Covering our Buttes

Saturday, October 26, 2002 Road Junkies 0 Comments

LEWIS & CLARK, Chapter 6:  
Day 6
: Glendive, MT to Butte, MT.   
25° this morning.  As the weather continues to get cooler, we got our first look at Montana in the daylight.  Along I-94, we paralleled the Yellowstone River, Clark's return route.  With no evidence of snow yet, the landscape was grassy and hilly along the roadside.  Many herds of cattle could be seen grazing, still mostly Black Angus, along with some Hereford as we saw in South Dakota, and even a few white.
Unlike the treeless plains we traveled through in the Dakotas yesterday, this stretch of Montana had quite a lot of trees.  Autumn has pretty much passed through here, and most of the trees were bare.
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Our first stop was Pompey's Pillar (pictured above), a sandstone butte near Billings, a well-known landmark to the Plains Indians.  At this strategic natural crossing of the Yellowstone, Native people met to trade and exchange information long before Lewis and Clark came this way.  In addition to their journal entries about the area, Clark left lasting evidence of his visit here on their return trip East.
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Incredibly well preserved 200-year-old carving space   
I-94 led into I-90 at Billings, where we saw a couple of refineries near the highway as well as a huge crowd at the Billings Livestock Commission for a horse sale.  We estimated more than 200 trucks with horse trailers parked in the lot.
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Along I-90 we passed several mountain ranges with the Yellowstone River and a well-used railroad line paralleling the highway.  The scenery has been spectacular and widely varied.  After such a cold morning, the sun has worked overtime to produce such a warm day.
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Missouri Headwaters State Park  
At the Missouri Headwaters State Park at Three Forks, MT, we visited the spot where three small rivers join to form the Missouri.  These little rivers were named by Lewis:  Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin.  Those names are also seen in county names in the area.
At the Missouri headwater, we launched two driftwood logs down the river.  One kept getting snagged on the rocky bottom of this shallow river, but we threw rocks and dislodged it several times until the current caught it and sent it moving at a good clip.  These two "pirogues" are on their way, and we hope to see them again at Hartford or perhaps New Orleans on our way back home.
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Bon voyage, stick!  We'll look for you in New Orleans.
Outside Butte, we drove through the Tobacco Root Mountains, which are covered with huge boulders.  Talk about waiting for the other shoe.  It was frighteningly awesome.  We have seen so many mountain ranges in Montana, and all seem to have such different topology and geology.  After successfully navigating through the Tobacco Roots, we settled into Butte for the night.
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Miles today:  465
States today:  1 (MT)

Yellowstone River at Pompey's Pillar
at Missouri Headwaters State Park
at Missouri Headwaters State Park
Yellowstone River at Pompey's Pillar