“Bring me men to match my mountains,
Men with empires in their purpose,
And new eras in their brains…
The Coming American, Sam Walter Foss
The Roads and the Sights
Highway 212 continued leisurely through forested mountains, high prairies, and rocky cliffs. Passing through first a Lakota Community (Lame Deer) and then the Crow Agency before rejoining I 90. We found it interesting that these once arch enemies now live in peace side-by-side sharing in the bounty that their adjoining lands have to offer. Further on, we beheld the beauty of the Absaroka Mountain Range that is the demarcation between Montana and Wyoming. Soon it was the great Rocky Mountains that we beheld, their spiraling peaks completely surrounding us and remaining sheathed in last winter’s snow. Even from the interstate, we were served one beautiful panoramic view after another. Taking in the Rockies majesty, we knew full well that no better nor plentiful view could be had by those who own the grandest of mansions. This scenery belongs to those of us who seek it.
This is Lewis and Clark country and it is here that in 1805 they and their Corp of Discovery traveled on their way to the Pacific Coast. Daunting as they were, the Rockies failed to block their endeavors but did rock their confidence. Nothing like them had ever been encountered by any in the party and morale was low. It was through divine coincidence that two native kidnap victims, captured by marauding bands, would set the stage for their success in facing the rigors of the Rockies. Sacagawea, captured earlier but now the wife of a guide hired by the Corp of Discovery, was Shoshone and it was her family band they encountered near the headwaters of the Missouri River when horses were desperately needed. When food, time to recover, and canoes were needed it was the Nez Perce they encountered. Among the band, there were those who thought it best to destroy these intruders. To the Corps’ rescue came “Watkuweis” an old woman who too had been captured but was treated well by “the whites” when she came into their hands. “Do them no harm” was her message and it set the course for friendly relations.
We spent the night in Missouri Headwaters State Park where the Missouri River starts at the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers, and it was here that Lewis and Clark visited on July 28, 1805. It was they who named these confluent rivers after the then President, Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State. The campground, while small, is surrounded by the majesty of the Rockies. Another interesting fact was that two of Lewis and Clark's party later became trappers in this area. It cost John Potts his life and nearly did the same for John Colter when for sport the Blackfeet striped him naked, gave him a head start and then pursued him for deadly purpose. He lived to tell the story but perhaps is best known for being the first white man to discover the area later known as Yellowstone National Park. His descriptions of the geysers, bubbling mudpots and steaming pools of water were referred by some with tongue-in-cheek as "Colter's Hell."
This is beautiful country where stories abound but it is off to Missoula tomorrow.