Got crappy coffee from the gas station and left by 7:30. My destination was the Little Bighorn Battlefield, of course where Custer’s 210 soldiers were massacred by close to 2,000 Sioux and Cheyenne Indians on June 25th 1876. It was on the way, so why not see it?
I’m no expert on the Sioux wars. Yes, I’ve read more than the average American, but, there are people who can tell you the exact deployment of Custer’s soldiers during the whole course of the battle. I can’t, so, it was interesting to listen to some park dude explain the battle unfolding over the green hills behind him. Last Stand Hill behind him is where about 40 federals shot their horses to create breast works, and fought till they ran out of ammunition. Thereafter, the killing was complete.
There are graves scattered throughout the park’s landscape. Red gravestones are for Indians. White gravestones are for federals. (That’s not racist, right?) The stones stand where the bodies were found. The randomness of their placement helps your imagination.
One hour was enough though.
Three hours later I was at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. This is an anomalous volcanic neck that rises from the western end of Black Hill country. A volcanic neck is an up-welling of magma from the earth’s mantle that solidifies into a tower-like form as it attempts to burst out to the surface. The sedimentary layers that served as the mold for that solidified magma up-welling have eroded since that magma cooled into form, leaving just the standing tower. This, at least, is the theoretical explanation.
It’s neat. It was the first national monument created by Teddy Roosevelt after Congress passed the Antiquities Act in 1906. There’s a trail circling around it’s base which affords you views. The vanilla scent of ponderosas was everywhere. From the elevated position of this trail you could see more ponderosas topping hills rolling into far horizons, whose skies above were alternately dark and light for the coming and going of storms. It was all pretty.
However, you’re not allowed to scramble up the boulder fields at the Tower’s base for any sense of adventure. You just walk. Frankly, an hour was enough. Could check Devil’s Tower off my list.
I was getting tired. I’d been traveling so much. Drove a little onward to a town in South Dakota called Belle Fourche, and crashed at a hotel. The next day I’d drive the scenic way through Black Hills to Mt. Rushmore, and then continue east to Badlands national park, and try to get to Minnesota before nightfall. From Minnesota, after a hard drive, I could potentially make Erie, Pennsylvania in one day. Thereafter, Syracuse would be a mere couple of hours.