From City of Rocks National Reserve we made it to Idaho Falls for the night. We had originally considered finding a place to stay for a couple of nights but decided it would be best to continue to push on so we can meet up with Jeff and Lisa and make our way into Montana by evening. After a solid morning of work, we hitched up from the Walmart at Idaho Falls and made our way to Big Hole National Battlefield.
Big Hole National Battlefield is on the southern part of Montana right along the Idaho border. It is here where the United States calvary confronted the Nez Perce Indians in a bloody confrontation that ended up with numerous casualties that included many Nez Perce women and children.
The Nez Perce Indians once lived peacefully in the regions around Idaho, Washington and Montana for thousands of years. With the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition, it lead to the treaties being signed that took away large swaths of land that they once called home.
Even with the agreement of the original treaty that gave them promise that the land would be theirs as long as the grass grows, the discovery of gold in these mountains and the pressure from the prospectors push the U.S. Government into taking away even more land. With the new treaty, the Nez Perce was down to just 10% of their original land. Unwilling to be pushed around, they refused the sign the treaty. But the surrounding tribes who were not affected as severely gave the U.S. Government enough signatures to go forward with the infringement.
The 7th Cavalry was stationed nearby and got the order to seek out the fleeing Nez Perce who had left their reservation and settled for just a few nights right here in Big Hole Valley. Right down there by the riverbanks, a 7th Cavalry scout spotted the encampment on a summer day in August of 1877. Just a year before, the 7th Cavalry is the regiment that was nearly wiped out by the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota Indians at the Battle of Little Bighorn. With that fresh on their mind, the young men who have been ordered to attack the camp knew something bad was going to happen.
It was a costly battle for both sides. The 7th Cavalry lost 31 men and had 39 more who were wounded. The Nez Perce on the other hand lost 70-90 people with almost 2/3 of them being women and children. Some of them never made it out of their teepees when they were killed.
These battlefield visits are not something that the kids can completely wrap their heads around but they are some of the more memorable ones for me. Today they happily did their scavenger hunts, art projects and connect the dots and got sworn in for their 101th Junior Ranger badge from National Park Services (NPS).
Leaving Big Hole National Battlefield, we made it to Missoula, Montana. Rather than finding a campground to stay for a few nights, we bought ourselves some time by overnighting at the Walmart on the west side of town. Of course our spot came complete with a ‘No Overnight Parking’ sign overhead. We learned from doing some research that the manager at this Walmart does not enforce the city ordinance and is actually quite supportive of travelers who wish to stay here overnight.
Once we got stocked up with supplies, we finally made our way to a forest service campground where we will be staying for a few days.
It’s nice to finally be far enough north that we can slow down drastically and let the kids spend time playing outside.
Our spot here is really amazing. It is $12 a night with no hookups but there is a vault toilet. We also have access to the Clearwater River that meanders right through here.
Time to get out the toys, bikes an d shovels. But first, we shall work on their nature journal. Loving our roadschool curriculum of including nature around us.
Our view of the Clearwater River is pretty spectacular.
It was the perfect place for our 13th anniversary. It is crazy to think about all that has happen in the last 13 years since we’ve been married.
Big Sky country really lives up to its name.
We were joined by Jeff, Lisa and the boys. The other great thing about this campground is that each site can legally have 2 camp units. That means we are only paying $6 each per night to be here.
We decided to spend the remainder of the week here to finally decompress from the last couple of weeks of non-stop traveling. It was a welcome change for everyone.
Another place near Missoula that we really wanted to visit is the Garnet Ghost Town. We visited Bannack Ghost Town last year and loved it. We’ve heard from a few friends that Garnet is also worth a visit and it is only 20 miles from here.
Even though the weather has been on and off raining with lots of cloud coverage, it only means we have the opportunity to test out our Alaska rain gear.
Garnet is a town that once had over 1,000 residents who came here to mine for the gold found in these mountains.
To put things into perspective, the discovery of gold here is part of the reason why the Nez Perce were forced out of their land.
Though the gold mining story here is a romantic one that’s been glorified in numerous movies and television shows, it is hard to detach the story we learned at Big Hole away from places like this.
Garnet is now operated by the Bureau of Land Management. It was abandoned in the 1920s but now donated to the BLM until the 1970s.
It is one of the most well preserved ghost towns in all of Montana. To us it is not quite as preserved as Bannack but it sits in a different geographic location and the buildings are more scattered along the hill side which gives it a very discombobulated feeling that helps to add more mystery to the ghost town.
A room in the hotel where miners once stayed in their quest for riches.
Ghost towns are some of our favorite things to see on the road. This one ranks up their with the best which include Bodie, CA and Bannack, MT.
This is the general store where you can come and buy some goods with nuggets you panned out of the stream earlier in the day.
Maybe a bottle of Virgina Darling Wine for those from the east who are homesick?
Right next to the parking lot of Garnet there was a picnic area complete with a water spigot. Of course I was not going to miss the opportunity to fill up some free water and take it back to camp.
The clouds are still hovering over us every day but we had very little rain during the remainder of our stay here at Clearwater Crossing.
The entire time only one other RV showed up and stayed only one night on the side of the campground.
We were also pretty surprised that with temperatures relatively warm and plenty of water around that we didn’t get nearly as many mosquitoes as we expected.
And now we have big and tall trees around, we can plan on taking lots of naps in our hammocks.
Of course they quickly become playground swings for the kids.
We got a chance to meet up with another long time Instagram friend while we were here. Kim of @onesmalltoaster lives in Missoula and we started following her a couple of years ago when we found her posting photos of her husky pup.
We finally got to meet Tucker today and he is a beautiful 12-year old boy.
Ava can not get enough of dogs. I know, I know. It is unavoidable.
Our husky Rudy who would be 18 years old now never did like going in the water. When she was a puppy she tried to follow me into the surf at the beach and got tossed around a couple of times. That negative experience was seared into her mind.
We also got to meet with Damon Ristau. He lives in Missoula with his wife and 4 kids. They spend a lot of time traveling in their Vanagon and is best known for being the filmmaker behind The Bus Movie.
He kindly brought a six pack of Montana’s famous Moose Drool Brown Ale for us to share as well as a copy of his documentary.
People who love traveling are awesome. Damon and his wife have also just bought a vintage Airstream that they plan to restore and hopefully hit the road as a full time family.
Jeff is enamored by the Vanagon. He’s never really seen one up close and has definitely never sat in the driver seat of one.
After 3 days here at Clearwater Crossing, the kids are really loving Montana and our time here.
Of course that means it is almost time for us to hitch up and move on to the next place.
Even Yoda is loving the view here in Montana.
With views like this, it will be hard to leave.
But we must push north and get closer to Canada. We are a few days ahead of our schedule for our border crossing but this just means we will be able to relax some more at our next stop.
Tomorrow we will head north towards Whitefish, Montana right outside of Glacier National Park. That will put us about 60 miles from the border.
over and out,