Saturday, October 7, 2017

Traveling South: First stop Hardin Montana

Fred on Last Stand Hill
September  25, 2017
Hardin, Montana    
Plan C has commenced. We are headed south and enjoying the journey of our last few days in Montana.
Fred and I have met many other Full Time RVers since we started our journey. We consider many of them friends, keeping up with them on Facebook and reading their Blogs making note of places that they visit if they pique our interest.
One such couple Jim and Diana Belisle of traveled through southern Montana earlier in September. We were on the Hi-line as they drove the southern route so we weren't able to meet up but Jim wrote about a stop that we knew had to be added to our agenda.

The vertical stone outcrop that is Pompeys Pillar stands out in the landscape.
Pompeys Pillar is a National Historic Site that is on the Lewis and Clark Trail.  We had not originally intended to include it on our journey but are glad that circumstances have made it possible.
The Pillar is named after Sacagaweas son Jean Baptiste who Captain Clark called Pompey. It is a large outcrop of sandstone not far from the Yellowstone River. It stands out in the landscape and must have been a prominent landmark for Native Americans, fur trappers and early explorers. The soft nearly flat surface of the sandstone was a convenient place for early graffiti, being relatively easy to carve.

William Clark's signature protected from the elements.
The explorers came this way in July of 1806 on their return to St. Louis. William Clark inscribed his name on the stone but he was not the first.
“This rock I ascended and from it’s top had a most extensive view in every direction…..The nativs have ingraved on the face of this rock the figures of animals &c. Near where I marked my name and the day of the month and year.”   William Clark
Clarks signature is preserved under glass. It is surrounded by the names of many other people most dated from the mid 1800’s to the mid 1900’s. We did not identify any native american pictographs or petroglyphs near his name, although an interesting splotch had our attention for a while.

Fred at the signature viewing platform
There is a boardwalk and two sets of stairs that take you from the Visitor Center to the Pillar itself. The first set of around 100 stairs takes you to the signature wall, the second set of 100ish steps takes you to the top of the pillar to enjoy the view.

View from the top of Pompeys Pillar
The interactive exhibits in the Visitor Center gave me a real appreciation for the difficulties that Sacagawea faced as a young mother. Pompey would have been 17 months old at this point in their journey. There is a wonderful life sized bronze of him holding and pulling at his mothers hand like a busy toddler would do. It really made me appreciate what she must have dealt with trying to contain a child his age in a dugout canoe all day and in wilderness once they stopped to make camp for the night.

The other National Monument near Hardin is Little Bighorn Battlefield which is located on the Crow Reservation.

We have run into the story of Sitting Bull several times since we reached the Dakotas and have been trying to take in the history of the Indian Wars and of the Battle at Little Bighorn.
This Battlefield is part of that learning process.

Don't miss the "Battle Talk"
I was impressed with the knowledge of the group of Rangers and Volunteers that work here and at their ability to teach a complicated history lesson. The volunteer that lead the Ranger Talk we listened to was a retired Cavalry Commander. He was able to tell the story from a military strategy and planning  perspective which was quite interesting. He was also a dynamic speaker holding out attention for the full 40 minutes.

The battlefield area is a starkly beautiful place of rolling short grass hills and shallow ravines that in Montana are called Coulees.
You can see headstones at several different places on the battlefield.

Soldiers were not identified by name.

The soldier markers are white marble.

Native American markers have been placed since 2013.

The native american markers are red granite.

Custer fell surrounded by officers that included his brother Tom.
The majority are grouped on Last Stand Hill which is where Custer and his officers were killed. Custer's marker has a black shield behind his name that makes it stand out. The officers markers are inscribed with their name and rank and the soldiers markers simply say U.S. Soldier 7th Cavalry fell here.

Cavalry Horse Monument

There is a separate marker for the Cavalry Horse Cemetery.

The Obelisk on Last Stand Hill

Today there is an obelisk on Last Stand Hill that honors those who fought and died here.

Part of the INdian Memorial
Across the street about 75 yards away is the Indian Memorial.
It is moving to read all of the markers, the names of so many who died in this clash of warriors that was really a clash of cultures each fighting for a way of life.

We ended our tour at the Custer Battlefield Trading Post and Cafe run by the Crow Agency. We enjoyed looking at all of the hand crafted art and jewelry and leather goods. Fred even got a new belt! We had a great conversation with the managers who were trying to move some handcarved domino sets. We got talking about how much fun dominoes is to play and how enthusiastic people get about the game. One of their employees who has spent some time in the Florida Keys chimed in agree with us. I think we convinced them to set up a couple of domino tables to see if it would increase interest in the sets they were selling.

Let us know if you visit and see that they have.

Greasy Grass Ridge from the Coulee

Pompeys Pillar
3001 Highway 312
Worden, Montana

Little Bighorn Battlefield
I-90 Frontage Road
Crow Agency, Montana


  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Bonnie! We really enjoyed our time at Pompey's Pillar. We did the Junior Ranger book and actually found it quite challenging! So glad you were able to get there. :)

    Isn't it amazing how peaceful a battlefield becomes after the war? We found the same thing in Kentucky. All you hear is the wind in the grass.

    1. We are so glad that you pointed them out. It was a great stop.