Another visit to Montana 2010 – A visit with Cousins! Part I

In 2010 my husband’s niece was getting married in Bozeman.  She had been living there training to be a doctor. She met a nice young man who was a policeman for the city.  They had planned their wedding at the Woodlands which was southwest of the town.

We decided to fly to Billings, rent a car and drive to Miles City and visit with Bertha again. This time my husband would get to meet her and see the ranch near Jordan.

From Billings we head east to Pompey’s Pillar National Monument. When you are in Montana you have to stop at the Lewis and Clark historical sites along the way.

http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/lewisandclark/pom.htm

Wm Clark signing at Pompey's Pillar, MT

Wm Clark signing at Pompey’s Pillar, MT

Pompey's Pillar, MT

Pompey’s Pillar, MT

A little bit about our visit to this historic site from my 2010 travel journal:

We watched the little movie they had in the center and then walked around looking at the displays and getting a lesson on Lewis and Clark’s trip to the Pacific Ocean. Wm. Clark had stopped at Pompey’s Pillar on his way back and he carved his name in the rock.  It is now preserved as the only real physical evidence that he had passed this way.  In the Visitor Center were maps and little bios of the two men and what they each brought to the project.  I have seen the History or Discovery TV channel presentations on this journey and there is very little evidence of the trip.  Apparently Clark named the rock Pompey’s Pillar after Sacajawea’s Son.  It was his pet name for the child.

We walked up to the signature by way of wooden stairs and a walkway and then to the top of the rock to see the view.  It was steep but I was glad I did it.  The Yellowstone River meandered to the north of us but it was shrouded in trees.  

The walkway around Pompey's Pillar

The walkway around Pompey’s Pillar – look closely and find the person standing and go to the right.

My hubby wanted to check out a bridge that looked like a train bridge with no tracks.  So we went down the road a bit. I could see that there was no real highway but I spotted what looked like the best entrance and got lucky.  It was gravel road with a fishing access to the river.  The bridge was blocked off and went nowhere.  Apparently the old metal bridge was abandoned.  A highway was built next to it that was relatively new with a new bridge. 

Iron Bridge & Yellowstone River

Iron Bridge & Yellowstone River

Back out on the highway we continued on H-94 to Miles City.  The road was pretty straight and not too challenging. The scenery was ever-changing as we drove along, with buttes and mounds. Some fields were plowed and cultivated.  I tried taking photos out the window of the car as we speed along so I apologize for any fuzziness. 

Montana Roadside views

Montana Roadside views

Montana roadside

Montana roadside

Montana countryside

Montana countryside

The Yellowstone River again

The Yellowstone River again

We arrived in Miles City about 5 pm.

My cousin was not home so I called her cell phone and she was about 10 minutes way.  The air was pleasant so we waited. The grasshoppers were jumping around as we walked in the grass by her house.  The home was further north in the city than I remembered. She soon drove up in a large van that was dusty and dirty, typical of Montana.  She climbed out and we greeted each other warmly with a hug.  Her hair was no longer curly but looked pulled back.   I introduced her to my hubby. She introduced her little dog “Lady,” of four years.  Apparently Bear had died.  It made me sad.  I liked that little dog. 

The next day we headed up to Jordan and the ranch.  We were going to meet up with Bertha’s niece Gloria who was in the area fossil hunting.  I wanted them to get together.  This time I sat next to Bertha on the passenger side as she drove so I could hear her talk about the history of the area.

As we drove along to Jordan my cousin told us about the people who had lived there. The first ranch was the Moore family 5 miles out who moved into an old school-house at first.  There were the Rooney’s by Rock Springs. She mentioned McDonald’s. They lived there Sept-Nov over two years on the Belinkey Ranch and worked for Giddon Bickel brother to her brother-in-law. 

A view from the ranch

A view from the ranch

She called the different land formations “buttes” and mentioned that there were lots of snakes in them.  One was specifically called Snake Butte. She mentioned the creek’s along the way Upper and Lower Sand Creek, Dry Creek. Deadman’s Road where several dead men had been found, but it was not known what happened to them and how they died.  As we sped past the little towns she would mention the Post office.  Angela was not very big and had two buildings but it was considered a town.  There is Cohagen another town.  She pointed out the Sheepherder monument that had been put on top of one butte. 

On the way to Jordan

On the way to Jordan as the car is moving….

Clouds threatening

Clouds threatening

On the way to Jordan, a little reflection off the car windows.

On the way to Jordan, a little reflection off the car windows.

The land changed every five miles or more into something different.  As you leave Miles City you climb up a hill over the Yellowstone River bridge.  It travels passed the airport which is on the top of the hill over to the left as you go north to Jordan. Garfield county was carved out of several counties of which Dawson is the main one.  She told us that Garfield County was the biggest in the state and the least populated. 

She pointed out the community centers in the towns and the schools that were now all abandoned. She had walked five miles to school, to and from, in all kinds of weather as a child.  Rock Springs is were she held her wedding dance in one of the halls.

The highway signs counted down the miles to Jordan which made it easy to get a feel for our travel time.  I only saw one antelope by a fence that morning. There were lots of cattle out on the land, lots of fields that you could see where wheat was being cultivated and lots of different bales of hay and some were straw. My cousin explained that you could mix hay with straw to feed the cattle. Cattle can dig in the snow about six inches but any more than that and they have to be fed.  She mentioned that land could only handle some cattle or it would be overgrazed and it did affect the value of the land.  If the land was left alone it would come back in a year. 

While we waited to caught up with my cousin’s niece, we had a little tour of Jordan. Our goal was the Hilltop Cafe in Jordan for lunch and visiting.

The Courthouse in Jordan

The Courthouse in Jordan

We toured the town of Jordan. The courthouse was in red brick. Apparently there was a fire in 1997 and it almost took the records but a great many were stored off site so that helped a lot.  

We met up with the son who was at a table in the Hilltop Cafe. He was dressed in a T-shirt, flannel shirt, cowboy hat and seated.  He was a bit soiled in his clothing. I immediately went over and gave him a hug and greeted him.  He had claimed a big table and it would prove to be a good move on his part.  We all ordered coffee and I explained to waitress that we were expecting others so we would wait a while before we ordered. The son was trying to do the haying on the ranch but the rain was causing a slow down. 

Just as we started to order, the others arrived at the Hilltop and I was able recognize my cousin by her smile from a photo she had sent me.  Their trailer as having trouble so her husband was going to have to get that fixed.  We all went around and introduced each other and I hugged Gloria.  Note:  The Hilltop Cafe is on Facebook.

They were in Jordan searching for fossils.  They talked about the fossil hunting and what they were finding. I guess they removed them from the rock and then prepare them for sale?  They are trying to find a complete animal like a T-Rex.  They have found many bones – teeth, frog fossils etc.  

After lunch which we all went our various ways.  I went with my cousins in the van. We piled into the van with Lady and off we went to the ranch.  It is 20 miles from Jordan. As you come to the ranch you can see it and the road comes up past the corrals.  It was very muddy from the rain and there were big potholes filled with water that made the van slide around a little.  

My two cousins chatted away as we drove up the road. They talked about the schools, where there had been family picnics.  I talked about my research and trying to find out more about the Spracklin family in England.  Both cousins are into genealogy and the niece was working on the other side of the family lines that married into the Spracklins like the Heiss, Kibbee and more.  She had a book about the Kibbee family with her and shared that with us.  It was called the Kibbe Genealogical Note.

The ranch was as I remembered it minus a few buildings that had been burned down.  Amos’s homestead we toured but it is not safe and it will have to be destroyed.  It was a hard thing to do but necessary for it was falling down and not safe.  It was built in the late 1800’s and Amos had added the kitchen, porch and later the living room.  

On the Way to Jordan

The view from the Ranch

Our visit to the ranch was short and we returned to Miles City that evening.  This gave us time to do a little exploring of our own and I wanted to go back to the Range Rider Museum and take a good look.

The Range Rider Museum was opening at 10 am so about 10:30 we head out.  It was getting a little dark and raining some. We started in the gun collection and I studied the Winchester rifle and a Colt 45 which were supposedly the guns that might have killed my great-grandfather George A. Barclay.  So I tried some more photos but the glare from the overhead lights was too much.

Colt pistol

Colt pistol

 I returned to the main room and wandered about.  I went into the hallway and studied the faces in the great hall which are the inductees who are along the wall.  I took some pictures. 

The Gathering Hall, Range Rider Museum

The Gathering Hall, Range Rider Museum

Black and White photo boards of the Indians

Black and White photo boards of the Indians

I then went into the other part where I saw the Indian photos all in b&w of the Indian squaws, along with the Indian Chiefs and others. There was information about Fort Keogh, the rancher photos in the way back area, a whole area about brands of the ranchers, tools, a town scene of Mill Town and other dioramas. I went through the flip boards in the middle island that I missed the last time and there is a lot on bronco riding and rodeo in them as well as in the museum, articles about the Range Rider museum history. There was a saddles display and other cowboy items on display.  They did have book on the History of Custer County on the case.

We headed outside and saw the inside of another building with a wall devoted to the nurses of Holy Rosary up to about 1960. Hats and boots of various people, some ethnic families, ads of a saddle making shop. The last building housed old carriages and large pieces of equipment and furniture. 

Outbuildings at the Range Rider Museum

Outbuildings at the Range Rider Museum

I talked with Bob Bartholmess the director and asked a few questions. He said that the brands are assigned and you pay $100 then renewed every 10 years.  If a person dies their brand is only continued if the descendants renew it.  If not then it is reassigned. 

I told you there are different Barb wire configurations

I told you there are different Barb wire configurations

Brands

Brands

To become a member of the Hall in the back you need to be deceased, have family write a biography which is then reveal at an induction ceremony in June.  I am told you pay $300 in addition.  You have to be born before 1915 to get into it. I asked him how someone could get the information about the inductees and he said that they call him and he will give it a try.  It might take a while but they might be able to find something.  So it does take some time to dig into their files.  All inductees are in a book in the corner of the great hall.  http://www.rangeridersmuseum.com/

I wanted to get a tour of Miles City so we headed out to drive around and see the area.

Custer County Courthouse

Custer County Courthouse

The Park

The Park

The Olive Hotel

The Olive Hotel

We parked the car and tried walking in the downtown area of Miles City but the storm cloud was brewing and it started to rain as we headed for the Olive Hotel.  We went into the lobby and looked around. We asked if there was any rooms we could view but were told no. We then walked down to the Montana Bar and it was very beautiful inside with a dark wooden bar and booths.  The sky opened up at that time and just poured.  So we hung around hopefully waiting till it gave up but it was persistent, this cut short my tour.  The Montana Bar is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/montanabarmcmt/

I had not realized that the Yellowstone River passed through Miles City, so we went in search of it.  My hubby really liked the Art Center in Miles City so we went to see that as well.

Miles City's version of the Yellowstone River

Miles City’s version of the Yellowstone River

We decided to try for the sandbar further up on the other side of the bridge that crossed the Yellowstone. There was a narrow dirt road with ruts that we eased the car onto and we managed to get down onto the rocky sandbar and I was relieved for you can get suck.  There were others with their cars parked on the sandbar.  It had a lot of rocks in it.  We walked over to the Yellowstone River and enjoyed the view.  The water was warm to the touch but it was shallow there at the shoreline.

The Art Center and how it looked when we were there.  http://wtrworks.org/  Apparently they have fixed it up from the photo that is on the website.  It was very nice inside so don’t let this photo discourage you.

WaterWorks Art Museum in Miles City

WaterWorks Art Museum in Miles City

The time had come to say goodbye to my cousin and we did that after breakfast. It was time to head west to Bozeman for the wedding.  It had been good to see my cousin again and as usual visiting with her is an adventure.

The Yellowstone River:  It does start in the Absaroka Range (Longmire fans note the reference). When I travel I like to follow the rivers.   http://www.britannica.com/place/Yellowstone-River

A map of the rivers of Montana – http://www.mapsofworld.com/usa/states/montana/montana-river-map.html

NOTE:  Well I messed up and published part II before part I.  So if you get a little confused just look for the Roman numerals and read in order I and then II and it will make sense.
Advertisements

Traveling to Montana to meet Amos Spracklin’s family, a son of Reed and Julia Spracklin – 2003

About 2002, I received an email from a cousin and this individual suggested that I talk to another cousin who had done quite a bit of research on the Spracklin family back in the early and mid 1980’s. This cousin was my half cousin.  She was a descendant of the second family of Daniel D. Spracklin and his wife Sarah.  She lived in Miles City, Montana and I decided to go and visit her.

So in 2003, my sister and I, drove to Miles City in my 1995 Aerostar Van to visit our cousin. Neither one of us had met her before so it would be a great adventure.  We would stop at motels or hotels as we got close to the end of the day and use the coupons you get in those newspaper booklets they distribute at rest stops. Usually I book my motels and lodging in advance because I don’t want to mess with it while driving around.

As usual my genealogy research trips are very complicated and involve many facets.  On this trip it would be researching Spracklins, Mc/MacDonald’s, meeting family and visiting museums and various sites along the way.

We left Seattle about 11 am on Tuesday September 2nd and made it to Rathdrum, Idaho.  It takes about five hours to get to Spokane if you don’t stop at all the rest stops for coffee and cookies.

The view from Twin Lakes in Idaho.

The view from the cabin on Twin Lakes in Idaho.

We were going to meet up with a childhood family friend.  Mickey had lived with our Aunt Vivian, our father’s sister, when he was a boy. He was her nephew on her husband’s side and a member of the McKanna family.  He had a cabin near a lake just across the border from the Spokane area in Idaho and we were stopping there for the night.  We knew him when we were kids and he is part of my Mac/McDonald family memory and I wanted to see him and have him tell me more stories. I had reconnected with him several years earlier.  He had kindly loaned me a photo book that was formerly my Aunt Vivian’s, I had scanned all the photos and have used many of them in my posts on my blog: The Man Who Lived Airplanes.  McKanna’s actually came to Miles City and Mickey asked me to see if I could find out anything more about them.

The next day we headed further east and stopped at Wallace.  I was hoping to find out something about my great Uncle Angus McDonald so we stopped at the museum. I was trying to place him in the area but it was not going to happen.  Angus was my grandfather’s older brother.  http://wallace-id.com/  The Wallace District Mining Museum had city directories and there were McDonald’s listed but it was hard to tell if they were my McD’s.  http://wallaceminingmuseum.org/

We arrived in Missoula, Montana where we stopped for lunch.  We asked about the forest fires and decided to go a different route to stay as far away from them as possible.  We could see and smell the smoke.

Here is a little excerpt from an online paper about those fires.

By most measures, the fire season of 2003 was historic for Northwest Montana. Not since 1910 had there been such an array of wildfire in the region, not to mention the rest of the northern Rockies.

By mid-September there were 16 large fires in Northwest Montana that ended up covering more than 300,000 acres.

Individual fire acreages were impressive: the Robert Fire covered 57,570 acres, Wedge Canyon 53,325 acres, Little Salmon Complex 88,000 acres, Rampage Complex 24,488 acres, Blackfoot Lake Complex 29,836 acres and Middle Fork Complex 11,851 acres.

Combined, the 2003 fires accounted for roughly half the acreage burned on the Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park over the previous 20 years.

“The year 2003 will go down as a very historic fire year,” declared Steve Barrett, a fire ecologist who has studied long-term fire histories across Northwest Montana. – By Jim Mann Daily InterLake, December 27, 2009. http://www.dailyinterlake.com/members/a-monster-year-for-fires/article_e529a93c-f2a6-11de-8498-001cc4c03286.html

We left Bozeman around 8:30 am on Wednesday September 3rd.  We headed for the Lewis & Clark Cavern’s which was a very amazing experience.  This is what I wrote in my travel journal in 2003:  http://www.visitmt.com/listings/general/state-park/lewis-and-clark-caverns-state-park.html

Once inside the park we traveled a wiggly waggly road for about 4 miles before reaching the parking lot for the caverns.  We paid for our tickets and checked out the little gift shop at the café.  After a wait of about 30 minutes we started up the trail to the caverns.  It was hot and so the trail up was warm but pretty easy except for the steepness of the grade.  The vista was beautiful of the Jefferson River in the valley below.  We waited about 15 minutes at the cavern entrance before the guide came and started with guidelines to the caverns.  He was a young man who reminded me of friend but a bit shorter.  He was very nice and friendly and cracked silly jokes. I was not prepared for the caverns at all but was truly amazed at what we found.  It was a wonderous place and a world all its own. The stairs were tight to walk down in the dim light but I managed well.  There were stalagmites and stalactites and strange formations that only a cave can create from the action of the water dripping down.  Each area that we stopped in was unique and had its own eerie beauty.  Several of the areas were large caverns with these incredible formations that had taken millions of years to make.  Unfortunately damage had been done by guests of earlier years and you could see the ragged edges of the broken pieces that were left behind.  The cave was supposed to have bats but there were not very many at this time of the year.  It took the 2 hours that they said it would to view the caverns but it was well worth it especially the part that we had to get down on our butts and slide down a section of the trail.  There was a lot of ducking of the head and I banged mine several times.  The walk was mostly down and the steps took us to this cavern they called the Cavern of the Gods and it was like descending a long beautiful twisting spiral staircase. All great things come to an end and this little adventure found its own conclusion down a very long tunnel with two doors.  The doors were there to prevent a wind tunnel effect that would rush the air in and cause the caverns to dry out.  In 2010 I visited these caverns with my hubby.  He is tall so it was a challenge for him. 

Lewis & Clark Caverns

Lewis & Clark Caverns

The trail to the Caverns

The trail to the Caverns

The Caverns

The Caverns

Further along our trip we took in the The Western Heritage Center in Billings, Montana which had a wonderful exhibit about the history of Montana and provided me with a basic history of the area when Reed Spracklin migrated there.  We visited an old pioneer cemetery on Boot Hill and drove to the Pictograph Caves which are southeast of Billings. http://stateparks.mt.gov/pictograph-cave/.

Miles City Water Towers

Miles City Water Towers

Miles City is about two hours from Billings. We arrived in Miles City on Friday about 5 p.m. to be warmly greeted by Bertha at her trailer.  We spent the evening chatting and settling in.  We made cheese sandwiches to fill ourselves up.  I gave the research copies of research from my trip to Iowa and more to her and she spent some time reviewing them.  I spent a lot of the time at her kitchen table that week studying her research and learning about the Spracklin family and getting to know my cousin. She had done a lot of work and had gathered a lot of information by writing letters to family members and research archives seeking information about the family.  She was very generous with her research and shared all that I wanted.

Miles City

Miles City

During our stay we visited the Custer County Community Cemetery where various family members are buried including Amos and Iva Spracklin, Bertha’s parents.  This cemetery is in Miles City and Find A Grave has a listing for most of the cemetery.

Custer County Cemetery in Miles City

Custer County Cemetery in Miles City

We also visited the Range Rider Museum which is amazing.  They have newspapers in flip displays, display cabinets filled with artifacts, black and white photos of the Indians that are outstanding, photographs of the ranchers in the area who are placed on their wall of fame. http://www.rangeridersmuseum.com/.  The buildings outside house wagons, automobiles and more.

Wall of Fame Range Rider Museum

Wall of Fame Range Rider Museum

The Gathering Hall, Range Rider Museum

The Gathering Hall, Range Rider Museum

Unfortunately, Miles City’s genealogy society did not survive so you have to visit historical societies or go to museums like the Range Rider. We did visit the Miles City library where we did some obituary research. I did not go to the courthouse in Miles City another stop if you have ancestors there.  It was a busy visit so I had to pick and choose and my focus was the research that my cousin had done.

The Library in Miles City

The Library in Miles City

Several days later Bertha took us to her ranch, west of Jordan, Montana.  It was a two-hour drive from Miles City to Jordan and then about thirty minutes to the ranch.  As we drove along I realized that Bertha was the rancher. She was raised in Montana and became her father’s right hand man. Amos and Iva’s children were all were girls. Amos of course, had wanted a son to help him with the ranch but it didn’t happen.  So Bertha took on that role. She knew everything about the ranches along the highway and chatted away telling us the history of the area and story of the families that lived there.  She knew about barbed wire and what each type was for and she could recognize individual cattle something her father had trouble with.

Jordan, Montana in the rain

Jordan, Montana in the rain

We arrived in Jordan the county seat of Garfield County.  They have a the Garfield County Museum which we visited briefly.

The ranch is not too far from Jordan.  You go west for about 20-30 minutes…

The Ranch near Jordan

The Ranch near Jordan

We approached a fork in the road and she mentioned the 1996 FBI standoff with the Montana Freemen that was located 20 miles up the road from the fork.  The left fork in the road was the road to Bertha’s ranch.  She said that we needed to go over several cattle guards before we got there and I think she said it was about 5 miles from the fork in the road.  As we drove along she pointed out where her land was describing it to us and telling us she had 4850 acres all paid for.  The road had become gravel a while back. 

We passed a big pile of wood on the right and on the left were metal buildings that were the barn and corral.  The house was up on a slight hill.  Cars, trucks and other buildings were scattered about the land.  We climbed out of the van.  Bear, Bertha’s small white poodle, jumped out and was running around checking out the area and leaving his calling card.  There was a beautiful Border Collie named Hey who was on a chain and he turned out to be a very friendly and a gentle dog.  He was the black and white typical of that breed but his eyes were like a wolf’s.  We entered the ranch house by way of the basement door.  Ahead of us was a wooden staircase that lead up to the main floor of the double wide mobile home that Bertha had installed on a cement foundation.  I later noticed the metal strip and the bolts along the lower part of the mobile home.   The other thing that I first saw was the head of an antelope on the basement wall. 

We headed for the stairs to the main floor of the house.  We turned a corner and found the son in the kitchen preparing dinner.  He was standing over a large pan of sliced potatoes.  I found myself wandering out to the deck area that had a vista of the land around the ranch.  I wasn’t sure of the deck area but it seemed sturdy. The view took in the barn area and the land that stretched out before me.  The wind was hot on my face and was blowing bits of dirt about.  There were buttes in the distance and cattle out on the land grazing.  There was much talk about wayward buffalo coming onto the land.  

Dinner was served and the barbecued ribs just melted off their bones.  They were delicious.  The potatoes were also good and I ate two helpings.  Everyone was gathered around the two tables in the kitchen area. Everyone ate heartily.  

We then went on a tour of the ranch again, from my travel journal in 2003:

The Ranch

The Ranch from the house

Bertha and son took us on a tour of the ranch showing the house that she grew up in.  It was in a sad state of deterioration.  It was also filled with farm things.  The floor was rotting out and the ceiling was coming down. There were old torn and tattered pieces of furniture scattered and piled about.  There was a stove or two.  There were even jackets still hanging on hooks by the door.  The house had only three rooms in the beginning but was later expanded to include the kitchen area.  Amos and Iva slept in the bedroom on the first floor while kids slept upstairs.  Behind the old farmhouse was the shed that was used for several tasks.  The right end was for the chickens and the left end was used for the milking cows.  The backside was used as the granary.  It was showing its age and they were planning to tear it down.  There were at least three round tower like structures now used for grain.  They were better and easier to use.  We then made our way down to the barn area and we walked around there.  Bertha talked about repairs and rotted posts and what needed to be done to fix things up.  They explained how the gates worked and walked us through the barn, pointing out their saddles and showing us the initials on the stalls for the horses.  You had to walk carefully because there were cow piles all about and even a carcass of an antelope left to rot.  I may not know much about ranching but it seemed to me to be a never-ending task. 

Amos, his homestead

Amos, his homestead, now owned my Bertha

The Lights of Jordan — I mean Jordan in Montana from my 2003 travel journal:

The evening was not yet over and the major event of the night was about to take place.  Bertha wanted us to see the lights of Jordan from a bluff on her land.  So just before dusk we all piled into her son’s big black truck.  I had to climb up and in.  We started out the gate of the ranch past the barn area and onto the gravel road crossing it towards the south.  We picked up speed and so far things seems pretty okay and I would say he went about 4 miles then he make a sharp turn to the left off the road and we were as it is called “bushwhacking.”  We bumped along over sagebrush with bunnies hopping frantically out-of-the-way.  Bertha and her son discussed the route up the hill in their usual feisty way.  He reminded her he knew the way as good as she did.  I probably will never know how he knew the way in the dark but they both seemed to know exactly where they were and where every bump and creek bed was.  I actually did pretty good although I was tossed around quite a bit. Just when I thought he was going to go over a big cliff and he stopped the truck and turned off the motor and pointed to the lights of Jordan in the distance.  Then Bertha pointed to the house lights of the ranch. The son remembered and said that he used to come up to this hill with his Dad (Jim) and sit and look out for fires till 2 a.m. in the morning.  Lighting was playing out its game to the right of us and sending strikes out but so far no rain.  Within about 10 minutes or a little more he started the engine and proceeded to go straight ahead. The cliff that loomed before us was not as bad as I had thought but we did go pretty straight down for a bit.  The drive back to the gravel road was a little less wild and bumpy and we actually seemed to get back to the road faster. As we drove along Bertha was pointing out deer and we couldn’t see anything. So the truck abruptly stopped by a big piece of farm equipment and out came a spotlight.  They held up the spotlight and we then started to see lots of animals.  First you see their eyes flashing in the dark and then you can make out there form. We were told that you can tell the type of animal by the color of their eyes.  We saw lots of deer, the most I have ever seen in my life.  It was great. We made it back to the house in one piece and I headed for bed.  It was very hot. 

On the way back from the ranch, the next day, we stopped at the Pioneer Cemetery in Jordan where Reed and Julia Spracklin are buried along with other family members.

Pioneer Cemetery

Pioneer Cemetery

Pioneer Cemetery Overview, Jordan, MT

Pioneer Cemetery Overview, Jordan, MT

We stayed in Miles City for about a week and then headed out.  Our goal was to visit Yellowstone but we were going to do that in a little different way by viewing the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Park and then driving to Sheridan and across the Bighorn Mountains to Cody and from Cody to Yellowstone.

Big Horn Battlefield, tombstone

Big Horn Battlefield, tombstone

The Lecture by the Ranger at the Big Horn Battlefield

The Lecture by the Ranger at the Big Horn Battlefield

I drove to the battlefield.  It was raining and the wind was blowing so the weather was not really great. We almost missed the battlefield because we got on the wrong road.  We found the Crow Wing Agency sign and we doubled back and headed to the East until we caught up with the main road and it was just a little farther to go. 

The wind was really cold at the Little Bighorn Battlefield.  We arrived at around 3 pm.  It took a lot longer than I anticipated to get there. We were able to attend a lecture by the ranger about the battle even though the wind was cold and the big nasty rain cloud threatened above.  I was listening to the ranger talk but became quiet fascinated with the mud on his boots which was caking up and then falling off as he worked his way closer to the shelter as the rain came down on him.  http://www.nps.gov/libi/index.htm

Custer’s last stand was definitely a broader and larger military maneuver than I had imagined. The events took place over a very big area stretching to the Wolf Mountains to the south.  Custer’s part of the battle took place in a small area close to the visitor’s center.  To see the rest of the battlefield we had to drive a road for about 3-5 miles.  The formal cemetery was near the visitor center. They said that the Indian village stretched two miles in the valley below.  That must have been a site to see.  The Little Bighorn River Valley was beautiful to look down on from the hills where most of the fighting took place.  Apparently this is the only battlefield that has tombstone markers scattered about the fields.  The men were buried where they fell. 

After our visit to the park, we headed to Sheridan in Wyoming.  There were very ominous clouds in the distance but we made it before they dumped on us. We started up the highway to the Bighorns but decided it was getting too dark and we better find a place to stay.  Sheridan was not far and found this wonderful old style hotel with creaky floors and a big steep staircase.  The hotel room was lovely and old-fashioned making you think of bygone days. Spracklins lived in Sheridan, they are the descendants of Peter Spracklin a brother to our second great-grandfather Daniel D. Spracklin.  So it was good to see the town.  I didn’t have time to do any research there.  If you want to know more about Peter and his family go to the blog Solomon Goss in Fearing Twp. for information.

After breakfast we made our way to the highway that takes you over the Bighorn Mountains.  I am a big fan of Longmire having read the novels and watched the TV show. So when the show came on I was remembering the area. Absaroka County does not exist, but it is in the area on the west side of the Bighorns.  The show is actually filmed in Arizona.  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1836037/

Burgess Station Big Horn Mountains

Burgess Station Big Horn Mountains

Free Range Cattle

Free Range Cattle

Leaving the Bighorns

Leaving the Big Horn Mountains

The next morning after breakfast and gas for the car, we set out for the Bighorn Mountains. What an experience.  The road winded up the side of the foothills going steeper and twisting around the sides of the hills.  You could look ahead and see the road winding up the side of the mountain and could look back and see the valley below and get an incredible vista.  The height of the passes in the Bighorns were 9000+ feet and we climbed and climbed up to a wonderland of trees and ground lightly laced with snow. The road itself was clear but the hills were snowy.  Cattle are allowed to roam freely so we came upon some migrating down to better pastures.  I will never forget the one white cattle that came at the car with such determination and with its power.  I have never been in direct line of  a large animal so it was cool to see it move toward us.  They moved off the road toward the trees in order to avoid the car. There were about 20 coming down the road.  They may have been domesticated animals but they were a site to see in this high mountain area.  We came upon more of them along the road and had to stop, I believe one more times. 

Arriving at the visitor center and we got out of the car.  It was cool and crisp. The quiet and the stillness were almost soft.  It was beautiful. We spent some time in the visitor center reading the exhibits.  http://www.bighornmountains.com/  I bought a Smokey Bear doll as a memento he was very special to me when I was a kid. 

As you get to the western side of the road you start going down and the scenery gets more barren and rocky. We chose to go the Shell Canyon route and that took us through some real magnificent geological formations of rock that had pushed up from the earth’s core.  They looked like someone had laid then on their side.

We came off the Bighorn Mountains onto the Bighorn Plateau where the road took us to Cody, Wyoming.  It took about 50-60 miles to traverse this big fertile plain which was rather flat, barren and straight.  After awhile my sister, who was driving, became restless and wanted a curve in the road.  As we approached the foothills to the Rockies we started to see more step formations.  Cody lies at the base of these foothills before you head to Yellowstone. 

We stopped in Cody and had some dinner and found a place to stay.

The Buffalo Bill Museum

The Buffalo Bill Museum

Apparently Buffalo Bill Cody founded the town of Cody and lived near it.  The Buffalo Bill Museum is actually 4-5 museums.  We spent time in the Plains Indian’s Exhibit.  I took quick tours of the other exhibits and almost lost my sister in the first. http://centerofthewest.org/explore/buffalo-bill/

We had rented a cabin in Yellowstone near the main lodge so we needed to get there by Sunday night.

I had not been to Yellowstone since the mid 1950’s when we went their with our parents.  I didn’t remember much except Old Faithful and the bears.  There was one that my dad named Professor. He was a little black bear who was able to walk around the rim of the garbage cans.  My mother and I sat in the car, our food was up in the tree on a rope. This type of behavior in bears is now discouraged for their safety as well as the visitors. I was about seven years old at that time.  We also drove down to the Grand Tetons and I do remember them.

One of many signs for the Continental Divide

One of many signs for the Continental Divide

The Yellowstone Sign on the eastern side of the park, Hwy 14 west of Cody

The Yellowstone Sign on the eastern side of the park, Hwy 14 west of Cody

We found our cabin behind the main lodge and settled in.  I called my hubby to check in and a coyote ran by as I was talking to him.  http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm

Yellowstone Lodge

Yellowstone Lodge

While we were at Yellowstone we participated in several Buffalo Jams. A Buffalo Jam is where the buffalo get on the highway and you have to stop and wait.

A Buffalo Jam

A Buffalo Jam one of several…

It  was rutting season so the males were being distracted and butting heads. They made this guttural puffing sound.

Bison fighting

Bison fighting

We saw a coyote eating a wolf kill.  He was very cautious because the wolves would kill him if they found him.

A Coyote at a Wolf Kill

A Coyote at a Wolf Kill

There was elk and one male was herding his females across the river.

Male Elk herding his females

Male Elk herding his females

I did remember the lake for it was big:

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone has abundant geysers and we explored.  Unfortunately I did not keep careful records of where we went, so I have pretty geyser pictures but I am not sure what geyser areas we were at.  You can walk out over some of the areas to get close up on these board walks.

There are boardwalks you can travel on to get closer

There are board walks you can travel on to get closer

One of many geisers

One of many geysers

There is a lot of texture in the geysers, steam, heat and the smell of sulfur.

Lots of Texture at the geisers...and steam

Lots of Texture, steam and heat.

The pools are many and beautiful…

The many pools with steam are beautiful...

The many pools with steam are beautiful…some a very blue

I did remember the mud pots because I thought they were funny back when I was a kid. The sound was gulp gulp. Trying to get a picture of them erupting is very difficult, this took a bit of time.

Mudpots...

Mud pots exploding

Of course you cannot miss old Faithful which I do remember from my childhood visit.  This time I got to sit on the veranda of the lodge with a nice glass of wine to watch the spectacle.

Old Faithful 2003

Old Faithful 2003

MoreOldFaithful

We headed back to Seattle a couple of days later and just made the drive from Yellowstone to home.  It was a good trip. I was pleased. The trip was about 2427 miles with little excursions here and there.  My Aerostar Van did great.  This might be my longest car trip for it beats Ontario.

MAKE A JOURNAL OF YOUR TRAVELS, a little advice…

About 2003 I started to journal my trips, both genealogical and vacation, because I realized that I was forgetting.  A journal of our trip to Yellowstone in the mid 50’s would be amazing to have now.  Some of the trips I had taken required me to backtrack and recreate what happened.  Currently, I journal at night before going to bed each day of the trip.  It is still fresh in my mind.  I learned this from our cousin Paul Goss who did a lot of research on the Goss family in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s.  He traveled to many places and met relatives and interviewed them about the Goss family but he didn’t realize that his trips were actually sources and important, especially when he talked to family and got their stories.  Going back to my early years I wish I had journals of those trips, not to mention photographs.  It is difficult for me to remember when and where we went on all the camping trips with my parents.

I would like to encourage you to journal your trips or at least write out an outline of the days events.  You would want to put in your journal the following. Here are a few suggestions and don’t forget to take pictures.

  1.  What you saw that day like a bridge that was really cool, a valley view, a river, what towns you passed through a picture of the sign announcing the town. A town’s water tower. A museum, library or archive you visited. A ferry you took. I wrote in my Ontario journal that I was in Paris, Paris in Ontario.  I also drove across the Thames river several times.  The Thames is a river in Ontario that flows through London, Ontario.  What road were you on, what was the weather like. My trip from London to Strathroy in Ontario it was pouring rain and getting into my hotel was a big experience.  I was driving in western Ontario and there were these amazing windmills coming out of the ground.  The only thing I didn’t do was get a good picture.
  2. When driving you can get lost and that can be an interesting experience.  Or there is a really scary part of the road like the round about in Montreal that I barely made it through.
  3. Where you stayed.  I have had some really interesting experiences at motels.  The one I stayed in Hartford, CT the first time was really bad so the second time through I found a better place south of that city in a lovely B&B. One man had a toupee on and I noticed this as he was checking me in. What was the place like?  I like Bed and Breakfasts and they can be really beautiful or it is a beautiful old hotel.
  4.  What you ate and where you ate it.  Yes, really, so if you go back you can find that same restaurant especially if you liked it.  We did this in Hawaii and I did this in Ontario.
  5. Who you met both family and people you encounter.  At Niagara Falls my waitress at the restaurant overlooking the falls was very knowledgeable and we chatted about the falls.  She told me many interesting things.  I spent a lot of great time visiting with cousins and close cousins and I tried to write out what was talked about.  Now, not all encounters a great and I write about them in my journal.
  6. I have several large binders with my trip itineraries, journals, maps and memorabilia and I frequently refer to them.  My Aunt Miriam went to Russia with my mother. She did a journal but there was no mention of my mom or other people, just the facts.  She did mention me taking them to the airport.  What I would give to get her impressions of the people she interacted with.
  7. Yes, I post my travels online with photos.  I also journal my trip in a Word.doc which allows me to write a more personal version.  They are all saved on my G drive under Genealogy trips Vol. I, Vacation Vol. II in my binders.

What I have written above is a short version of the actual trip to Montana in 2003 and this particular trip I did not post online because I didn’t start blogging till about 2010.