We awoke in a warm dry bed to a sunny morning in Hardin, Montana after sleeping like rocks all night. I got up and showered and went into the living room to discover that our friends were all up, and getting ready to go over to Kristen’s parents’ house for breakfast. I left Dave and our friend Heather behind to finish getting ready, and rode over with Dave & Kristen and the babies. Breakfast was delicious and relaxing, and it was fun to hang out with Kristen’s parents for a while.
It took us all a while to motivate to decide what to do with ourselves that day. Heather hadn’t even yet fully decided to spend the day in Montana – she is on her own cross-country road trip (no website for her, sorry) but her itinerary is much less predictable. Kristen convinced her to stay by proposing that we all float down the Bighorn River for an hour or so. We were all excited about this idea, so we packed a picnic lunch and drove to the river in three separate cars (our Focus, the minivan, and a truck loaded with watercraft) so we could have transportation at both the put-in and the take-out.
Heather went in her kayak (which has been strapped to the top of her Jetta since she left the East Coast), the Mark family went in a canoe, and Dave and I went in inner tubes. We mostly floated down the river, though there were a few places where there were small rapids, and one place where there were trees and things in the middle of the river that we had to work to get over. The weather was pretty warm, though not hot. The water in the river was COLD, but it was totally worth it.
About midway down the river, we saw a bald eagle perched on one of the highest branches of a tree next to the river. It was such a privilege to see an endangered species in the wild like that. He just sat and continued staring across the landscape as we slowed to admire him.
Finally we got to the take-out spot, and Kristen & I sat with Caleb & Hannah while the others went to get the vehicles from the put-in spot. Kristen and I enjoyed the sunshine and she gave the kids some food. Then the others came back with the truck but not the minivan – apparently the keys had been left with us in the diaper bag. Too silly. So we all ate lunch before we headed off, the truck going back for the minivan and the rest of us heading straight home.
After changing into dry clothing, Dave and I went by ourselves to visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. It is the site of Custer’s last stand and also the last great victory by the Native Americans. It wasn’t a great national park site; the story isn’t presented that well, and (like most battlefields) there isn’t much remaining of the event itself to see. It was obvious that there had only recently been an attempt to tell both sides of the story; the park had actually been renamed in 1991 from Custer Battlefield National Monument. The coolest part of the site was actually a very recent addition, an Indian Memorial commemorating the participation of warriors from five different tribes who fought on both sides. The entire experience was poignant and sad. I was glad we went, but it wasn’t the same kind of experience as the Badlands or Rushmore.
Dave and Kristen were making plans for a campfire with Kristen’s parents and some other friends at 5 pm, so we were back by then, but nobody was ready to go. So I gave my parents a call and ended up doing some tech support for my dad. After a while it seemed like everyone was ready to head out for the campfire, so I got off the phone and got in the car.
After a bit longer, we all piled into the car and drove to a fairly remote spot called the Sand Rocks. Although it’s in the middle of nowhere, off an unmarked dirt road, it seems to be a popular place for people to hang out and do campfires (and also drink a lot, apparently – there were lots of broken bottles). We found a relatively sheltered place to build a campfire, then busied ourselves with finding firewood and bringing food, chairs, guitars, etc down from the car.
We got ourselves all set up, got a fire going, had some hot dogs and salads, and started singing some songs, when we started feeling some rain drops. It was also very windy the entire time we were up there, so we didn’t want to build a very big fire. Finally we decided that we were really taking our chances with the weather – by now there were lots of dark clouds in the sky – so we packed everything up, put out the fire, and took off.
I thought the singing would continue once we got home, but it wasn’t until much later that Kristen’s parents came by the house with the guitars. They only stayed for a few minutes, so that was it for the festivities. We all just hung out talking, drinking tea, and looking at maps to plan the next steps in our trip and in Heather’s.
It’s been such a relaxing time here in Montana. It will be a shame to leave tomorrow. Now for one last night’s sleep in the soft comfy bed – possibly the last one before we sleep in our own bed in San Diego!