Friday, October 26, 2012

Peace Rider Out of Casper, Wyoming this AM 10/26/12

Winter finally caught me Wednesday morning about 35 miles north of here on the edge of an Anadarko oil patch south of the town of Midwest.  I awoke to morning rain, the fourth day in a row.  Rain soon turned to light snow.  Thought it might let up a bit and waited awhile but when that didn't happen I broke camp, this time on a flat place in a ravine beside the road.  I was also nearly out of water.  The bank was steep enough so traffic on the road couldn't see me.  I like to remain out of sight and mind.  
If there's wood I like to build a fire, especially in the AM to warm hands after handling a cold wet tent.  That didn't happen this morning.   
I had been travelling segments of the I-25 interstate to Casper where there was no frontage road.  Where I had taken the latter there were more ups and downs and it was beginning to wear.  I took the Casper exit marked Visitor Center, 188A which was a good choice.  I met Niki there and she helped me find a place to stay nearby at the Showboat Motel, an older place, no five star but adequate, a hard warm shelter out of the weather.  The Visitor Center also has computers and am putting this together from there before heading out of town. 
With more snow in the forcast and still not recovered I took an extra day of rest. 
One of the themes running through this journey is where I end up free camping.  More often than not it has been among some of our oldest living things - trees.  Somehow these ancient beings resonate at some deeper level with me.   Out on the prairie it has been among some really huge cottonwood trees.  On occassion they were the only tree for miles around.  I never have to enter a place that says no trespassing or posted private property.  I'm led to other places which may be gated but unsigned. 
Just south of Hardin and a few miles from the Custer battlefield site I was reminded that up ahead I might see something familiar.  Rounding a bend,  I saw a line of hills rising in the distance with knobs like the knuckles on the back of your hand.  The thought came to me the Rattlesnake Hills.  Signs around the battlefield said watch out for rattlesnakes, as it happened.  Was there a vague familiarit to this place.  I couldn't say.  It was certainly a moving place,  a turning point for native Americans, a last stand for a vanishing way of life and a last stand for one driven more by ego than compassion or understanding.  And Custer and 210 soldiers of his 7th Calvary paid the price and were rubbed out at Last Stand hill. 
I wanted to camp by the Little Bighorn River where the indian encampment was located.  From the Visitor Center I headed south along the frontage road a few miles then turned east on Whistling Water Loop.  All of this land is part of the Crow indian reservation.  There were homes along the loop.  I stopped at one nearest the river but no one seemed to be around and a barking dog dissuaded me from further investigation.  Further on I passed a white house with people standing outside.  They yelled something at me and I turned around.  Ray a young Crow person came up to me and was curious about what I was doing and asked a lot of questions.  I said I was looking for a place to camp on the Little Big Horn river.  About that time an older person came up to me.  He said his name was Real Bird.  My friend Rocky later informed me that he is a Crow historian involved with reinactment of The Last Stand.  I told him of my desire to camp on the Little Big Horn river and he said if I took the driveway towards the river past the horse corral I could camp there.  There were two house along the driveway he pointed to back the way I had come but no one was around he said. 
So I ended up on the river, as near as I could tell at Medicine Tail Ford.  Just to the north across the river was Medicine Tail Coulee.  This was one of the places where on June 25th 1876, thousands of warriors crossed to attack Custer at Last Stand Hill.  For miles up and down the river one of the largest encampments of native Americans had come to be in this place.  They were defending their homeland and families.   Major Reno first came upon it from the south and was attacked and then retreated from a place now called Garryowen. 
The latter is the name of an Irish tune played by the Seventh Calvary.  It was at Garryowen where years later a monument was erected and the phrase "burying the hatchet," came to be as the foundation for peace making that continues.  There is an excellent private museum there I visited. 
A piece of fascinating American history to revisit and wonder at the what ifs. 
From there south to Sheridan and Buffalo and then Casper there seemed to be deer everywhere, sometimes just lying about in the fields although they would often get up and run away at my passing.  Where the brush gave way to open prairie I saw my first antelope which seemed quite common and would usually take off when they saw this strange slow moving apparition passing by.  Large black dots in distant fields proved to be flocks of wild turkeys seemingly keyed into places where it was safe to alight, sometimes in folks front yards.  
There's always more to tell but I need to check out of the motel and head down the road.  The adventure continues on an improving weather trend, cooler at nights but warming in the day.   
Catch you down the road!
Peace Rider

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