IMG_20200807_140030c

It included a small one story building constructed of concrete which was the storage site for the top secret Norden Bombsight used by the bombardiers during their training. The top secret Norden Bombsight is a synchronous stabilized bomb aiming device. Divided into two vaults, the Norden device was only accessible through bank vault doors. This Bombsight storage shelter which housed the Bombsight is one of the few such buildings left in the country. IMG_20200807_140336IMG_20200807_140320

The Lewistown satellite field was built as a satellite field for Great Falls Air Base and was completed in 1942. Squadrons were trained in the navigation of the B-17 as well as receiving gunnery and bombing practice. Once their training was finished, the men were sent to Europe. The Lewistown airfield was operated for twelve months between 1942 and 1943 and then deactivated. The historic district has 23 original structures still standing including the recreation building, large hangar, operations building, armament building and housing. Today the area serves as the town’s municipal airport. IMG_20200807_134309IMG_20200807_140131IMG_20200807_140103IMG_20200807_140224

The 1996 John Travolta movie “Broken Arrow” was filmed near Lewistown. Some of the more dangerous scenes were filmed along 40 miles of railroad track on the privately owned Central Montana Railroad. IMG_20200809_152329

The above trestle is not available by car. We had looked forward to riding the Charlie Russell Chew Choo dinner train which travels 56 miles through the countryside on a spur track built in 1912-1913. Unfortunately like so many other things this summer, the train ride was a casualty of the coronavirus and all trips for the rest of the summer season have been canceled. Here is a picture Bill took of the Chew Choo train sitting lonely without any riders. If we had been able to ride this train it would have gone over the trestle used in the movie. IMG_20200809_135518

Instead we had to settle for this nearby trestle. IMG_20200809_140118IMG_20200809_140230

On this end of the tracks was over 100 empty railroad cars used for petroleum oil. IMG_20200809_135529

Another day we stopped by Symmes Park for a geocache. It was a nice city park with a replica of the Statue of Liberty. This statue was erected in the early 1950s as part of a Boy Scout project across the country to help celebrate 40 years of scouting. There were more than 200 Liberty replicas put up around the country and Lewistown purchased one of them. MVIMG_20200807_145336

Also in Symmes Park was a LGM-30A Minuteman I missile. The Minuteman I missiles were placed in their silos in the early 1960s and in late 1966. This Minuteman I missile was placed here to commemorate the fifty Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles deployed in this area. Underground silos containing the nuclear-warhead missiles are spread across northern Montana. IMG_20200807_145733IMG_20200807_145609c

The park also had a 240 mm Howitzer on display since 1959. It could shoot a 360 pound projectile fourteen miles! IMG_20200807_145950IMG_20200807_145925

Another beautiful park was Frank Day Park with a Labyrinth garden where we found another geocache. IMG_20200809_152152

Nearby were exhibits on the history of central Montana railroads. The first train arrived in Lewistown in late 1903. Due to the World War 1 years and Montana’s poor economy during the 1920s, expansion of the rail line into North Dakota was never completed. The railroad era in Lewistown ended in 2003. IMG_20200809_152259

On Sunday we visited the Veterans Memorial Park. We found a geocache here and enjoyed walking around the park. IMG_20200809_155342IMG_20200809_155200IMG_20200809_155702IMG_20200809_155742IMG_20200809_155803IMG_20200809_155845

It is one of the few veterans parks which has a statue to remember the mothers left behind. Very touching place to spend time. IMG_20200809_160051IMG_20200809_160040

We enjoyed our time in Lewistown in spite of the excessive heat. It is amazing to see all the interesting places that can be found in these small towns. We are often led to these places when searching for geocaches. 

Next up: Billings, our final stop in Montana