Billings - Deadwood
Miles Driven: 372.0
Gas Price: 1.83
Back again, after a brief hiatus that will be explained later in the text!
Day Three started out fairly early, and we had a quick 50 mile drive from Billings to the site of the Little Big Horn Battlefield. This battle is sometimes known as Custer's Last Stand I believe, and is now a national monument as well as a national war cemetery. For more on this place, check out the webpage: http://www.nps.gov/libi/
There are quite a few photos of this stop on our journey, but you'll notice Colin didn't make an appearance - it seemed a bit flippant to be gallivanting around waving a stuffed Kiwi, so he stayed in the car.
Although the photo looking down from the hilltop contains quite a few "fell here" markers, this is only a small part of the total battlefield. The hilltop was where Custer's command section retreated to, and eventually were killed, during the battle. However just over 200 cavalrymen were killed, as were over 30 Native warriors in a rolling fight that ranged over hills and gullies. Part of the park is a drive of over five miles in which you pass sporadic markers, showing clearly the retreat and eventual end of the battle on the Little Bighorn hilltop.
The large granite marker is on the top of the hill where a mass grave was dug to bury the bodies of those killed. Horses were also buried at the time, but there was a complicate series of reinterrnments (including Custer being reburied at West Point) that resulted in the horses being given a grave of their own. This was recently rediscovered, and has just been given it's own headstone. (Click on the picture to make it larger)
The Indian memorial is truly beautiful. The iron outline of horses and their riders is taking up one side of a sunken mound, so when you stand in the centre of the the sunken part they seem to gallop across the horizon against the sky. You'll notice things tied to the outlines...... some are scarves/flags etc, and others are medicine bundles. (Click on the small pictures to make them larger)
Little Bighorn also has a national war cemetery, which is the picture of the headstones including the American flag. There are servicemen buried there from the Indian Wars right up to the present time.
As you can probably guess from all of the above and the photos, we spent way longer at Little Bighorn than anticipated! So after a quick lunch in Sheridan, Wyoming, we drove on to try and find Devil's Tower.
Devil's Tower can be found at http://www.nps.gov/deto/ for those wanting a little reading matter :)
Basically, Devil's Tower (which may look rather familiar to those old enough to have seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind!) is the basalt remains of a volcano core. Everything else has eroded away save this extremely reisistant columnar core. The local people (Lakota) have a more interesting explanation. To read it, go here: http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/a/c/acj2/DTOWER.HTM
Colin made a reappearance at this point!
Also at Devil's Tower (named by Europeans, as most native names feature some mention of bears) was a colony of Prairie Dogs. These are odd, yet also amusing, looking burrowing rodents. For more on prairie dogs, try Colin's strongly suggested National Geographic site: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/burrow/pdog.html There were numerous signs around strongly admonishing visitors "NOT to feed the prairie dogs, they carry fleas, ticks and disease!". It was obvious that many people ignore this warning, however, since as soon as we stopped the car and got out, several of the little buggers came trotting across to beg. They are funny looking fellows that sit back on their plump behinds like mildly tipsy elderly men. They also lean back on things for support, as can be seen in one of the pictures taken.
The last picture is of Pronghorn Antelope, which we saw through much of Wyoming. Since our picture is rather fuzzy (they were a fair way away) this website might be of more use: http://www.antelope.org/default.htm
By the time we left Devil's Tower, we were running rather late in the day. We got to Deadwood, South Dakota (home of the grave of Wild Bill Hickok, and that's about all I know of it) at about 7pm, and found that the local Holiday Inn was sold out! Nooooo! My Priority Club Points! Aaargh! It was too late to go anywhere else, though, so we eventually landed at the Deadwood Comfort Inn, along with the graduating class of Turtle Mountain High School. As you can imagine it was therefore rather noisy! (I've just looked TMHS up, and apparently it's a school in Belcourt, North Dakota..... way up on the Canadian border http://www.city-data.com/city/Belcourt-North-Dakota.html ) We got the last room available, which was a suite. But no points ;) Deadwood town centre was a couple of miles away, so we didn't really see it other than on the drive through when we first arrived. Can you say "tourist trap"!? Just in case you can't, go to: http://www.deadwood.org/ and see one in action ;) Suffice to say we won't be going there again! One of the features of the Comfort Inn was a data port on the side of the phone which meant we could connect to the internet at the mindboggling speed of 19.6, which as many of you know is VERY SLOW INDEED! Hence this installment is a day late, but hopefully you've read it anyhow :)