Saturday, June 27, 2009

Day 23 Garryowen, Montana Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monumen 7th Ranch Campgroundt

Captain’s Blog

June 25, 2009

Woke this morning to clear bright blue skies. The projected temp for the day is 100 degrees. Yes folks, 100 degrees. It will be the first hot day we’ve had since we left. Everyday up until today has been perfect in the mid 70’s and breezy.

Today is the 133rd anniversary of the battle of Little Bighorn so understandably the park was loaded with visitors as well as several Indian Tribes performing a variety of cultural ceremonies. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is huge covering many miles of territory.

We opted to drive the 10 mile round trip along the route of the battlefield. Five miles South of the monument is the Reno-Benteen Battlefield where the battle of the Little Bighorn actually began.

Little Bighorn memorializes one of the last armed efforts of the Northern Plains Indians to preserve their ancestral way of life. In the valley of the Little Bighorn River on two June days in 1876, more then 260 soldiers and attached personnel of the US Army met defeat and death at the hands of several thousand Lakota (formerly known as Sioux) and Cheyenne warriors. Among the dead were Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and every member of his immediate command. Although the Indians won the battle, they ultimately lost the war against the white man’s efforts to end their independent, nomadic way of life.

Prior to 1991 the battlefield was called the Custer Battlefield National Monument. The name change to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument was a major step in the move to be more inclusive of Native American participation in the battle. “Peace Through Unity” became the adopted name.

Along the route are grave markers for both the fallen warriors and US troops. White marble military headstones signify fallen US troops while red granite signify fallen warriors. It is unknown exactly where the warriors fell during the battle because their bodies were removed from the site immediately after the battle. Since 1999 markers have been placed for warriors from several different tribes that participated in the battle of the Little Bighorn. The area is beautiful and well maintained. I would recommend this stop to everyone. The history is remarkable and to look over the battlefield and realize the monumental efforts put forth by both sides leaves one speechless.

At the five mile mark there was a trail called the Reno-Benteen Entrenchment Trail that we had started. Along the trail are 18 markers signifying significant aspects of the ridge and the happenings that occurred. At this point it was after 1PM and the sun was broiling us. The temp in the direct sun was 107 degrees. We decided to stop the hike and return later in the day when it cooled off. We then headed to the museum and watched a brief film covering the high points of the battle. Back at the MH we cooled off, ate lunch and waited for the outside temp to drop.

Around 6:30 PM we headed back to complete the trail. The temp was still 90 degrees but more tolerable because the sun was not high in the sky. We got to the monument and to our surprise there weren’t very many people around and the visitor center was closed. Ron figured we had enough time to drive to the trail and finish the hike before the park closed.

The speed limit in the park was 15 MPH and guess what – Ron was doing 25 MPH.

Once again we were stopped by law enforcement – the park police!!!!! He was also an American Indian and gave us a warning instead of a ticket. He held us there long enough so that we didn’t get to finish the trail because the gate to the road leading to the trail was closed by the very officer that stopped us. Before leaving we stopped at the National Cemetary within the park that overlooks the rolling hills and valleys. Well, here we are two days in Montana and stopped by the police twice. Well, it was back to the RV at the posted speed – of course.

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