03 June 2010

Memorial Day Weekend: Big Hole Battlefield, Hot Springs, Wildflowers

There are a half-dozen or so hot springs within a few hours drive of Butte, Montana. Given the rainy cool weather, we decided on day trips to hot springs and other local sites instead of the usual Memorial Weekend camping trip.

Big Hole National Battlefield

The upper Big Hole River basin of southwest Montana was the site of a battle between Nez Perce Indians and the U.S. Army. The Nex Perce didn't want to be forced onto a smaller treaty, and had escaped across the Beaverhead Mountains of the Continental Divide from their home several hundred miles to the west near present-day Lewiston, Idaho (view from camp toward the Divide):

The Nez Perce thought they had outdistanced the soldiers and were safe in the embrace of Iskumtselalik Pah, "the place of ground squirrels," with their herd of more than 2,000 horses grazing on the hillside above the camp:

It wasn't supposed to be a battle, at least not from Colonel John Gibbon's perspective. As Gibbon told a Lieutenant who asked what would be done with prisoners, "We don't want any prisoners." At dawn on the morning of 09 August 1877, a force of 149 soldiers and 34 citizen volunteers snuck up on the encampment of sleeping Nez Perce--more than 700, the vast majority were women and children. Gibbon instructed the soldiers to get into position and shoot volleys low into the tipis, hoping to kill the Nez Perce as they slept. But an old man, up to "check on the horses" (or pee?), walked into the assembling soldiers and was shot. In the ensuing melee, Nez Perce who weren't killed or wounded scattered into the thick willows:

Nez Perce rifleman quickly occupied the high ground, captured the howitzer and ammunition wagon. The soldiers retreated to the woods where the Nez Perce kept them pinned down for the next 24 hours while the main group of Nez Perce rode off toward Yellowstone National Park. About 90 Nez Perce were killed, while Gibbon lost 31 dead and 40 wounded--many were European immigrants attracted to America for a better life. In 1883, a granite monument was shipped from New Hampshire to Dillon by rail and hauled to the battelfield by oxen:

No monument for the dead Indians, though the Nez Perce commemorate the anniversary of the battle each year with a ceremony. After fleeing 1,500 miles and for 4 months, about 400 remaining war-weary Nez Perce surrendered at the Battle of Bear Paw--just 40 miles from Canada where they were seeking refuge.

Hot Springs

We started off with Pony's "duck  race" which we've heard so much about. During the frontier days, Pony was so small it wasn't even a one-horse town. The event turned out to be a rip-off: buy a $20 ticket that included a duck number, a free can of light beer, and a BBQ meal (served some undetermined number of hours after the race--we left WAY before that). Supposed to be music, too, but that must come along about the same time as the BBQ. Mostly, it was about teenagers(?) drinking:

Oh, there go the blue, yellow, and pink ducks! Sure glad we didn't miss THIS. Ah, are the "winning" numbers posted somewhere? Not that we could find out:

Oh well: been there, done that. Cool "ghost sign:"

And a cool house (note weird square tower set kitty-wampus on left side of the structure):

Yea, this is more like it--Norris Hot Springs! Great music (from the band in the tent), hot water, and micro-brew:

And great views watching pronhorn antelope and sandhill cranes in the large park (i.e. big open area) seen from the pool:

After touring the Nez Perce battlefield, we soaked at Jackson Hotsprings (where Lewis & Clark visited, led by Sacagawea--though we didn't see them this trip). It's a charming place for head. Heads. Trophy heads, that is:

And antlers:


The holiday wasn't all driving, soaking, and a battlefield visit. We fit in a walk behind our home in Walkeville, where the Low Larkspur (Delphinium bicolor) are blooming:

Along with the Long-leaf Phlox (Phlox longifolia) :

And we walked a few prairies of the Upper Big Hole River Valley, taking in the first Glacier Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) of the year:

Lots of Pretty Shooting-star (Dodecatheon pulcellum):

Springbeauty (Claytonia lanceolata):

Leafy Bluebells (Mertensia oblongifolia):

And the occasional Round-leaved Violet (Viola orbiculata):

The Prarie Smoke (Geum triflorum) is budded up and fixing to bloom:

And the Blue Camas (Camassia quamash) won't be too far behind:

Though the exceptionally cool, wet weather this spring has made it hard for camping & hiking, the flowers love it.


Janie said...

Sad story about the Nez Perce. The hot springs look like fun, and the wildflowers are beautiful.

A Wild Celtic Rose said...

Ah... Pronghorn Antelope.

When I lived in Wyoming (Devils Tower, actually in the Black Hills) I used to drive over to Grand Teton every other weekend.

When my old F-150 wasn't running well and I couldn't easily get over the Big Horns, I'd drive the Southern Route.

I always joked that I saw more antelope than people

Sylvia K said...

It is a sad story about the Nez Perce. When my children were young we took our motor home and followed their trek all the way to the Bear Paw. We spent the night there and one could easily get the feeling that their spirits were still there. It's a trip none of us ever forgot. We lived in Great Falls at the time. Love all your photos and the wildflowers are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!


Anonymous said...

Another story to make Americans less than proud! Kind of fits with your world chart.

The wild flowers are stunning, Thank God, a constant in our lives.

Judy said...

Lovely wildflowers! And most of them are not ones I have ever seen before! And you had snow last week! Remind me to check the weather before heading your way!

secret agent woman said...

King is king, huh? Great wildflowers and looks like a wonderful weekend.

secret agent woman said...

King is king, huh? Great wildflowers and looks like a wonderful weekend.