Mark and Nadine's Arctic Expedition travel blog

The "Last Stand" monument at the Little Bighorn Battlefield

The monument

Snow in King's Hill Pass (a break from the rain!)


Rain, rain and more rain! This morning we took I-90 from Sheridan WY up to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in MT, with the rain alternating between drizzle and downpour.

The battlefield was extremely sad, as all battlefields are. At the top of the little rise where Custer and his officers made their last stand, there's an ugly granite monument; around the spot are smaller stones that mark where each soldier fell. (A few years after the battle, the officers were disinterred and reburied back East; Custer's body, or what was left of it after the Indians were done with him, was buried at West Point. But the other U.S. soldiers, scouts and civilians killed at the Little Bighorn were buried in a mass grave at the base of the monument.)

It's good to see that the National Park Service's view of places like this has been evolving over the years. In the 1990s, the name was changed from the Custer Battlefield Memorial to the Little Bighorn Battlefield Memorial, and the Native American viewpoint on the battle began to be recognized. There now are stones around the battlefield to mark where Indian warriors are known to have fallen, and a large memorial has been erected, not far from the "Last Stand" monument, to recognize the warriors who died "defending the Cheyenne way of life." As with every battle, there were two sides to this one, and we're glad that our government can admit that.

From the battlefield we decided to take back roads to Pompey's Pillar National Monument, and it was an adventure. The gravel road we took off the Interstate was washboarded and rutted, and Rosie got a thorough mud bath. It was a real taste of Montana ranch life, though, as we drove mile after mile without seeing more than an occasional building.

Pompey's Pillar is a spot visited by William Clark and part of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1806, on their return from the West Coast. There's a wonderful little interpretive center there, but the rain kept us from walking around the site.

From there we drove through Billings MT and then caught the road north through the Lewis and Clark National Forest. This took us through King's Hill Pass, with its summit at an elevation of 7393 feet. In the pass the rain changed over to snow, and it was a welcome relief from the incessant downpour. Even though it's Memorial Day weekend, there was a good foot of snow in the woods, and the temperature was 33 degrees; fortunately, the pavement wasn't icy.

We eventually reached Great Falls MT, checked into a campground, then went off to explore the town a bit before turning in. Still raining!

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