Friday was a driving day. It was a good day to skip golf with intermittent showers and lightening that plagued us all day long.
We left Butte, Montana and began the 350-mile drive to Sheridan, Wyoming. We did not make it very far down the road before the quilt shops in Bozeman pulled us into their parking lots. One shop, Quilting in the Country, on the outskirts of town was quite interesting; the sheep grazing in the pasture looked like a Norman Rockwell painting (including one black sheep in the flock). The gardens caught my eye. I have not seen such a variety of flowers, herbs, vegetables and berries in a long time; they reminded me of gardens I have seen in Europe.
The road into Bozeman took us past a grass fire along I-90. The heat wave and drought that have been impacting much of the country were also the cause for wildfires in the West. We thought hazy skies were the result of high humidity; we learned it is actually smoke from the numerous wildfires that have broken out.
After leaving Bozeman we continued our journey eastward on I-90 for 100-miles before taking a side trip to another quilt shop in Absarokee. The town’s name alone makes a person want to visit them! The road took us down the Yellowstone River valley which was home to abundant wildlife, all of which appeared to be feeding in the irrigated farm fields. On the short 17-mile drive south from I-90 we spotted wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, and numerous deer. One deer sighting was a herd of 25 grazing in a clover field - the farmer must be happy to look out and see such a sight.
On the advice of Clara Borland, owner of the Cloud None Quilt shop in Absarokee, we decided to continue driving south toward the town of Red Lodge, Montana. We added a few more miles to our journey and definitely added more time.
Red Lodge was a a surprisingly quaint town that thrives on tourists heading to the Yellowstone National Park. It was host to the Iron Horse Rodeo in late July, an afternoon of events such as the Slow Race, Barrel Race, Obstacle Course, Keg Roll, Beer Chug and Weenie Bite - - - all performed on motorcycles. The Rocky Fork Juniper shop caught our eye at the south edge of town. We stopped to peer in the window at pieces of handcrafted furniture for that rustic, cabin appearance.
We traveled east out of Red Lodge toward Bearcreek. We passed by the Smith Mine where the 43rd worst USA coal mining disaster occurred in 1943. A methane gas explosion killed 30 men instantly, an additional 47 miners died either through injuries sustained in the explosion or through suffocation from a build-up of gas in the mine. The explosion deep underground was not heard from the mouth of the mine, despite having enough power to knock a 20-ton locomotive off its tracks 1/4 mile from the blast origin. The cause of detonation is unknown, but various reports note that men were allowed to smoke in the mine, and that fuses for blasting were lit with matches. A highway plaque near the mouth of the mine displayed a simple note left behind by two of the victims:
“Walter & Johnny. Good-bye. Wives and daughters. We died an easy death. Love from us both. Be Good.”
Remnants of the Smith Mine
The road east took us through the 100-mile wide Bighorn Basin. A historical plaque at a scenic lookout noted that one of the nation's ten Japanese American internment camps was located in the western part of the basin in 1942. The camp was named Heart Mountain War Relocation Center, after nearby Heart Mountain. The camp operated until 1945, and at its peak detained over 10,000 internees.
We probably saw over 75 deer during the day, but it was a moose sighting as we approached Sheridan that was the highlight of our wildlife sightings.
Moose sighting along the road
The deer are much smaller in Wyoming
A late evening dinner found us at the 1893 Grille & Spirits in Sheridan. The restaurant is located in the historic Sheridan Inn. Built in 1893, the inn was considered the finest hotel between Chicago and San Francisco. Buffalo Bill Cody managed the hotel from 1894 to 1896. He attracted sportsmen for big game hunting in the Big Horn Mountain region. He often auditioned talent for his Wild West Show from the hotel’s front porch. Note: Buffalo Bill was born in rural Iowa a few miles north of our home in Bettendorf.
The Sheridan Inn
Lobby of the Sheridan Inn
The original bar in the Sheridan Inn (the 3rd stool from the right was reserved for Buffalo Bill)