Jay and Gina's Journal
We toured the capitol building in Helena. Saw the Russell painting of the Lewis and Clark Meeting the Flatheads(what an ugly name) at Ross Hole. Having heard about the painting from a couple of different sources. We were told that the wolf at the bottom center of the painting was in that position because Russell didn’t like the Speaker of the House. The wolf does seem to be snarling at someone below the bottom of the painting.
We then proceeded to the Montana Historical Society Museum across the street where I found the different styles of cradleboards from the distinct tribes of interest. The modern adaptation of the Indian beaded decoration to sneakers for dancing in powwow on hard concrete floors was an interesting new concept for me. They also had an 1880 sheep wagon - it’s a covered wagon, masquerading as a RV. It was a stove, sink, storage, bed, and other necessary items for living on the range with the sheep as they go from pasture to pasture.
We did learn was that smoke signals only meant that something was going on - nothing specific. We also saw snow fences along the way - look like random parts of a fence just standing by themselves with no purpose. They catch the snow and pile it up so that less ends being blown on the highway.
Of course, L&C didn’t know that there are 55 mountain ranges in Montana, and were misled by MacKenzie’s crossing of the Rockies further north at 3000 ft. altitude. Lewis really appreciated that they were leaving the prairie for the mountains at the Gates of the Mountains. He was worried about not having enough game to eat. We toured the area via boat, starting at the west end of the passage. The area was wonderfully unspoiled, and we did see a bit of wild life: bald eagles, dear, osprey, and buzzards. We were hoping for some long horn sheep, but....
We then headed back towards the plains towards Great Falls. The sudden change from being in mountains to being on the plains is mind boggling. There are no foot hills like back east - the prairie is golden and flat. Again you seem to be able to see forever. Average rain fall for the state is 15 inches per year. There are areas that receive only 10 inches - dessert by definition. No wonder the prairie is so much dryer and the grass shorter here than at Spirit Mound.
First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park.
“Meadowlarks sing, grasshoppers flit among the tan- and dun-colored grasses, while prairie dogs stand guard. Sweeping down from the distant Rocky Mountain Front, the wind blows without pause.” The average wind speed here is 4.5 miles per hour. One hundred miles per hour is not uncommon. “Within a few minutes the world of minivans, Happy Meals, and text messaging is left behind as the path begins to wind gradually uphill, toward the sacred ground. With each turn up the gravel road it becomes easier and easier to imagine what it must have been like, a thousand years ago, to wait at the base of the cliff - to wait for the buffalo to come tumbling down….”
The Indians would send young boys into a herd of buffalo to spook them into following the lead cow over a cliff. The buffalo caller would pause at the cliff’s edge before leaping off—to a shelf just a few feet below, where he could tuck himself under a sandstone ledge.Then the tribes would often cooperate with each other to harvest the resulting piles of buffalo at the base of the cliff. For over six hundred years, Indians stampeded buffalo over the mile-long cliff. Over 150K tons of buffalo remains have been found there. During WWII, it was minded for fertilizer and gun powder. Now, the top of the jump provides expansive panoramic views of the Rocky Mountain Front, the Missouri River valley, and the buttes and grasslands that characterize this High Plains setting and Prairie Dog Towns. A small turbine wind farm could be seen in the distance behind the remains of the sweat lodges build for the use of medicine men when the park was dedicated. It was magical.
Our driver Jim returned with the original, now repaired bus. It was nice to pile in it to go to dinner.
We traveled 113 miles for a total trip to date of 2276miles.
We walked 3.43 miles for a total of 28.95 miles.