July 4, 2017 - Wolf Point, Montana
By meriwether, Jul 7 2017 01:07AM
I was dreading the next day’’s ride. Temperature’s are soaring in eastern Montana. Back when I was cycling the southern perimeter in January and February of 2016, the cold penetrated to the core. But it was more a matter of discomfort . . . chilled to the bone . . . cold feet and hands a constant bane. But now . . . here in eastern Montana in July . . . it’s the heat . . . and the heat can be a killer. I knew it would be hot, and the day before I was harried by mosquitoes that attacked me even as I cycled at 10 and 13 mph. Dive bombing me, landing on my exposed back and biting with a vengeance.
And the wind - the forecast for the next day was for an east wind . . . damn!
At Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs Campground near Saco, MT, the mosquitoes continued their bombardment and I prepared dinner at my picnic table fending them off . . . the heat of the day refusing to let go. It goes without saying, I had no desire to take a dip in the natural hot springs. Luckily the campground’s small bar with AC provided a refuge - not much AC in my tent. I hung out there until the sun gave way to the evening’s cooler temps. Crawling into my tent, I was distressed and just wanting to stay there.
But arise I did at 4::30, knowing that it is the only way to survive the next day’s solar onslaught. Expecting the mosquitoes to greet me as I unzipped the tent, they must have been sleeping in. A bit of breakfast at my picnic table in the sleeping campground, and I mounted up and headed off into an early morning headwind, cussing all the way. But then it changed, and the wind slackened, and by 11 I had 40 miles with only 13 to go until Glasgow, MT, my night’s destination. The vast expanses of Montana extend in every direction, with nothing to block the view. From the rolling grasslands to the Little Rocky Mountains off to my south - a favorite hangout of Butch Cassidy and Kid Curry - these wide open spaces are captivating and awesome in their scope, but also intimidating as I roll across them atop buddy Floyd.
Seeking escape from the heat in one of Glasgow’s motels is a good idea, but even venturing out of the motel in late afternoon a blast of heat washes over. It’s in the mid-90’s, and temperatures are forecast for 100 and above this coming week. What to do?
And speaking of Lewis and Clark, which I wasn’t, this bears mentioning. A few hundred miles to the south of me near Billings, Mt, is a National Monument - Pompey’s Pillar. You might remember from my last Update that I mentioned that on the return journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, The Corps of Discovery had spit up into four different groups. While Meriwether Lewis was exploring the Marias River and having that unfortunate battle with the Blackfeet Warriors, Co-captain William Clark with some of the expedition’s men as well as Sacajawea (Sakakawea) and her infant son, was down exploring the Yellowstone River (View a Google Map), a major tributary of the Missouri River. From the river Clark took note of a sandstone monolith rising from the Great Plains. His curiosity aroused, he determined to visit the upthrust of rock, and upon doing so, noticed Native American inscriptions at the base of the monolith. William Clark, Co-Captain of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, then inscribed his own name . . . and the date . . . on the face of the rock. It is still there today, and . . . it is the only visible evidence remaining today of the voyage of The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 211 years ago. Why Pompey’s Pillar? Sakakawea’s infant son, Jean Baptiste, was a favorite of Captain William Clark, and his nickname for him became Little Pomp. Thus, Pompey’s Pillar is named after Little Pomp.
I had wanted to visit this site, but it’s 300 miles to the south down on the Yellowstone, so it will have to wait for another day.
On two wheels and limited as to how far I am able to journey each day, I always feel the pressure to keep moving . . . to make the next destination before it gets too late in the day. I must force myself to stop and breathe . . . to visit a place of interest . . . a see a beautiful sight. I did that with my Warm Showers host Jo who took me up to the majestic Two Medicine Valley in Glacier Park. I also did that In Havre by taking an extra day to visit the fascinating Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump archaeological, and I did it again in Malta when I stopped to visit their small but wonderful Dinosaur Museum.
Wahkpa Ch’gn is a preserved archaeological buffalo jump site dating back 2,000 years. Before the appearance of the horse on the Great Plains in the 1700’s, Native American Tribes would hunt the buffalo using a jump or a high cliff over which they would stampede a herd of buffalo to their deaths. Then, at the base of the jump to the tribe would go to work butchering and processing the animals, using every part of the buffalo for food, clothing, and tools. Centuries of bones and tools accumulated here, layer upon layer, and it is a treasure trove of Native American culture. It was excavated starting in the 1960/s, and although no longer an active archaeological site, the dig has been preserved for all to see and marvel at.
At the Dinosaur Museum in Malta, I met Roberta and Robert, two local inhabitants who hung out around here 77 million years ago and 120 million years ago respectively. This IS dinosaur country, and this guy and gall wandered the shores of the shallow inland sea that covered this part Montana ages ago. Truly thought provoking to stand there and look upon these fossilized skeletons and imagine what the world was like when they roamed the earth.
Since writing the above, I pulled into Wolf Point, MT, after riding an early 50 miles on Monday, and checked into a motel. Venturing out later, I saw the temperature at the local bank flashing 104 degrees. Temperatures are forecast to be similar in the coming days. Not sure what I will do at this point - the distances . . . the sizzling temps. It’s impossible to ride with those temps. Only option is to get up before dawn . . . or just ride through the night.
On the bright side, I’ve clocked 1200 miles since leaving Portland, and made it almost all the way across Montana . . . North Dakota is just next door from Wolf Point.
Happy 4th of July to All,