Sunday, September 25, 2016

Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument, Montana

My husband and I drove from our home in Colorado to the northwest area of Montana in August to visit Glacier National Park. Glacier has always been a place I wanted to see, and I was very excited to be on the road again toward another National Park adventure!  We drove north on CO 25 through eastern Colorado--as you can see from the photo above eastern Colorado is basically high plains, and beyond a farm or two, there is not that much scenery to see.  (All photos in this post will enlarge for easier viewing when clicked on.)

When we crossed the border to the state of Wyoming, we stopped at the Welcome Center in Cheyenne to stretch our legs--we had been driving for over two hours.  The Welcome Center was impressive and included a full mammoth skeleton--quite a sight to see!

Eastern Wyoming also consists of high plains and is not very populated, except for an occasional ranch or farm.

It was a long ride through Wyoming --almost five hours of driving, so any change in scenery was interesting to see.  I liked the large metal sculptures some ranchers put on their property, which looked pretty real from a distance.

This one made me laugh--it was a mythical Wyoming  "Jackalope" standing watch on a hill.

Since our drive was going to be long, we decided to stay in a hotel in Billings, Montana overnight. We also wanted to visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument which would be located on our way to Billings. When we entered the Crow Nation Reservation we knew we were close to the monument.

As soon as one enters the Little Bighorn National Monument you will first see a national cemetery called Custer National Cemetery.

The national cemetery is a fascinating place to begin your visit, as you will see graves of the early West, including women and children from isolated frontier posts, Indians and scouts, and unknown and known soldiers from our nation's wars, including Medal of Honor Recipients.  The cemetery was closed for further burials in 1978 so as not to impede on the Little Bighorn Battlefield.

Next, we visited the Little Bighorn Visitor Center, which contains a museum and bookstore.  We watched the 25-minute orientation movie about the history of the Battle of Little Bighorn, where on June 25 and 26, 1876, 210 men of various companies of the US 7th Calvary were killed in action by Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors, who were defending their way of life. Approximately 42 men were killed nearby on a hillside, including Lieutenant George Armstrong Custer, in his "last stand." You can read more about the battle on the National Park Service link here.

If you click on the photo collages above and below to enlarge them, you can see some of the informational displays within the visitors' center. An effort has been made to show a representation of both the US Calvary and the Native Americans who were involved in the battle.

I found it interesting to learn that 42 percent of the 7th Calvary were foreign born-a melting pot of ethnic diversity. The youngest killed at Little Big Horn was 17, the oldest 56. The average age of the Native American warriors at Little Big Horn was 22. They fought as individuals and by choice, following tribal leaders such as Crazy Horse and Lame Man.

When I looked out at the Little Big Horn Battlefield I was astounded by its sparse desolation. Even today there is not much development in the surrounding area.

As you approach the battlefield there are two directions you can take. To the right is a path called the Deep Ravine Trail that leads to the lower battlefield...... the left is the path leading up towards the top of the hill, where Custer perished, and is called Last Stand Hill.

Walking along the Deep Ravine Trail first, we saw many markers for the places where both soldiers and Native Americans fell in the fierce battle. The 7th Calvary markers were placed in 1890, and the markers for fallen Indians were placed in 1999.

The bodies of the 7th Calvary soldiers do not lie under these markers, as their bones were recovered years after the event in 1881, and buried in a mass grave at the top of the hill where a large granite marker stands.  Many of the identified remains are buried in national cemeteries around the nation. Custer's remains are buried in West Point Cemetery. The exhibit above shows photos of how the remains were discovered and identified at the time. Most are listed as "unknown soldiers."  The bodies of Native Americans were removed by their families after the battle and buried according to their customs.  Artifacts found on site determined where they fell.

As you walk up the path toward the top of Last Stand Hill, you pass the Native American Memorial--more about that later.

The hilltop is surrounded by a fence to protect the area. You can see the location where the last stand took place and the markers for the fallen. Custer's marker is the one in the lower right of the collage above that is marked with black.

A close-up of Custer's marker. 
 His remains now lie in West Point Military Academy's cemetery.

The large granite marker, on the top of Last Stand Hill, where many bones of the fallen 7th Calvary soldiers were re-interred, was built by Lieutenant Charles F. Roe and the 2nd Calvary.

There is also a marker in the area where the Calvary's horse's remains were buried.  In the orientation film in the visitor center a descendant of a Native American Indian, who fought at the Little Bighorn Battle, told of his relative's story that was passed down through the generations, of how the soldiers, knowing they were surrounded in the fierce battle, shot their horses to use the horse's bodies as cover. The Indian said that to do that, those men knew their last moments were at hand. It was a chilling mental image.

An Indian Memorial, to honor the participation of Native Americans at the Battle of Little Bighorn was authorized in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush.  The name of the national monument was also changed from Custer Battlefield National Monument to the Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument at that time.  The monument is built into the plains in a circle.

Inside the circle are granite panels inscribed with quotes, narratives, names, artifacts, and pictographs. Please click on each of the photo collages to enlarge them to see the panels in greater detail.

The theme of this beautiful memorial is "Peace Through Unity."   To read more about it click here and here.  

Sadly, although the Native Americans won the Battle of Little Bighorn, their way of nomadic life was soon to come to an end. Lakota Sioux hunting grounds were invaded by powerful Army forces and the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes were confined on reservations. One of the biggest losses for the Native American Plain Indians in this era was the destruction, by 1890, of almost all the bison from the plains, by professional hunters. Bison was the major food source of Native Americans and supplied them with many other uses, from their beard to their tail. Without them, they were devastated.

My husband and I found the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument a fascinating place to visit and to learn about this pivotal era in Western American history.  The exhibits were compelling and seeing the battlefield in person brought the events to life in a chilling way.

We traveled on to the nice town of Billings for a night's rest, and then a drive across Montana towards Glacier the next day -- come back soon to see my first post about our visit there!

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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Autumn is in the Air!

Thank you, everyone, for reading my last blog post about my reflections on the fifteenth anniversary of  9-11-01. After all these years it is still a difficult day to remember with many emotions and much sadness.  Our community in Littleton had a candlelight memorial service for a former resident, Jason Dahl, who was the pilot of the hijacked United Flight 93 that was brought down that day in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  At the ceremony friends and neighbors talked about their fond memories of Captain Dahl, and one of the recipients of this year's Jason Dahl Aviation Scholarship, awarded in Jason Dahl's memory, spoke about his dream to become a pilot one day. As the program ended all in attendance sang "God Bless America." It was a very touching and heartfelt ceremony.

As the days pass deeper into September, and the sun lies lower in the horizon, with days growing shorter and evening temperatures getting cooler, the aspen trees in Colorado begin to turn from green to shades of gold and orange. Autumn is definitely in the air!  It is my favorite season, and I'm looking forward to enjoying it as much as possible.

The aspen color changes occur in the higher elevations of Colorado first...

..... and then slowly descend down to the lower elevations.  So it is possible to enjoy autumn now, and well into October

Please click on to enlarge

Our summer was unusually warm on the Front Range of Colorado this year, with many days over ninety degrees, so I'm looking forward to cooler temperatures, and yes, even snow! I will miss seeing the delightful hummingbirds that liked to visit a blue salvia plant in my backyard many times a day. I'll also miss the young fawn who was born in my next door neighbor's yard in early summer and who visited us frequently while his mother looked for food. These last days of summer brought cheerful little sparrows who sat on my lavender bushes  and enjoyed eating the flower seeds of the lavender plants. Every season brings its precious moments of beauty!

This is the perfect time of the year to take a long drive to enjoy the scenery.

Our grandchildren have been back in school for almost a month, and weekend soccer games and fall festivals have begun. 

Soon we will be picking out a pumpkin at the pumpkin farm and decorating for Halloween with the grands, rituals that bring back many happy memories from my childhood, as well as my children's childhood.

I'll share Colorado autumn photos in the next few months, and I will also be sharing the wonderful trip my husband and I took to see Glacier National Park in Montana in August. I finally finished downloading and editing almost 2,000 photos that I took on that trip! It was a spectacular park to visit and our drive through Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, on our way to and from the park was also wondrous in its own way.

There is so much beauty in the world and the western states of the USA really have a special charm of their own.

 Enjoy life and enjoy the changing season! 

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Reflections on the 15th Anniversary of 9-11-01

It is the fifteenth anniversary of 9-11-01 but it still feels to me like it happened yesterday.

I'm sure most people who were connected in some way to the actual event will never forget it.  Some are connected intimately by the loss of a loved one that day, and we know and have met many in that sad position over the years. Others have had their lives disrupted in other ways that may seem less significant, but non-the-less have been life altering and traumatic, and the pain for them also never goes away.

An American flag from the World Trade Center site hanging in the 9-11 Memorial Museum

I've written many blog posts about 9-11-01 before this one--click here to read that posts from the latest to the earliest.  From the very well done 9-11-01 Memorial and Museum, to the beautiful and touching Memorial Waterfalls inscribed with all the names of the victims, to the Angels Circle in Staten Island, NY--a very heartfelt memorial to the local residents that perished, and the many other memorials--some homespun, others official throughout the boroughs of New York City. The pillar found that became known as the World Trade Center Cross, to St Paul's Church -the Little Chapel that Stood, that meant so much to the recovery workers in the aftermath, to the FDNY Memorial that is on the wall of the 1010 firehouse that stood across the street from World Trade Center Tower 2, at 124 Liberty Street.  

I've often come in contact with unexpected memorials to 9-11-01 in my travels, and when I moved to Colorado from New York City I was shocked to find that I now lived in the same community that Jason Dahl, the pilot from United Flight 93, that was hijacked by terrorists and most likely aiming to destroy the US Capital, but was brought down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, by the hero passengers. This memorial stand near the neighborhood where the Dahl family lived. A scholarship in Jason Dahl's memory was established to help students achieve their dreams of becoming a pilot.  
This evening I will be attending a candlelight vigil in memory of Jason Dahl at his memorial, and we will also hold in memory all who perished that horrific day.

The repository for the unknown remains of those who perished on the WTC site on 9-11-01 in the 9-11 Memorial Museum.

It has been fifteen years, and the 9-11 Memorial has preserved for all time what was, and what remains, and the new World Trade Center is open and functioning as a testament to rebuilding and that life goes on. We shall never forget, but as with all mourning, time allows us to move forward and honor those who were lost by living life and cherishing the good.  The city, the nation and the world came together after 9-11-01 to help, to show solidarity and to aid in recovery, and it is good to remember those feelings in a time now, in a world where so much discord prevails.   It is up to each and every one of us to make the world a better place.  We all have that responsibility. Hate only leads to more hate. Let us honor those innocent lives who were lost with love.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy Times with Family and Meeting a Special Blog Friend!

I've been away from my computer for over a week as we had very special visitors from New York City staying at our house.  My husband's niece "L,"  and great nephew "A," visited us, and we had lots of fun showing them as much as we could of our part of Colorado.  On our first day together we drove up Lookout Mountain to enjoy the views of Golden, Colorado and the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

(All photos will enlarge if clicked on)

We spent a busy day visiting Red Rocks Amphitheater, the Colorado Railroad Museum, and the Coors Brewery Tour.

Once we felt L and A were acclimated to the high altitude of Colorado, we drove up Mount Evans, where we parked and then walked the last quarter mile to the summit, 14,270 feet high!  We were so high that we touched the clouds!  Our great nephew was very excited to see some snow on the mountain top in August!

During their visit we also took a trip up to Breckenridge, so our great nephew could enjoy the "summer fun park" at the ski resort.  We took the gondola up to the park and then bought tickets for the activities. He enjoyed the alpine slide, bungee jump, maze and jump house.

 I was thrilled to meet Barb, of the blog Live and Learn, at the fun park.  I told her where we were headed on facebook and she surprised me by coming to the ticket kiosk to meet me!

We all took the ski lift up to the top of the mountain and...

 ... posed for another photo!

Barb's blog is such a special treat. She lives in the Breckenridge area and shares her gorgeous photos and stories about her very active life at high altitude. I first began to read Barb's blog when I still lived in New York, and always yearned to see her beautiful world.  I'm so happy that fate has brought us to Colorado and that we've had a chance to meet! Although our time together was short, we had a wonderful time together and an exciting ride back down the mountain, as the lift was experiencing some mechanical difficulties before we were able to take it back down.

As you can see, summer in Breckenridge is almost as spectacular as winter!

The very best part of our special visitors time in Colorado was the fun that all the cousins had together. My grandchildren were already back to school, but we were all able to enjoy a visit to the Denver Zoo and White Fence Farm on the weekend, and a picnic and family barbecue.  We were sad to see L and A go back home, but glad to have spent such a special time with them. There is nothing better than family!

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