wisdom was cold
My coat and sleeping bag had pretty much covered my face the entire night. I woke up to the early light around 6 AM and started packing up. I ate a banana and bagel and wanted more calories, so I headed over to the two restaurants in town. Neither of them were open yet. Off I went towards Big Hole National Battlefield.
The ride up to Big Hole was nice, although uphill. There were a ton of birds out, which I usually don’t see because I had not been riding this early. I turned off the iPod for a while and enjoyed the dozens of different songs. I also saw a few pronghorn (often improperly called antelope) which have the ability to run up to 60 mph. What? There were no cheetahs here. Why do they need to run that fast? Evidently they’re resultant prey from ~12,000 years ago, and they had to outrun predators such as North American cheetahs and lions.
big hole national battlefield
I was excited visit this place because Kurt had given me a very solid synopsis of the history. I’ll try to do it justice off the top of my head:
The Nez Perce had their territory decreased by roughly 90% throughout a series of treaties in a short amount time. There were two groups of Nez Perce. Group A wanted to abide by the US government’s wishes, and Group B wanted nothing to do with it.
When on the reservation, a young brave was insulted by a white woman. The whitey told the young brave that he was a coward for not avenging his father’s death. To be teased in the Indian community was a big thing, so to preserve his honor, he wrangled up a few of his brave buddies and avenged his father’s death on roughly 10 male whiteys. This pissed off the white locals and the US government, so they sent in a small force to squash this conflict. Before the standoff, no one had fired a shot. Suddenly, an inexperienced US volunteer prematurely shot a young brave, and this set the conflict in motion.
A few of the Nez Perce Group B warriors had served with the US army and knew US military tactics. They went after officers and the soldiers that sounded the bugles, effectively cutting off communication. They tore up the US army in a series of battles, and this really pissed off army HQ. They started to send more and more troops after them, but they couldn’t quite catch them.
Fast forward to Big Hole. The Nez Perce had set up camp in a place known for its hunting. They decided not to post up watchmen. They did this because they looked at Montana as another ‘territory/tribe’, acting independently of the other states. Their conflict was with those in Idaho. Gibbons, leading a small troop, found their camp in the middle of the night and ambushed the defenseless Nez Perce camp in the morning. It was an incredibly violent ambush, but the Nez Perce were able to rally and fight back the US soldiers while the Nez Perce families escaped. In the end, nearly 90 Nez Perce men, women, and children were killed. It was the most costly battle for the Nez Perce.
After a series of battles, a part of the remaining Nez Perce had to submit to the US at the Battle of Bear Paw. They had simply lost too many, and Chief Joseph handed over his rifle. That was actually the only time Chief Joseph had handled a gun. A smaller portion of Nez Perce left early that morning and made a break to Canada. Since then, there has been bad blood between the original Group A Nez Perce and Group B Nez Perce.
This was the piece of artillery that was used at Big Hole. It was fire twice by the US before being overtaken by the Nez Perce braves. Pretty incredible rally.
chief joseph pass
I left Big Hole in anticipation of riding up Chief Joseph Pass. It was a good, steady incline that turned into a stand-off-your-seat incline. After conquering the pass, I stopped a mile down the decline to take a picture of the Bitterroot Valley. The message of the day was brought to you by Pat Devine and was dedicated to Matt McElroy potty-cam systems. Don’t ask.
I looked behind me and saw that I was only a few hundred feet from the Idaho border. What the hell. I’ll cycle on over just to say I was in Idaho. I can also add a new blog category to make it look like I’ve been to even more places.
the lone rock miner
On the way back down, I stopped to talk to a lone rock miner on the side of the road playing with an electronic poker game device. This guy makes leather satchels for cigarette lighters and sells them for about $15. He also sells crystals that he digs up in a forest not far from Chief Joseph Pass.
We spoke about this forest and crystals for about 15 minutes. I ended up learning more about crystals than I needed to. The state has to tell these people to stop digging because the forest becomes littered with holes. He told me it was dangerous for me to even walk around. Digging up rocks is a dangerous living, evidently.
He was looking for a ride to town, and after a few minutes of talking to him, a white van stopped to pick him up. He had also won big on his electronic poker game, so I guess I was his lucky charm. He was a pretty bad hitchhiker. He didn’t even stand up to stick his thumb out, but I guess given his beard and the fact he was sitting on a box on the side of the highway was enough of a hint to people. Before departing, he gave me a small crystal. I don’t think he liked me grabbing a picture of him. I pretended like I was taking one of the landscape…but with an ugly white van plopped in the middle of it. Be cool, Ryan. Be cool.
ride to Hamilton
The ride to Hamilton was very pretty, but damn was it difficult. I was expecting 35 mph at least going down. I ended up struggling to keep a pace of 13 mph. The wind in the summer comes from the north down the Bitterroot Valley and blows right in your face. Bummer. I hate a headwind on the downhill.
After a few hours of riding nonstop, I made it into Hamilton. I was staying with a touring couple named Tim and Cassie. When I got there, Cassie was headed on a 2-3 hour mountain bike ride with a few of her friends…right after work. I remember coming home from work and wanted to vegetate. Pretty awesome. I went to the store and got soda, brownies, and an oven pizza. Tonight, I feast.
Tim got home from work. He’s a nurse at the local hospital and was a blast to talk to. Cassie eventually got home with her friends, and I was finally able to pull out my weapon of choice.
Yo Cassie and Tim, you got BROWNED!
We stayed up for a few hours talking about cycling and Jon and Kate, minus the Jon and Kate part.