Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 9 Monday, July 4, 2011

Dillon, Montana to Missoula, Montana
Miles Traveled Today: 214.6
Total Miles: 3023.1

The first hour of the trip today we played dodge 'em again, only this time it wasn't with ring-necked pheasants like in the Dakotas. Instead it was the type of animal that Lewis and Clark actually captured and sent back to President Jefferson alive. Know what it is? Check the end of the blog to find out. Luckily no one was harmed, although quite a few escaped within inches of their lives.

Our first stop was the Big Hole National Battlefield.

This place holds an ironic place in American history. During the Lewis and Clark Expedition this area was occupied by the Shoshone and Nez Perce. Both groups aided Lewis and Clark. Without the help of these two nations, it is doubtful the trip would have been a success. Less than 100 years later, it became a battlefield when Nez Perce and U.S. Army personnel faced off. Chief Joseph, famous for his statement, "I will fight no more forever," just a few months later, was involved at this battle.

He had been leading his people in what would turn out to be a 1700 mile trek across and around the Rocky Mountains as the Nez Perce tried to escape from the army's pursuit. They were almost to Canada when the army finally caught up with them for the last time at Bear Paw near Havre, Montana. There had been other skirmishes along the way, including at Big Hole. The next picture is from the army's location at the onset of the battle. Look closely to the left side and tepee poles are visible representing the camp.

This was one of the worst. About 90 Nez Perce died, but only 30 were warriors. The rest were women, children, and grandparents who were caught unaware in their camp when the army struck. The Nez Perce were able to counterattack and actually capture and dismantle a 12 pound howitzer before both sides called it quits. 29 soldiers were killed and 40 wounded. It was one of the bloodier battles during the Indian Wars. The monument is for the soldiers who lost their lives. A sad chapter in American history.

While at the battlefield, we expereinced a rather unpleasant episode that Lewis and Clark wrote about. Whether or not Lewis spelled it "muskeeto" or "mosketow" or any of  more than a dozen other ways (all of them incorrect), the mosquitos were BAD. We would have liked to stay longer, but it was just too much.

Just a few miles up the road we reached Chief Joseph Pass, which is also the continental divide. Clark chose this route on his return trip. He and Lewis had gone over Lemhi Pass on the way west, and we would have preferred that route, but the road is all dirt and gravel, which is very dangerous with the big bikes we ride. Better to be safe than sorry.

The ride over the pass and down the other side was exciting and a bit nerve-wracking because all the twists and turns had potholes in them. Leaning into a curve and hitting one of those is not fun. Made it down safely and proceeded to our Missoula campsite. We passed by Lolo, just a few miles south of Missoula, where Lewis and Clark named that point Traveler's Rest. Appropriate enough for us, as we arrived about 2:00 and chose to unwind for the rest of the day and celebrate America's 235th birthday. Happy Independence Day to all!

By the way, the answer is prairie dog. There were also some ground squirrels dodging us as well.

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