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Posts Tagged ‘Big Hole National Battlefield’

Our second day out we made some serious tracks. After experiencing the Lewis and Clark Scenic Highway we turned south to follow the Bitterroot River flowing north. We continued south past Sula then turned east to cross over Chief Joseph Pass at 7200 feet elevation. We were at the northern edge of the Bitterroot Mountain range where the Corps of Discovery suffered. I let Charlize out at the sign that marked the continental divide and I believe she peed on both sides… good dog! We pressed on to the Big Hole National Battlefield site. This is where the Nez Perce tribe fought the 7th Infantry Regiment led by General Oliver O. Howard on August 9 and 10, 1877.  This was the largest battle fought during the five month-long so-called Nez Perce War.

The tribe had made treaties with the U.S. government in 1855 and again in 1863 that ensured they could stay on a small portion of their original lands located in parts of three states. The much smaller parcel of land they were promised was in the Wallowa Valley on the Grande Ronde River in northeastern Oregon. In 1877 General Oliver was instructed to attack the tribe if they did not relocate to an even smaller reservation in Idaho. Chief Joseph reluctantly agreed but three young braves, enraged by this action of the U.S. government, massacred a band of white settlers who were moving into what was the tribe’s original homeland.

Chief Joseph decided to move the tribe to Canada to avoid further problems but they were intercepted at Big Hole and fought a day and a half delaying action allowing as many women and children to escape as possible. By some accounts at least ninety of the tribe, mostly women and children, were killed. The U.S. forces lost twenty-eight dead and forty serious casualties. The action allowed many of the tribe’s members to escape and continue their trek but they were caught again in October, only forty miles from the Canadian border and safety. They were starving and exhausted and Chief Joseph surrendered to save those who had survived the terrible ordeal. About one hundred and fifty tribal members did make it to Canada prior to the surrender.

This history lesson was the depressing culmination of our full day. We found an RV park in Wisdom, Montana, not far from the battlefield. There was nobody in the office. There were two trailers parked, but no occupants and as long as Charlize and I were around we didn’t see another person in or around the place. A sign instructed prospective patrons to fill out the form on one of the envelopes provided, leave $30 and enjoy the facilities. There was an electric service box and we plugged in, but the water was turned off. No Wi-Fi, no cell phone service, no cable TV, and the door to the restroom/laundry was locked. The good news was that less than two hundred yards away was Letty’s bar/restaurant that did have a few patrons, a good sign considering the lack of human activity in the town otherwise. Two glasses of drinkable, not memorable, red Zinfandel washed my meal of salad, a chewy steak, baked potato and a roll down, but I left half of everything but the Zinfandel for Charlize. I cut up leftovers and mixed them with a cup of her kibble and she again abandoned her normally dainty eating habits.

Gave up and went to bed early so was up at 4:30 and we were on the road by 5:00. The sky was starting to lighten casting a red-tinged gray light on the mountains to the east. As we drove mostly east the increasing light reflected off the rock-induced waves and ripples of the fast running Big Hole River that we were following. Just as sun peeked over the mountaintops and I started to lower Old Blue’s visor a cow moose loped across the road in front of us. I touched the brakes but she was safely distant and unconcerned. She made an effortless hop over a four-strand barbed wire fence heading toward the river. Charlize, riding in her new home in the bed of Old Blue, protected by the canopy, was very excited when she saw the moose hop the fence and barked her appreciation of the effortless feat.

It was before noon when we arrived at a very nice, full service RV park in Ennis, Montana. I shelled out another $30 a night for two nights stay but everything was provided and the restrooms and showers were new and immaculate. After setting up Frog and detaching her from Old Blue I checked in with the Madison River Fishing Company where I met Matt, the fishing guide I had reserved for the next day’s adventure. I told Matt that since it was so early in the day I might want to do some bank or wade fishing. He told me where to go and sold me some flies he thought might be productive.

Charlize was a pill. She considered my attempts at casting as playing retrieve with her. She followed the line into the water, barking her excitement. After repeated stern warnings to cease and desist she completely ignored me increasing my irritation by snapping at the line or my fly rod. I gave up and put her in Old Blue. She obviously didn’t understand the reason for her imprisonment but considered it unfair.

I tried all the flies Matt sold me, plus some of my own tying but only managed to snag some twigs on trees and in the water, and a few rocks. The water was moving fast and the rocks were slippery, so after a half-hearted attempt with my bum ankle I gave up wading and walked, actually limped, the bank with equal non-success.

With the nonsensical optimism of a true amateur I decided I would do better the next day, with Matt’s tutoring and guidance. You’ll have to await my next post to find out what transpired.

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