Tag Archive | Wyoming

Circus Trip 2018: The Rockpile Museum

Day 11, Thursday, July 26, 2018

After I hiked at the Fetterman Fight site, it was time to get back on the road.  Rain had been threatening and as soon as I got back to the car, it started raining just a little.  I headed east on I-90 and drove for a bit before arriving in Gillette, Wyoming.

The Rockpile Museum, Gillette, Wyoming

Gillette has a small museum called the Rockpile Museum – it is free!  I stopped there and ate lunch at the picnic table that they had out front.  After lunch, I went inside and checked it out.  The Rockpile has exhibits on Wyoming’s history, from the fossil record up through present day.  Wyoming has some pretty incredible fossils; even some fish fossils with some really impressive teeth!

Other exhibits included a display of quilts, and other artifacts associated with pioneer life in Wyoming.  There were artifacts on the mining industry, as well as farming and ranching.  Outside museum there were two historic one-room schoolhouses that have been moved to the site.  It was such a fun little museum!  I didn’t check out more of Gillette, as my mom and I had spent a little bit of time there a few summers ago, but one day I would like to see more.

Back on the road, I crossed into South Dakota!  My 5th state! Soon, I arrived at my destination for the evening – Spearfish, SD.   Spearfish was such a cool town; I would love to spend more time there.

I arrived in South Dakota!

It was about 5 pm when I got into town, and I went downtown and found the Spearfish Brewing Company.  It had a modern, eclectic vibe; I had The Schwa beer – it was a blonde ale with pink guava added in.  It was so delicious, with a light citrusy flavor – perfect!  I sat at the bar and talked to my neighbors and journaled a bit – it was a nice chance to just relax.

My view at Spearfish Brewing Company

Afterwards, I went back to camp at the Spearfish KOA and made dinner; taco rice and sausage with a Huckleberry Lager that was brewed in Whitefish, Montana.  It was a nice evening!

Circus Trip 2018: The Fetterman Fight

Day 11, Thursday, July 26, 2018

The day before, I had visited Fort Phil Kearny and learned about the Fetterman Fight.  I blogged about my visit here.  The next morning, on my way out of Sheridan, I visited the site of the Fetterman Fight.  In the Fetterman Fight, about 90 soldiers had been dispatched outside of the fort to guard woodcutters about 5 miles away; they were cutting wood for fort construction and heating fuel.  The wagon train was attacked, and signaled to the fort that they needed back up.

The ridge looking out over the valley

The Commanding Officer at the fort, Colonel Henry Carrington, dispatched about 50 more soldiers under the command of Captain William Fetterman to provide relief, but Carrington gave orders that under no circumstances were they to go over the ridge line in the area.  The Native Americans successfully lured them into a trap though; over the ridge.  When all was said and done, Fetterman and 81 soldiers had been killed, stripped naked and mutilated in ritual fashion.  In less than six months of Fort Phil Kearny’s existence, 96 soldiers and 58 civilians had been killed.

The ridge where the Fetterman Fight occurred

It was certainly a sad time in US history, with the army and the tribes battling for control of the land all across the West, and the tribes being forced further and further onto undesirable reservation land as white men moved in to mine, ranch and farm.  The Native Americans had enough; who can blame them?  The Fetterman Fight was a pre-cursor to the Battle of Little Bighorn, which occurred 10 years later near present-day Billings, Montana.

The trail at the Fetterman Fight

The battle was a win for the tribes; even though skirmishes continued in the area and the tribes lost their competitive advantage when the troops at the fort were armed with breach loading rifles in 1867.  The 1867 Wagon Box Fight was a draw, even though the tribes had between 300 and 1,000 warriors in the battle against the government’s 32 troops and civilian wood cutters.

In 1868 the US Government negotiated a peace treaty with Red Cloud; the Native Americans retained control of the Powder River country.  The three forts along the Bozeman Trail were abandoned; the Cheyenne burned Fort Phil Kearny shortly after.  However, in 1868, the railroad had reached the area, making the wagon trails obsolete; it was much faster and much less dangerous to take a train west than to try to cover the ground in a wagon.  Unfortunately for the tribes the train made it that much easier and safer for whites to continue to move into the area; the encroachment continued and the tribes only retained their control of the area for eight more years.

Carrington, his wife, and the other women and children left the fort after the Fetterman fight; Carrington was publicly maligned for his role in the battle, even though a report showed that Fetterman had acted in violation of the orders that Carrington had given him.  He wrote years later about the battle and managed to re-establish his tarnished reputation.

The monument at the Fetterman Fight site

It was interesting to visit the site, and I was completely alone there.  I hiked most of the mile long trail, but rain was threatening so I headed back to the car just as a few big, fat raindrops started.  I got on the road to head east – I had more to see that day!

They have to point out that rattlesnakes are venomous?

And no, I didn’t see any rattlesnakes… Sadly…

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Trail End Toilet

My biggest fan (thanks mom!), let me know that I was remiss in not posting a photo of the historic loo at Trail End.  So here it is – check out the shape of that one!  And the fittings holding the seat on!

Circus Trip 2018: Trail End and the Sheridan Inn

Day 10, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

After my nap, I was tempted to just stay at camp, but there were still things in Sheridan that I wanted to see.  That evening, there was an open house at Trail End State Historic Site, which is a 13,748 square foot mansion that was built by John B. Kendrick in 1913.  Kendrick was from Texas, and he first traveled to Wyoming as a cow hand with a herd of cattle in 1879; he moved to the Sheridan area in 1889 an then founded the Kendrick Cattle Company.  Kendrick married a woman from Greeley, Colorado and they had two children while building their cattle business.

He had the home built as a grand showpiece; construction began in 1908 but labor issues, low cattle prices, arguments between the two architects, and other delays meant that it was not completed until 1913.  As I understand it, it was named Trail End because it was meant to be the end of the trail for the family.  However, they only lived here full-time for a short period; in 1914, Kendrick was elected to be Wyoming’s Governor and moved to Cheyenne, and then two years after that, became a US Senator, an office he held until his death in 1933. They primarily used the home as a vacation home during that time. Kendrick’s widow Eula lived in the home with their son and his family from 1933 until her death in 1961.

The house is incredible; it is one of the only examples of Flemish Revival architecture in the Western United States.  It has all the modern conveniences of the time, including electricity and indoor plumbing, a laundry room in the basement, an intercom system and a built-in vacuum system.  The house has ten bedrooms, twelve bathrooms, eight fireplaces, and all the usual entertaining spaces, including a ballroom on the top floor.  The woodwork is Honduran mahogany, and it has a beautiful custom designed white oak staircase.

After Eula’s death, the family moved out and the home sat empty for 7 years; it was almost torn down!  Thankfully, the Sheridan County Historical Society purchased the home in 1968, and it was transferred to the state of Wyoming in 1982.  Most of the decor and furnishings are original to the Kendrick family – it truly is a glimpse into what a wealthy cattle ranching family home would look like.  There is also information on the family in the home; including the fact that they lived much more modestly as Kendrick was building his fortune as a young cattle rancher.

The open house was well attended; there were lots of people there enjoying the opportunity to do a self-guided tour of the home, as well as cookies and lemonade!  I took my time going through the house and checking out the amenities that it had.  You could tour the grounds as well, and enjoy the blooming flowers in the gardens around the house.  They even had a classic car parked out on the driveway – it was a gorgeous bright blue!

On the way back to the campsite, I decided to make a quick stop at the historic Sheridan Inn, a hotel that was built in 1892 and opened in 1893.  Buffalo Bill Cody was a part owner of the Inn, and he held auditions for his Wild West Show on the lawn in front.  It was closed for many years, but found new owners who restored it and reopened it in 2015.  When I stopped by, the owner, Bob, was there and he welcomed me in warmly, and said I was welcome to wander around the first floor and check it out.  I took him up on his offer and saw the parlor and the dining room, as well as the original check in desk in the lobby.  It is a beautiful place, and they did a wonderful job with the restoration.

I was so happy that I ventured out, even though I hadn’t really felt like it earlier in the evening.  I got to see two historic sites , and talk to some great people who felt passionate about history too!  It was a good end to the day.

Me at my Sheridan campsite

Circus Trip 2018: Fort Phil Kearny

Day 10, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

After lunch, I drove to Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site, which is about 25 miles east of Sheridan.  Fort Phil Kearny was a short-lived US Army outpost set up along the Bozeman Trail, the wagon road that linked the Oregon Trail to the gold fields in present-day Montana.  It was first constructed in 1866, and was tasked with protecting travelers who were heading northwest along the Bozeman Trail; there were about 400 troops stationed there.  However, from the very beginning, the Native Americans in the area had a issue with the fort’s presence, and they ended up fighting several battles over control of the North Powder River in the area.

The Powder River country landscape

When the Army first envisioned the forts along the Bozeman Trail, the land was occupied by the Crow tribe, who believed that cooperating with the US Government was in their best interest; they accepted the forts on their land, which had been “granted” to them by the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty.  However, dwindling herds of bison meant that the tribes were moving around more to seek food;  the Lakota tribe took control of the area, decided to ignore the treaty boundaries, and were decidedly less accepting of the presence of the US Army.

The tribes had seen the devastation inflicted on the land and the natural resources by white settlers traveling on the Oregon and California Trails, and they were determined to protect this area, one of their last open hunting grounds, which was critical for their way of life.  The Lakota, cooperating with the Northern Cheyenne and the Northern Arapaho tribes, launched a series of small scale attacks on troops, travelers, and civilian laborers working out of the forts.  One such skirmish erupted further; the Fetterman Fight in 1866.  However, as that battle was fought about three miles away from the fort, I will talk more about it in a later post; I visited the battle site the next day.

Sculpture of Native American scouts on the ridge line

It costs $5 to visit; $3 if you are a Wyoming resident.  When you visit, the Visitor’s Center has a brief film that goes over the details of the fort, the Fetterman Fight and the Wagon Box Fight that occurred in 1867.  There is also a diorama of the layout of the original fort. There is a lot of imagination that goes into your visit; the original fort was burned in 1868 and the replica buildings have not been constructed.  The fort site has had some excavations; a map and signs mark out where the original buildings were located.  There is a rebuilt section of the fort wall, so you can try to imagine what it would have looked like.  The cemetery down the hill also contains burials of some of the soldiers and civilians who were killed during the Army’s short occupation here.

Today it is a peaceful grassland, and it is still a sparsely populated area.  I can only imagine how remote it was back in the 1860s; the fort was 236 miles from its nearest neighbor, Fort Laramie.  That would have been an incredibly difficult journey on horseback or in a wagon trail even in the best weather, not to mention temperatures of 30 below zero during a harsh winter.

I saw magpies and pronghorn in the grass beyond the fort’s boundaries when I visited, and imagined what it would have been like when the area had large herds of bison.  It was worth the visit to see the wildlife I did see!

After my wanders at the fort, I went back to camp for a nice nap!

Circus Trip 2018: Sheridan

Day 10, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sheridan, Wyoming is a cute little town…  It is a place where the Old West meets cute, kitschy shops and apparel boutiques.  King’s Saddlery Shop is one example; Don King began making saddles in 1946, and opened the shop in Sheridan shortly after.  It is a traditional saddle shop, the kind that you just rarely see anymore.  They sell everything tack related, from all types of saddles to ropes, saddle pads, bits and bridles and every other tack imaginable.  Their saddles are beautiful!

King’s Saddlery also has a museum.  The collection of saddles and other tack is huge, ranging from side saddles, cutting saddles, roping saddles, parade saddles and even some English saddles.  And yes, in case you don’t know, there is a different saddle for every type of riding.  The museum also has all sorts of bridles, spurs, a wagon or two and other riding accessories.  Some of the tack was owned by famous people, and many of the saddles were designed and made by the Don King and his sons.  There were many ornate and unique artifacts here; the shop and the museum are truly labors of love!

After visiting King’s I spent a bit of time wandering the downtown streets of Sheridan, poking around in a few of the shops.  I also checked out some of Sheridan’s cool sculptures – I like when towns have artwork for people to enjoy outside.  However, I was feeling lonely.  I had been on the road for ten days at that point, so it was bound to happen; the majority of my time was spent alone.  It happened from time to time on my trip, and I always tried to have a balance of being gentle with myself, but also still pushing myself to not just give up and quit.

It was lunchtime, so I went and found the Black Tooth Brewing Company and ordered a beer, and got some Pad Thai from the food truck parked outside.  I sat outside in a shady spot and enjoyed a bit of time relaxing.  I would love to visit this brewery again with someone!

 

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Pompeys Pillar NM

Day 9, Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Livingston, Montana was just a one night stopover, although I would have liked to have spent more time around Bozeman and Livingston.  I had already been in Montana for a week, and although I could have been happy exploring there for several more weeks, the purpose of my trip was to see more than just Montana!  So, moving on…

I got on the road about 9 am, and headed east on I-90.  I did stop at a rest area in Grey Cliff, Montana to sort out a few medical insurance details, and talked to a friend on the phone.  It is nice that it is so easy to stay connected these days!

My destination for the day was Pompeys Pillar National Monument.  I imagine many of you haven’t heard of it, so here’s the scoop.  Pompeys Pillar is one of the smallest national monuments in the United States, encompassing only 51 acres, and protecting a natural sandstone pillar that juts out from the flat land around it.  It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1965, and upgraded to a National Monument on January 17, 2001.  In case you are wondering, Pompeys is officially spelled with no apostrophe – let that get your inner grammar geek worked up!

Pompeys Pillar Sign-posing

But why is it so special?  Pompeys Pillar marks the spot with William Clark and his crew – half of the Lewis and Clark expedition – stopped on their way back east during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  He came down the Yellowstone River after making it all the way from present-day St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean via the overland route, and found this place.  He and Lewis had split up for a few weeks; Lewis and a team of 9 men further explored the Marias River while Clark continued down the Yellowstone River.  They were to meet up again in early August.  Its exact location may never have been known, except Clark carved his name into the pillar, along with the date – July 25, 1806.  It is the only known visible evidence of the expedition that remains today.  I was there a day too early for the anniversary!

 

 

Pompeys Pillar was named for the son of Sacajawea, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, a little boy who came along on the expedition strapped to a cradle board; he carried the nickname Pomp, or Pompy.  Clark originally named the site Pompys Tower, but the name was changed in 1814 when the official history of the expedition was published.  Native Americans have been using the area for about 11,000 years; it is located about 25 miles northeast of Billings, Montana.  Native Americans had carved on the pillar too – pictographs of animals in the area and other symbols.

The day I was there was another scorcher, but despite the 90 degree temps I still climbed the steps to the top of the pillar – the views are incredible!  It is 150 feet high, so you can see the river and the landscape for miles around.  I saw the spot where William Clark inscribed his name and date; it is protected by a plexiglass plate now.  Previously, it had a metal grate protecting it; that grate can be seen in the Visitor’s Center today.

Me with William Clark’s Inscription

 

William Clark’s Inscription

It was threatening rain when I was wandering around outside, but I still walked down to the Yellowstone River after I climbed the pillar.  There was so much sand on the banks – I wasn’t expecting that.  And even though the signs promised snakes; I didn’t see any. There were a lot of mosquitoes though!  It started to rain as I was headed back to the Visitor’s Center, so I feel like my timing was great!

Me on the bank of the Yellowstone River

 

Dark clouds over the Yellowstone River

When I left Pompeys Pillar I continued on my way to my destination for the evening – Sheridan, Wyoming.  The GPS took me on a shortcut to get back to the freeway, and I spent about 15 miles bouncing along slowly on a well-maintained but dusty gravel road.  The road had some great photo ops, with abandoned homes, prairie sunflowers and birds.  It was cool!

 

 

I crossed into Wyoming a little after 6 and stopped to do some sign posing – Wyoming has a pullout so you can park and get out for pictures with the sign – thanks Wyoming!

I made it to Wyoming!

I checked into my campground shortly before 7 and chatted with my neighbor – a woman traveling solo from Cincinnati, Ohio.  She looked and dressed like a hippie, but complained a lot about the hippie culture of Oregon, where she had been most recently.  You can’t judge a book by its cover.  She was a bit odd, but it was nice having some company while we drank some wine.

It was a nice day, and I was now in my 4th state of the trip!