Last Stand

Monday, November 05, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Westward Ho, Day 15:  Miles City, MT, to Sheridan, WY

Before leaving Montana this morning, we went by Crow Agency (pop. 1,616) in the northern part of the Crow Indian Reservation.  Crow Agency is the capital city of the Crow Nation tribe, and is just a few miles from the Little Bighorn National Battlefield Monument.    Few battles in U.S. history have been as widely analyzed, studied, and disputed as the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June, 1876, when Sioux and Cheyenne warriors banded together under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse to hand a resounding defeat to United States forces led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.

Headstones for unknown U.S. soldiers who died at Little Bighorn
Little Bighorn was a wrenching battle for both sides—an almost unprecedented defeat for the United States, which was in the midst of celebrating its centennial, and for the Native tribes, the beginning of the end of their free and nomadic way of life.  The memorialization of the site respects and honors both combatants, while evoking the severity of that deadly battle.

7th Cavalry Memorial
White marble headstones are scattered over the battlefield to denote where Army victims were found and originally buried.  Later all were disinterred and buried in a mass grave on top of Last Stand Hill, where their names are remembered on the memorial obelisk.

Indian Memorial, Little Bighorn Battlefield
Nearby, an Indian memorial honors the Natives who fought in the battle and their tribes.  Individual markers have also been placed at the specific locations on the battlefield where warriors died in the battle.  Our visit to the Little Bighorn monument was a very solemn and moving experience.

After a picnic lunch near the battlefield, we continued south into Wyoming and the town of Sheridan (pop. 17,444).  Sitting in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains, Sheridan is frequently ranked by a variety of national publications as a top place for visiting and living.  With an abundance of recreational activities nearby, the historic city acts as both a destination for tourists and a stop on the corridor to Yellowstone National Park.  Many of the well-preserved Main Street buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a public art initiative has populated most downtown street corners with sculptures.

Thanks to a very talented Wyoming letterboxer who goes by the trailname Half Empty, we were treated to some nifty little challenges and quite creative letterboxes in and around Sheridan.  Here's a sample of one of his clever clues.

In addition to his often ingenious clues, most of Half Empty's boxes we searched for also incorporated some little surprise factor.  His lagnappe varied from box to box, but clearly this is a guy who does not settle for the standard letterbox formula.  We were fortunate to find seven of his boxes in the Sheridan area today and hope to locate a few more tomorrow before leaving Wyoming.


By our ratings, Montana has a solid lead on the title for 'worst highway rest areas' of all the places we've visited this year.  That's 39 states thus far, and there's not even a close contender.  The rest areas are unstaffed and allegedly cleaned by independent contractors.  Apparently either no one is supervising their work, or the Montana DOT has very low standards for cleanliness.  But then the construction speaks volumes about the state's level of concern for visitors.  Due to the poor toilet design, one has to jump back immediately after flushing to avoid being splashed.  And since the lowlife tourists that visit the state can't be entrusted with real mirrors, builders were apparently told to slap a piece of metal on the wall to masquerade as a looking glass. 

Montana rest area near Hysham
If Oregon's rest areas are as bad as we remember from our visit there in 2008, they may challenge Montana for the crown.  For now, the griminess and cheap, industrial design of the centers in Big Sky Country have the state in first place—or should we say last?

Daily Stats:
  • Miles driven:  243
  • Letterboxes:  F 12, P 0
  • Weather:  Windy, Sunny to Partly Cloudy, 33° to 68°
  • States:  2 (MT, WY)
  • Casinos:  14
  • Tourist trading posts:  9
  • Visitors at Little Bighorn Battlefield:  26 

More Photos from Today

I-94, Yellowstone County, MT
Big Horn County Historical Museum, Hardin, MT
Battlefield area, Little Bighorn
Custer exhibit with numerous original artifacts
Unusual light turned the mountains blue when we entered Wyoming on I-90.
Sample of Half Empty's lagnappe—he built a home for the letterbox.