Location: Wisdom, MT (American Legion Memorial Park)
We are three weeks into the trip, and we are just about on schedule. The total miles for the trip are around forty-five hundred, which means we need to average about fifty-five miles a day to finish on October 18th, the Saturday of Autumn with Topsail. We are well on our way to making our date, and our bodies are holding up well.
Today, we biked over the continental divide through Chief Joseph Pass (7200ft). Despite the high elevation and long climb, Brian and I reached the pass with very little difficulty. Long hills generally take a long time, but they aren’t totally exhausting. I found myself again standing to pedal on the more gentle inclines. Two weeks ago, I never would have thought of standing to pedal long inclines. Cloud cover certainly helped us more easily summit the pass. On other climbs, the summer heat has beat down on us, causing distractions like sweat in the eyes or needing a drink. The clouds threatened to dump rain on us most of the day. We felt a sprinkle here and there, but thankfully it didn’t pour or snow.
After lunch at Lost Trail Pass, we climbed up even further to Chief Joseph Pass. Then Brian and I cruised down the mountain into the Big Hole Valley. We faced a headwind, typical of the last week, but the downhill slope made pedaling a breeze. On the way through the forest, we spotted moose and a grey wolf. As we descended into the valley, we decided to visit the Big Hole Valley National Battlefield, museum, and memorial.
The museum was small but well thought out. There were photos of several of the key individuals involved in the skirmishes between the Nez Perce and the US Army, climaxing when the soldiers attacked by surprise the sleeping Nez Perce. Men, women, and children were killed, and twenty nine US soldiers were killed. The video we watched at the museum attempted to point to mutual loss, that both natives and the whites were deeply hurt by the event. However, the theme that I most often recognized was that the Nez Perce had been massacred by the soldiers. I thought the video placed blame on the volunteer army that sprayed the city with bullets. It sympathized with the catastrophic fate of the Nez Perce, and I can understand that. So little of my formal studies have focused on the Indian Wars, so the video and the exhibits substantially enlightened me. Having grown up in the south, my studies focused on the World Wars, Vietnam, and of the course the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The history of the frontier and the white skirmishes with Indians received little attention.
After a long visit to the small museum, we rode another ten miles to Wisdom. We have made camp in a small park on the outskirts of a town with just over a hundred residents. A few other individuals are in the small park, which is just a grassy lot with a few picnic tables. The people appear to be presently living here. They have coolers, grills, several shoddy tents, and garbage piled all about. They make me a little nervous, and I have brought most of my belongings into my tent and chained my bike to the old wooden picnic table. The park isn’t much more than the corner of a cow pasture. It’s been sectioned off with barbed wire. But, as I’ve said before, I only need a patch of grass and a table.