We had discussed driving north to North Dakota, but so many people asked ”why?, there’s nothing there”, we opted for MT instead. The plains of Eastern Montana were and still are populated by Sioux, Cheyenne, Blackfoot and Crow tribes. Also the location of the Battle of Little Bighorn, the site which was ready to re-open, so we headed there.
Our first campground was in a small National Forest area called Red Shale. A campground not really suited for a 40’ rig, but we traversed the 2 loops gingerly and squeazed into one of two sites that were long enough. The one other camper in residence moved off the following day, and we had the place to ourselves
Talk about seclusion, it felt a bit weird especially when a couple of vans parked nearby. Then there was the dreaded bathroom again that became quite popular.
Driving by the little towns on the highway on the way to Custers Battlefield, it was quite apparent by the signs on the road that we were not welcome to stop. These towns have a 99% Native American population and they want to keep it that way. This area was the last holdout in the northern plains against white incursion and the last great hunting ground of the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne tribes.
This is also the area where, in the town of Busby, Chief Two Moons has a memorial, the chief found victory three times over the American troops. It’s also the birthplace of Sitting Bull
The road we were on was considered Warrior Trail, Rte 212 which led to the Bighorn Battlefield site, but half way along at Busby we learned that the site was still closed, so we detoured west toward Ranchester WY., and camped at another Battlefield site. Ranchester which was only 40 minutes from Little Bighorn so we could sit and wait for it to open
We camped at Connor Battlefield which was the site of a massacre of a Native American village. You’d have thought this would’ve been sacred ground, but instead a campground?
Again we were alone
We headed to Sheridan WY to do some grocery shopping and found the nice old town area. This town is so Western as you walk down the street the smell of leather permeates the air from the saddleries dotted amongst the cafes and bars.
The town of Sheridan has a reputation of cross culture between the cowboys and Native Americans and was the inspiration for the TV series Longmire.
There’s a very active artistic community here and sculptures are in abundance around town
After a week of waiting we determined Custer’s Last Stand was not in our future.
We’d planned to drive over the Bighorn Mountains to our west, unfortunately the day of our departure a storm started to emerge. Once again, we could have waited a day, no appointments scheduled on the other side, but no, off we went. We’d already been warned about the somewhat treacherous road, but the scenery was supposed to be marvelous.
So much for the scenery.
Then we began to see snow, and visibility became limited.
”How much further” asked Steve “45 miles” replied Chris
There are no pictures covering those 45 miles. We suddenly hit a fallen rock and heard a loud pop and a whoosh of air. We blew a tire. The TPMS system was alarming and there was nothing else it could have been. At this point we were on the downside of the mountain on a 10% grade with a 1000’ foot drop on the passenger side. The tire was the inner dual, so we decided to limp along at a very slow speed for those 45 miles. We had no cell service either. When we did we found a tire place that could change it out. We got there and they called all their tire suppliers and no tire could be found. So we called other tire companies in the 50 mile radius and they were looking up their dealers and nothing could be found. We finally found a tire place in the next town that could get a Toyo in our size, but it was in Salt Lake City and it could take 5 days. We have seen a lot of RVers are starting to use Toyo tires, so Toyo it was. It took 7 days. Steve did more research of Michelin Service/Tire Centers and actually found a tire store back over the mountain, just south of Sheridan that had 2 Toyo tires in stock (aaarrrggg!!!).
We finally pulled into a lovely campground just outside the town of Lovell, Horseshoe Bend. As it was a National Recreation area we were given our “geezer” discount and paid $8 a night, great, except there was no cell service, quite an important feature seeing as we were trying to track down a tire. Every day we’d drive 10 miles into town to get a status update and download a film for the evenings entertainment.
We we’re camped on the southern end of Bighorn Canyon with its scenic red cliffs.
10 miles further north following the deep and winding chasm with vertical limestone walls, we stopped to look for any sign of the abundant wildlife here
The Bighorn river winds through for 70 miles. This is another area that we happened upon, so many places on our travels are like that.
This is Barry’s Landing another campground in the park
We found a family run 9 hole golf course in Lovell called Foster Gulch Golf Course.
On the south side of our campground was the Pryor Mountains, known for its wild Mustang horses.
The mountains are largely located in Montana and on Crow Indian Reservation land. At this time of year the horses were at 8,000 foot elevation up in the mountain meadows.
It took a while driving on narrow trails to find them, but we did find about 50. We were given a detailed list before we left on our trek of the different family units and their distinguishing marks.
It turned out that this area had a lot to offer and it was easy to spend a week exploring.
Finally we were notified that our tire was en route and would be delivered to the tire company that day. So we drove the 30 miles to pick it up only to find out we were too early. Being very persistent we stopped every Fedex truck in town to ask if they had our tire, to no avail. Next day it finally arrived, so we picked it up in the Jeep and drove back to Lovell to have it placed on.
Now we can take off and hit the trail once again.