Before there were blogs there were journals – remember Lewis and Clark? I too kept a journal on a road trip through the American West, from Seattle to the Black Hills of South Dakota.
It was a bright day in May when we packed up our camper and left Seattle heading east. We crossed the panhandle of Idaho and spent our first night in St. Regis, Montana, where we woke the next morning to sunshine streaming through the windows, birdsong and rabbits scampering about the campground. What could be better?
After our morning coffee we proceeded through Big Sky Country, a rugged land of mountains, rivers, and wide open spaces. Our first stop was Helena, where we toured the capitol building and saw Charles Russell’s gorgeous mural, ‘Lewis and Clark meeting the Flathead Indians at Ross Hole.’
Charles Russell, Western artist and storyteller, was born in St. Louis in 1864 and moved to Montana at the age of 16 to fulfill his dream of becoming a cowboy. He produced over 4000 paintings, drawings and sculptures, of cowboys, the Plains Indians whom he greatly admired, and wildlife, which he called ‘nature’s people.’ We stopped by the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls dedicated to his life and work and I picked up some postcards of his paintings.
Of course you can’t travel in Montana without reminders of Lewis and Clark. Meriwether Lewis was greatly impressed by the beauty of the Great Falls of the Missouri River calling it “the grandest sight I had ever held.” We visited the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center overlooking the Missouri, and nearby Giant Springs, one of the largest freshwater springs in the country.
Our final Lewis and Clark stop was at Pompey’s Pillar, east of Billings, a huge outcropping of Sandstone rising 150 ft above the Yellowstone River. It was here Clark carved his name in the rock he named after Sacagawea’s son. The carving is the only remaining physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Clark recorded the event in his journal, “.. at 4 PM I arrived at a remarkable rock… I marked my name and the day of the month & year. July 25th, 1806.”
We took the trail to Pompey’s Pillar to see the carving which is now protected under glass.
Continuing into northeastern Wyoming, it wasn’t long before the landscape changed from the golden, rolling hills of cattle country to green forest and red rock. We’d entered the Black Hills and began to look for the mysterious Devil’s Tower around every turn. When we finally saw it rising above the landscape, it didn’t disappoint (though my pictures might.)
We were delighted to discover our campground was at the base of the 1,267 foot basalt tower and we fell asleep under it’s otherworldly presence.
The next day we walked the easy trail around the Tower enjoying the sunshine, breathing in the fresh piney air and watching climbers tackle the massive Rock.
Soon we would enter South Dakota where more adventures awaited: Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park and Badlands National Park. Too much to tell here so I will save that for Part 2 of a ‘Journal through the American West.’