Another early start – so early the hotel wasn’t offering breakfast yet, so we continued our westward trip on Interstate 94, stopping at a truck stop with a Subway for breakfast egg burritos and orange juice. Breakfast was tasty but a little spicy.
Crossing into Montana, we exited at the town of Glendive to see fossils of dinosaurs at Makoshika State Park. We hiked the Diane Gabriel Trail that led us to the site of a Hadosaur fossil. The fossilized bones were not easy to spot until we looked at the small bones available for us at the viewing platform and compared them to the natural area of the exposed fossil. At that point, we could identify the fossil. Hey, we touched dinosaur bones! That is not something you get to do every day.
Sadly the days of no speed limits in Montana is over so I had to settle for setting the cruise control on 85 for the trip across sparsely populated Eastern Montana. We saw miles of wide open ranges of wheat-colored fields dotted with black cows. The range spans to a backdrop of mesas and rocky mounds that extend from the Badlands of North Dakota.
Another of our breaks from the drive was in Miles City, Montana, where we checked out the Range Riders Museum. The museum had local heritage and history displays. We touched large dinosaur bones, saw saddles, tools, guns, wagons, arrowheads, native beadwork and photos of native tribes and even early settler’s homes.
Just east of Billings is Pompey’s Pillar, a National Park. The park boasts a signature of William Clark from the Lewis and Clark expedition. A nice museum came first exhibiting items from the expedition when Lewis and Clark explored this area and the Yellowstone River. Exiting the museum you can follow the trail and climbed a steep flight of 215 stairs to the observation deck to see where Custer’s troops protected the railroad surveyors 60 years after the Lewis and Clark expedition.
One of the noteworthy sights at Pompey’s Pillar are the signatures that the early visitors carved into the side of the stone, most noteworthy being the name of William Clark, protected behind Plexiglas. We walked the path near the pillar to find a stone slab replica of the Clark signature and also petroglyphs and pictographs for handicapped persons to see who are unable to climb the steps. The large stone pillar is named after Sacagawea’s son that Clark nicknamed “Pomp” or Pompey. Sacagawea was the Shoshone woman who helped Lewis and Clark. She and her husband Toussaint Charbonneau, a French Canadian, travelled with the expedition from Fort Mandan.
After completing the tour of Pompey’s Pillar we continued on into the city of Billings, Montana, and continued to the bluff overlooking town called Rimrocks. The Billings airport is set on the rim so that airplanes slowed above us to land on the runway across the street. The Rim Rock is an area that was part of a great inland sea 80 million years ago that once covered an area from the present-day Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic north. Some areas of the sandstone cliffs are nearly 1400 feet high. A river much larger than the current Yellowstone river carved a canyon to create the rim rocks.