The Warm Before the ColdWestward Ho, Day 17: Billings, MT, to Bozeman, MT
Since the winter storm the Weather Channel has now dubbed Brutus is not due to arrive until tomorrow, we felt no urgency traveling from Billings to Bozeman today. The largest city in Montana, Billings (pop. 105,636) is a major regional center for retail and wholesale trade and distribution. Sitting in the middle of the nation's largest coal reserve and near major oil and gas fields, Billings is also an energy center, home to three oil refineries and a coal-fired regeneration plant.
But the first place we were seeking in Billings this morning was a spot from the past, from the former town of Coulson perched on the Yellowstone River. Though Coulson predated Billings by five years, the railroads' decision to build their route through Billings was the death knell for the river town. Our destination was about all that remains of Coulson today, Boothill Cemetery.
If you guessed that we visited this little spot to search for a letterbox, you're exactly right and we did locate the box across the street off a nearby trail, but not before we paid our respects to the 35 former Coulsonites laid to rest on this hill. According to a sign on site, the cemetery (like numerous others in the West) was named Boothill because so many of its occupants went to their deaths with their boots on. The inscriptions on the river rock obelisk were quite memorable:
This monument marks a historic spot where thirty-five lie buried.
They played the drama called life for fortune and fame,
Lost their lives, lost their game.
Another waxed poetically:
The stream flows on but it matters not
To the sleepers here by the world forgot.
The heroes of many a tale unsung;
They lived and died when the West was young.
Driving to Boothill, we saw an intriguing sign indicating we were near Pictograph Cave State Park. Though we hadn't heard of the park, we thought it might offer a possible home for our Montana letterbox, so we followed the signs and stumbled upon an unexpected gem.
|Pictograph Cave State Park|
|Pictograph thought to represent rifles|
Today's weather has been so warm, it's difficult to believe a significant winter storm will arrive tomorrow. After we found another letterbox in a local cemetery and had lunch at a Billings restaurant, we finally hit I-90 toward Bozeman around 3 p.m. Just before 5:00, rain began to fall as we passed near Livingston, 25 miles from our destination in Bozeman.
Since we've booked a suite hotel with a kitchenette, we stopped at the local Walmart Supercenter and stocked up on groceries for the next several days. OK, Brutus, we're waiting for you in Bozeman.
- Miles driven: 178
- Letterboxes: F 3, P 1
- Weather: 35° to 72°, sunny to rainy
- States: 1 (MT)
- Pictographs we could make out: 7
- Rattlesnake warning signs at PCSP: 5
- Lewis & Clark Trail signs: 6
- Dire warnings about upcoming winter storm: 36
More Photos From Today
|Letterboxing Still Life near Boothill|
|What is Ken hiding under that boulder?|
|Box Elder at PCSP|
|Ghost Cave, PCSP|
|One of the excellent exhibits in the PCSP Visitor Center|
|A very convincing 'Keep Out' sign, PCSP|
|Common sight in the West: Cattle guard on interstate entrance and exit ramps|