Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A warm welcome and reunion. For a while I'll rest from my travels.

This place is eerie and haunting. Emigrants numbering around 400,000 traveled across Wyoming on the Oregon Trail from 1840-1860. My family on my father's side, Sowbys and Pettigrews, were on the Trail. Reaching Independence Rock marked 1/3 of the 2,000 mile distance from Missouri to the western frontier. Independence Rock is one of the most famous landmarks on the Oregon Trail. Emigrants wanted to reach the rock by the 4th of July to ensure passage over the western mountain ranges before winter snows.

Rachel Taylor, age 15, 1853, wrote in her journal:
July 21st
Started in good season and about noon reached the Sweetwater, a swift clear stream. Later in the day passed Independence Rock. We forded the river here and were somewhat hindered. Encamped near the river where grass is abundant. We have here a frightful as well as romantic situation. Just back of us Independence Rock stands out in bold relief, and in front of us yawns the Devils Gate.

Cecelia Adams & Parthenia Blank, twin sisters, age 23, 1852, wrote:

25 Sun this morning we started at 3 o’clock to feed and get breakfast. Sand very deep and dust very troublesome. Stopped for dinner opposite Independence Rock. It is a great curiosity but we were all so tired that we could not go to the top of it. It is almost entirely covered with names of emigrants. Went on to the Devil’s Gate and encamped. This is a great curiosity but we have not time to visit it and regret it very much. Passed 3 graves. Forded the Sweet water.

Breakfast in the T@B by Ashley; spinach & tomato omelets with the trimmings yumm.
Surprised & humbled by the Grand Tetons in all their glory. We wanted to canoe on Jenny Lake, but no parking in an overcrowded parking lot! Instead, a beautiful new Interpretive Center awaited us with a(nother) string quartet playing on the patio. Wow!

Paint pot!

String Quartet at Lake Yellowstone Hotel. Very fancy and great fun.

Yellowstone National Park, established on March 1, 1872, is the world's oldest National Park. It is famous for having more than 10,000-plus hot springs and geysers, the majority of the planet's total. (In two days we saw only about 20.)Yellowstone's geothermal features are created by one of the world's largest active volcanoes; its last eruption caused a crater or caldera that spans about half of the parks size.

The area in the photos is Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone's largest hot spring, 370 feet in diameter. It's in the Midway Geyser Basin reached by following a boardwalk. The spring is deep blue in color, with yellow and orange rings formed by bacteria that give it the effect of a prism--more beautiful than photos or words can describe.

John Colter, the first white man known to see Yellowstone, was on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Before the Expedition returned to St. Louis, Colter asked to be released from duty to return to the wilderness. In 1807 he and former expedition member John Potts , trapping in Blackfeet country, were ambushed by Indians. Potts was killed, but Colter escaped by outrunning the Blackfeet who had stripped him naked; he ran 200 miles to safety. Later Colter supplied Clark with many new details from his travels into the Yellowstone(Lewis & Clark somehow missed it). In describing the geysers and other geothermal phenomena, Yellowstone Park became known as “Colter’s Hell.”

We saw people from all over the world visiting Yellowstone 200 years after these historic events. A family from Denmark visited with us after Old Faithful blew. We loved the restored Old Faithful Inn, and stayed 92 minutes to watch Old Faithful again from the Inn balcony.

The Beartooth Highway in Montana is one of the most spectacular alpine highways in North America. Providing visitors access to Yellowstone Park's northeast entrance, the Beartooth Highway makes its way across the rugged Beartooth Mountain Range in Montana and Wyoming. The road is the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. We saw people play in the snow. Naturally we would choose the most challenging way to enter Yellowstone Park; there was little traffic at the remote NE entrance to the Park.

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, formerly known as Ulm Pishkun, is an archaeological site with possibly the largest bison cliff jump in North America. Native peoples used this site for at least two thousand years prior to Lewis and Clark's expedition through Montana. The kill site consists of a mile long sandstone cliff; there are remnants of drive lines on top of the cliff and the remains of millions of 'processed' bison below. The process of tricking the bison was done before 1730 when Plains Indians did not have horses; a successful hunt require the coordinated work of all members of the tribe. The buffalo was sacred to the Plains Indians; the result of the annual kill resulted in the starvation or survival of the tribe.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We enjoyed the Charles Russell Art Museum in Great Falls. Among his many art forms, Russell would put art into his letters to friends. This note is thanking friends for ? that he and his wife, Nancy, were given. This place has been one of my favorite stops on the trip.

On to Helena, the capital of Montana. We arrived late in the afternoon and parked the tab at the curb in front of the beautiful capital bldg., and had burritos in the T@B. Not one car passed on the street as we had dinner. The red flowers are arranged to say, "Montana, 2010".

Ashley prepares to dive into the Giant Springs; from a fracture in the Earth's limestone, water flows upward at a force of 300 pounds per square inch, discharging 156 million gallons per day. William Clark discovered this June 18th, 1805, "we proceeded on...to the largest fountain or Spring I ever Saw. and doubt if it is not the largest in America Known, this water boils up from under th rocks near the edge of the river and falls imediately into the river 8 feet and keeps it Colour for 1/2 a mile which is emencely Clear and of a bluish Cast..." (sic).

We enjoyed the astonishing Great Falls at high water flow as described by Meriwether Lewis on June 14th, 1805 "...hearing a tremendious roaring above me I continued my rout across the point of a hill a few hundred yards further and was again presented by one of the most beautifull objects in nature, a cascade of about fifty feet perpendicular streching at right-angles across the river from side to side to the distance of at least a quarter of a mile...the water decends in one even and uninterupted sheet to the bottom wher dashing against the rocky bottom rises into foaming billows of great hight and rappidly glides away. hising flashing and sparkling as it departs the sprey rises from one extremity to the other..."(sic).

Ashley arrived in Great Falls July 11, and we went over to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center to help the Corps of Discovery portage the dugout canoes around the 18 mile stretch of waterfalls on the river. Ashley's strong muscles required only a light touch, and my pulling on the rope hardly made a speck of difference.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July parade in Arnegarde, North Dakota; The Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence; Fort Buford; Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site; Fort Peck Dinosaur Bones

My T@B was invited to be in the parade for the 4th with the energetic/creative WIN RV group. We had a fine time--more photos on this later.

The Corps of Discovery first saw confluence of these two great rivers April 5,1805. Lewis wrote, "I ascended the hills from whence I had a most pleasing view of the country...The whole face of the country was covered with herds of buffalo,elk, and antelopes...so gentle that we pass near them while feeding without appearing to excite any alarm among them." That was what I experienced driving into the Roosevelt
campground--lots of bison who took no notice of me!

The historian in my photo at Fort Union explained how it was the "Walmart" of the west, owned by businessman John Jacob Astor who made a fortune knowing how to do business with the indian tribes. I was served hot coffee from a pail over the fire (very tasty) and looked over the trade goods in his shop; one item was a fancy officer jacket which cost 18 buffalo robes!

On down Hwy. across Montana, I stopped at the Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center where fabulous dinosaur skeletons were reconstructed. I am in the Havre Library as I write this on a rainy day. Thank you for your comments & keeping in touch on my travels. Credit to Diana Tolerico for her photo of me on the hike.