States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Friday, July 9, 2010

From Flagg Ranch to Little Bighorn: Saturday, June 26th

Happy 2nd Birthday to our adorable little niece, Jasmine, can’t believe it’s been a year since they flew home from visiting us, at least we got to spend her 1st birthday with her, not that she’ll remember but our four certainly do.

Unfortunately we didn’t get going quite as quickly as we had wanted, due to the multiple trips over to the toilet block – Dave had duck taped ours shut just in case anyone forgot it was unusable!

Regardless, we got going around 8:30 and took a couple of hours to reach the east entrance of Yellowstone, unfortunately in the rain, so not the greatest of views and none of the wildlife others had seen on this stretch.  Despite the weather, there were long lines waiting to get in.  It’s been a wonderful National Park, definitely one of our favorites, seeing all of the wildlife has been fantastic.

We passed through Buffalo Bill State Park and headed into more desert-looking mountains, through some quaint little towns, including Cody, and many miles of nothing but mountains and green fields, punctuated by the occasional oil rig and long train.  Although this made for a pretty drive, the downside is there is a complete lack of cell service, so trying to touch base with friends and family was a bit of a challenge.  Having had no cell reception in Flagg Ranch all week, it was really time to try and make some calls.

We stopped in at Billings for groceries and were finally successful in getting Becca’s prescription.  It was quite a shocker as we’re paying less for medical insurance this year, the flip side being that our deductible is huge – her advair was $170!  I scrimped on the groceries a bit as a consequence.  We also found an RV store and secured a new toilet – yay!  In the distance we could see an enormous, fluffy cloud with a fairly isolated rain storm coming down from it, we thought it was very cool!

On the way to 7th Ranch campground, we had to pass very close to the entrance of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  Our intention was to stop in quickly, get Junior Ranger books and continue on our way.  Unfortunately, as this is such a busy weekend at this NP site, it being the anniversary of the battle, with reenactments taking place in nearby Hardin, parking was unavailable for an RV.  The Ranger told us to carry on in and complete the 10 mile loop through the Battlefields before parking on the return.

The loop was very informative; we were given a point by point brochure that outlined the importance of each stop, so I played tour guide!  As we started up the hill, we spotted some re-enactment soldiers crossing the river on horseback.  A little further on, we saw wild horses prancing in the field and then overhead, a small plane flew by, nothing to do with the Battlefield but held the kids attention for a while.

We were able to read about and see the ways the troops were split up and aimed to attack the Indians in the valley below, beside the river.  Convinced that the Indians had spotted the US army, Custer called for the attack despite being unknowingly outnumbered.  Two thirds of his troops ended up being marooned on a ridge 5 miles from Custer’s position, so were of no assistance to him, as you can see, the rolling hills made it impossible to have a clear view of the open area.  Many of these troops were saved by a doctor assigned to their unit and by volunteers willing to risk Indian attack by running down to the river for water (you can see how far away that was from the photo).  In the end, the Indians cleared out of the valley and moved on, following the trail of the buffalo.  However, the US army didn’t dare move on until they were convinced the coast was clear, fearing a trick.

By the time they reached Custer’s Last Stand Hill, there were no men remaining of Custer’s troops.  They had also killed all of their horses to create a barrier behind which they could seek some refuge before they were eventually killed.  Of the 400+ troops that arrived on June 25th, only 175 remained by the end of the battles on June 27th.  Jake was very interested in the story, the battle, the different stand-off points and the memorials to those killed.  Everything is presented very well with sympathetic viewpoints from both sides.

We went into the Visitor Center from the Hill, Dave having managed to secure a parking spot, toured the exhibits and watched the informative short movie showcasing the movements of both troops and the events as they would likely have unfolded over the two days. 

The children completed their Junior Ranger programs, learning that the US Army had Indian Scouts on their side from two other tribes.  The US Army’s intention had been to move the Indians to a settlement in the Dakotas but when they left, they moved themselves north into British Columbia.  The children did really well on their Junior Ranger programs, considering it was 7:30 by the time they were being sworn in, we’d spent most of the day in the truck and they hadn’t had dinner yet!

7th Ranch campground is set on a hillside, overlooking the Battlefield, it’s a beautiful location, unfortunately with a train track running reasonably close-by – wake up calls at both ends of the night!  A free ice cream came with check-in, which the kids were thrilled to run in and collect (dinner??).  We wandered up the driveway to the campground, passing all the incredible bird houses on the fence posts on the way, while Dave followed the escort to the site.

The kids immediately ran off to play tether ball and in the sandpit with a number of other kids who were staying.  We were greeted to open cupboards and broken glass and mugs in the camper, which must have happened between Billings and Little Bighorn.  There ensued an hour of cleanup, broken glass travels pretty far in a moving camper – it was everywhere!  We’re wondering whether the cupboard latches are getting loose, as this had never happened before.

So, a long day with a late night, but that seems to be the norm of late, we haven’t managed a normal bedtime for over a week, they’re all hanging in there though, we can tell it’s summer, flexibility is upon us.  The bonus of being outside in the late evening at this campground was the spectacular sunset on one side of the valley and pink clouds over the camper on the other.  Once any light was gone, the stars in this enormous open area were incredible.

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