After Yellowstone we headed east, across Montana and Wyoming, to South Dakota. Neither Inna nor I knew much about this area, and we were surprised to find that there was a ton out here. Here’s what we did:
First up after Yellowstone: we have to get through the Rocky Mountains. US-14 through northeastern Wyoming is the most direct way, and there’re several site on that route, but we chose to take US-212 to I-90 instead. There was one primary site we wanted to see on this route, and we discovered so many cool spots on the way to it; this detour was definitely worth it.
First cool spot: Beartooth Highway. Almost immediately after leaving Yellowstone, US-212 turns north toward Montana, crossing the Beartooth Mountains to connect the two destinations. The highway offers spectacular views as rises to almost 11,000 feet and traverses a pass that was once thought impossible to build a road through. It is an amazing drive.
The three of us, at the summit.
This is the view from Rock Creek Vista Point. When I say spectacular views I mean spectacular views.
At the end of Beartooth Highway we were greeted by Red Lodge, a quaint, small western town. Pictured above is the city’s main drag, which has three flags (one American and two international) on every block. It was really cool.
We officially entered the old west when we visited Garnet a couple days ago, but now we are really in the old west. Read this sign from Red Lodge to learn more.
We had buffalo burgers in Red lodge (delicious!) and when I asked for a local beer sampler they gave me this, all for $6.50. The beer was delicious too; Red Lodge, you are awesome!
Up next, it may not look like much, but this is the reason we chose the US-212 to I-90 detour. This is the location of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, famous for being the site of Custer’s last stand.
This battlefield could easily have been boring, after all, there’s nothing here but rolling hills. But the area (now protected as a National Monument) includes numerous signs and historic markers that detail the strategies, actions, and timeline of the battle and those who participated in it. It was fascinating.
PS: Lame White Man (upper right photo above) is the name of a Native American chief who fought in the battle, it is not an insult to the American soldiers.
While the Battle of the Little Bighorn was only one of many battles in the American Indian War, and it was a battle Native Americans won in a war they lost, it was also a famous and definitive battle, and therefore now serves as a memorial for all the soldiers who fought and died on both sides of this historic war.
Finally, Little Bighorn Battlefield also contains the Custer National Cemetery, a cemetery where many American soldiers, not just those from the American Indian war, are buried.
As you may have seen in the photos above, another storm is approaching, and it actually caught up with us near the end of our Little Bighorn Battlefield tour. We briefly escaped the storm by driving southeast back into Wyoming, but we could see it trailing us, so we decided to stay at a hotel for the night.
Funny sign we drove by while escaping the storm.
The following morning it was beautiful again, and so we continued to our next stop: Devils Tower.
Devils Tower is an 870 foot tall butte famous for its columnar basalt cliffs, similar to the ones we saw at Sheepeater Cliff earlier on our trip. Devils Tower is also famous because the climax of Close Encounters of the Third Kind took place here. Lastly, check out all the motorcycles in this picture; we’ll explain that in our next post.
Several Native American tribes discovered Devils Tower, and while each had their own story about its creation, they all had one thing in common: bears. The most famous story involves eight siblings, seven sisters and a brother, playing in the field. Then the brother starts convulsing. The convulsions get worse and worse and the boy starts transforming, until he is no longer a boy but a bear. The bear attacks the sisters, who run for their lives. Unable to outrun the bear, the girls pray to the Great Spirit, who responds by raising the land underneath them high into the sky. The bear then claws at the sides of the land, trying to reach and kill the girls. Safe but trapped on this elevated land, the girls are shot into the sky, where they became the seven sisters constellation.
Right next to Devils Tower is a prairie dog town, a small section of land that hundreds of prairie dogs made their home. They were adorable, and funny too!
Devils Tower was our last stop in Wyoming; from here we entered South Dakota, which brings us to our next post!