We left Yellowstone today. We went out through the Lamar Valley to Cooke City, Montana, and, from there, over the Beartooth Highway to Billings.
The Beartooth is spectacular; Charles Kuralt called it the most beautiful road in America. Of roads I have driven, it’s in the top ten, but Trail Ridge Road in the Rockies, Highway 12 in Utah, The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and a few other National Park drives are ahead of it, for me.
By the way there was a traffic light at over 9000 feet and a hold up of 30 minutes for construction. We saw the following little creature at the top, almost 11,000 feet. (Hint – it’s not a rodent.) With no birds today, we’ll ask for some mammal identification. The Kerseys are ahead of Ranger Jastram in bird ID’s.
In the afternoon we stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. I was never taught that Custer was a hero. In fact, I remember one teacher telling the class that Custer got what he deserved; the teacher probably muttered, “Damnyankee” as well. It is too easy for Custer’s advocates to forget that he attacked the Indians, not the other way around. Nonetheless, the place is affecting. On a beautiful day with blue sky and a pleasant breeze, I found it hard not to imagine a soldier standing in the same place, on a similar day in 1876, under quite different circumstances.
Originally, the site was viewed as the location of a horrible massacre of US troops. Time has changed that attitude. There is now an Indian Memorial (being worked on today) and both US and Indian death sites have markers. The official video sees the battle as tragic for both sides. Ideas and interpretations change in time.
Our last stop was at a monument on a lonely ridge in Wyoming. The monument is for what was known as the Fetterman Massacre. Everyone has heard of Custer; Fetterman is mostly unknown. History is capricious.
Tomorrow we head for Devil’s Tower and Deadwood.