Our drive from Cut Bank to Big Timber on Monday took us awhile (about 290 miles), but we had lots to see along the roads. As we left town, we finally found the “giant talking penguin” Cut Bank advertises as a novelty – it is by their town park and supposedly denotes that the town has the lowest temperatures in the contiguous states, but when I researched it, I could not document that fact. Most of the sites I researched named Rogers Pass as holding that record. Rogers Pass is in Montana, but nowhere near Cut Bank. Cut Bank gets very cold in the winter, however; the owner of our park said the town sometimes does get to report the coldest temperature in the 48 contiguous states on some winter days (but not the coldest ever recorded). The park owner says he closes the RV park and travels down to FL during the winter!
As we traveled southeast, we saw lots more gigantic fields of wheat, hay and other grains. We saw a large custom combine operation heading down the highway: there were two RVs, several grain trucks, and several combines on tractors forming the convoy. I can see why the farmers around here use custom combine crews; the fields are so large, it takes several combines to harvest the grain effectively.
We next relaxed outside the pretty little town of Big Timber, MT for a couple days. We stayed on a ranch named Spring Creek RV Park and Fishing Ranch. There are horses grazing in the pasture, cows munching the alfalfa, several ponds where guests can go fishing for rainbow trout, and a beautiful rocky river, appropriately named the Boulder River running through the park. We really like it here, even though we have no cell service at the park, and I would love to come back and stay longer. It is just so pretty and peaceful – the sites are large with lots of trees, grass, and space between the sites. The last night we were here, we joined another couple at their fire ring and relaxed, toasting marshmallows and making old fashioned s’mores, just like when I went to Camp Fire Girl camp as a kid!
Fred caught 10 rainbow trout while we stayed here. Most were large enough to grill just one for a single meal, but others I had to freeze two to a package; I ended up with enough fish for 7 meals! Since Fred doesn’t eat trout, I get to enjoy them all! He enjoys the fishing, which I do not, but I get to enjoy the fish! Our only down part of the stay here had nothing to do with the area or park, but having to call AAA to jumpstart the truck one morning, and then having to purchase two new batteries for the truck while here wasn’t much fun at all!
After another 250 miles on the highway on Thursday, we landed at our next RV Park; we are back in Wyoming again. We are staying at Indian RV Park in the town of Buffalo, which is about 25 miles south of Sheridan where we stayed a couple weeks ago. During the past several weeks, we have followed a lot of the old Bozeman trail, noted for being a gold rush trail. It is named for a gold prospector, John Bozeman, who blazed the trail in 1863. Before that time though, Lewis and Clark traveled over the area, and then fur trappers and mountain men like Jim Bridger also traveled the trail for many years. With Bozeman, it became a shortcut from the main trail on the North Platte River to the gold fields of Montana. The several routes of the Trail overlaid earlier Indian, trader and exploration routes in both Wyoming and Montana. Only about 3,500 adventurers traveled the trail from 1864-1866; the most significant result was that it cut through the Powder River Basin, the last and best hunting grounds of the Northern Plains Indians. This led to military occupation of the region, and finally resulted in the Indian wars on the Northern Plains. After the gold rush use ended, the trail was used as a military road to the forts in Wyoming and Montana until it was abandoned in 1868 following the Fort Laramie Treaty. It was used again in 1876 by the forces of General George C. Crook, and shortly after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the route was opened and used by settlers. Now much of I-90 covers the same territory as the Bozeman Trail once did. We sure get to go much faster than the earlier adventurers did during the 19th century!
Buffalo is another historic western town, located in the foothills of the beautiful Big Horn Mountains. Quite a few Indian-soldier conflicts occurred around this region, some of the cattle ranching “range wars” also happened in this area, and many of the famous western outlaws stayed around here too. The Hole in the Wall gang, including such outlaws as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, camped out at a ranch not too far south of the town. That area is a private ranch now, and the owners give tours of the outlaw’s hideouts. Nearby Buffalo also are the sites of Fort Phil Kearney, the Fetterman’s Massacre Site, and the site of the Wagon Box Fight. Those interested in western history would want to spend a long time here.
While here, we plan to take the motorcycle and ride the Cloud Peak Skyway Scenic Byway from Buffalo to the tiny town of Ten Sleep; the 64 mile scenic road is also called Ten Sleep Canyon Road, since it traverses the Ten Sleep Canyon, crossing over the 9,666 foot Powder River Pass. The last time we rode through the area in the summer of 2005, it was really cold in the upper elevations and we “about froze” since we did not have enough leathers on. Tomorrow I plan to wear my heavy coat and my chaps!
Here’s what the town’s website says about Ten Sleep: “the small ranching community of Ten Sleep is a true example of western lifestyle. Located at the base of the Big Horn Mountains, the area is rich in fertile soil and waterways which make it perfect for raising cattle and sheep. Travelers are welcome and greeted with friendly smiles. Area residents maintain an atmosphere which exemplifies a genuine western experience. Visitors are encouraged to stop and enjoy the shopping "Dirty Sally's" souvenir store offers, or try a favorite malt or homemade ice cream. In July original cattle drives move through the center of town. Local cowboys (and their horses) have been photographed inside the town’s two saloons. Ten Sleep got its name by being ten sleeps (nights) between the Great Sioux Camps and the Platte River to the south, and the northern camp located near Bridger, Montana.” We thought it was a cool town the last time we visited, and we look forward to our ride there tomorrow.