Great Falls to Sheridan and Some Points in Between

Wednesday August 26th

We leave YS and head to Livingston MT. Livingston has the caché as the place where the story by Norman MacLean called “A River Runs Through It” was set. We are disappointed. LV is a nothing little town on I-90. The only thing good I can say about it is they have a good taco stand that reminds us of California. So, we keep driving towards Great Falls. On the way to GF we stop outside of White Sulphur Springs to camp and there is wind and it threatens to rain but it doesn’t.

me by Sulphur Springs
Our camp at a closed weigh station near White Sulphur Springs, MT.

As I gaze out on to the Great Plains, the short grass prairie, I think about the early peoples:  the indigenous peoples, the trappers, the explorers, the emigrants. These people were tough. The unpredictable weather. The unreliable water sources. The exposure to the elements. We also stay in a different camp almost every night. When we stop, I’m so relieved to not be in motion and set up housekeeping. Did emigrant women feel the way I feel? How about the fleeing Nez Perce? How would you like to be hunting and cooking with the U.S. Cavalry hot on your heels?

thunder jack
Thunder Jack welcomes you to the Shields which is near White Sulphur Springs. Nice sculpture.

Thursday August 27th

The terrible, awful, very bad, no good day.

We make it to Great Falls. It is also nothing special. It has a big ugly refinery. Too bad. It could have been nice. We argue about communication, where to go next and if he’s still interested in researching a new place to live. We try to visit the CM Russell Museum but it’s closed due to Covid. We try to find the Great Falls water fall but turns out the vandals dammed the river and wrecked the falls. The trailer hampers our efforts to travel any road we feel like. So, we give up. We move down the road feeling disgruntled and cranky as we head towards Havre and on to the seriously wide open spaces.

great falls before
Great Falls before dam. I wish there was something to give perspective on how big it actually was.
great falls ryan dam
Not-So-Great Falls after Ryan Dam. So sad.

Enroute we would have liked to stop in Fort Benton, MT for the night but can’t find anything that is not crazy expensive and stupid. Read RV park(ing) lot.

ft benton 2
The Missouri River in Fort Benton. Fort Benton was grand central for all sorts of western high junks and shenanigans.

We go on to the half-horse town of Big Sandy, MT and stop for the night at their Rest Area which is in between the town and the railroad tracks. Teddy barks at 2:30 a.m. and we have to get up and let him out. Damn dog. Now I can’t get back to sleep.

Friday August 28th

We leave Big Sandy and head toward Havre. If I’d known this area was so historic I would have paid more attention. I have been reading “Wolf Willow” by Wallace Stegner. It’s about where he grew up in southern Saskatchewan, Canada so close to the border and in between chapters of memoir he gives the history of this area. Stegner is such a great writer. He really brings it alive.

eastern MT
This is very boring if you don’t know anything about it. Look for ghosts. It’s rich in history.

The Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument is a disappointment. You can’t get there from here. Literally. We are told we would have to make an hour and a half drive to Judith Landing to get on a boat to float down the river to really see The Breaks.

Again, and again we cross the trail of Chief Joseph trying to escape with his people to the safety of Canada or Lewis and Clark as they explored for the Northwest Passage. Bears Paw Mountains. Milk River. Chinook. Harlem.

appaloosa horse
Did I say I love the Appaloosa? This horse looks modern but it’s one of the originals.
chief joseph
Chief Joseph was a very brave man.
bear paw battlefield
The Bears Paw Battlefield near Chinook, MT where, 20 miles from Canada and safety, Joseph and his band make their last stand before giving in to the Cavalry to Fight No More Forever.
lewis and clark mtg flathead CM Russell
I love this painting by Charlie Russell depicting a meeting of the Flathead tribe with Lewis and Clark expedition. L & C are over on the right side minimized. FHs are front and center, majestic, flamboyant.

We are so tired from not sleeping last night. We accidentally find a camp at Antelope Creek which is an American Prairie Reserve camp site.  It has hook-ups and a dump station. It’s in the middle of NO where! Thank you, Jesus! They have thought of everything. We loved all the Exhibits. We saw deer and sage hens and prairie duggers (dogs). Quiet. Spacious.

antelope creek trailer
Antelope Creek American Prairie Reserve looks like nothing but it isn’t.

Saturday August 29th

Moving on we drive past the Little Rocky Mountains and come into Billings. I’m sorry for anyone who reads this that loves Billings but my honest opinion is Billings is toxic. It’s mostly oil refinery. The people look beleaguered. I would be if I lived there. We get outta this Dodge asap and since it’s getting late and near dusk we camp at 7th ranch near the Little Big Horn.  There’s a decent thunderstorm which is nice for viewing out the trailer window.

Sunday August 30th

The Battle of the Little Bighorn Memorial is such a sad place. People! Why do (some) white people think they need to do whatever they want, break promises and then force other people to do things they don’t want to do? What do they think will happen? Completely lacking in imagination. Does this sound familiar? It’s still happening. Good ole family tradition.

indigenous memorial
This is the indigenous People’s Memorial to their fallen Warriors.


last stand hill
Last Stand Hill. What was going on in the soldier’s minds as the whole world rode down upon them?

We drive into Sheridan and there’s a cold windy rain. We hunker down next to a creek at a wayside. We’re in for the night. Rev up the generator and binge watch The Sopranos.

Monday August 31st

I do a little research now that we have internet access and I find a great camp in Ranchester 10 miles north of Sheridan.  We decide to stay for a few days. We’re the only ones there.

connor battlefield
The view out the door of our camp at Connor Battlefield Historic Site in Ranchester, WY

Tuesday Sept 1st

The day is bright and sunny, warming up. We drive into Sheridan and go to Kings Saddlery. KS is a store that I’ve mail ordered ropes from when I was learning to rope. I buy some very nice gloves. A (cow)girl, no matter how old, cannot have too many gloves. I want to buy Marty a bull whip but he won’t accept the pricey gift.

Wednesday Sept 2nd

Camp day. Beginning to write my piece for Grit on “No Post Hole Fencing” and catching up on blog posts.

What I’ve learned in the month that we’ve been traveling”

I can now cut Marty’s hair well enough to get by.

I can now take a cold shower without dying. I just wait until my scalp starts to hurt and I know it’s time to quit.

I know how many gigs it takes to watch a Sopranos episode. (>1 per day. Anymore and run the risk of running out before end of cycle and having bad ole throttling.)

I know how to budget my gas, food, laundry, camping fees to keep within my budget.

I know where the line is where I am in danger of going over and infuriating Marty into sullenness. I don’t cross it. Yea, I stay far back from it.

I know what I want to do with my future: Live near Bozeman in the summer, write, and live near Tucson in the winter and also write. I’d like to start doing this next spring

I don’t do well not knowing where I’m going to sleep that night.

Green and wide open spaces are important to me. I think I knew this before but I settled a lot for the opposite before.

3 thoughts on “Great Falls to Sheridan and Some Points in Between”

  1. Excellent as always! Sorry to hear of the MT city disappointments. Even more big doings in energy if 45 gets another four years. Sad state; sad state of affairs. The James Museum of Western Art here in St. Pete would be so ‘up your alley’ after seeing your photos and pics. Worth a google search someday or you. Keep on keeping on; interesting idea, Tucson and MT. Kind of like what a lot of Floridians do – Western NC in the hot months; FL the rest. Take care; stay safe. What specially-made gloves…always. –Tom Haight

    1. There were other great things about MT so it wasn’t a total loss. I really do hope that 45 will not have another go. St. Petersburg FL? Did you know that the 3 states with the most horses are Florida, Texas and California? I would not have thought FL.

      1. Yeah, I wouldn’t have guessed the that about FL, either. Will have to check with my cousin sometime. She raises and rides Paso Finos in north-central FL not far from the FL/GA border. Take care; stay safe. Looking forward as always to your next post.

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