A Weekly Offering of This n That

Rainy Day is my alter ego. She is the little angel that sits on one shoulder and whispers in my ear to forgo that 6" piece of triple chocolate fudge with the four scoops of ice cream on it; she is also the little devil who sits on my other shoulder and convinces me that I can eat just one bite of each and be satisfied, and then laughs with such great abandon when in fact, I eat the whole thing, she falls off my shoulder. Mostly, Rainy Day helps me see the humor in living and, mostly, she encourages me down the right path. Not necessarily the straight and narrow one (how fun is that?) but the path that offers the most adventure and fun.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Over the Powder River Pass and beyond

Over the Powder River Pass and onward to the Bighorn / Wind River

There is a reason it's called a 'Big Sky"
Before we start, we really do need a friendly word from our sponsor, Madame Dorion: Her Journey to the Oregon Country. It is, after all, the sponsor who pays our bills;-). That is, when you, devoted fans buy the book and spread the word. And, believe me, we have bills.

 Coming over the Pass. Of course, there were no fences then.
"Authors who write historical fiction, and do it well, must remain true to the essential facts of their subject, while simultaneously conveying a sense of the undocumented character of the protagonists. Lenora Rain-Lee Good has managed this admirably in her book about Marie Dorion, a Native American, who like the better-known, Sacagawea, helped to guide the white man's exploration of the West. Rain-Lee Good's meticulous research -- she retraced a good part of Dorion's travels -- and innovated approach to conveying her story, as entries in Dorion's diary -- make for a revealing portrait of a most remarkable and important character in America’s early history. The book might have been improved by inclusion of a map tracing the Wilson Price Hunt expedition that Dorion accompanied, but details on the Hunt expedition are easily found via a Google search. The book is highly recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction, especially about the exploration of the Northwest." –RB
Truly, a whole lot of wide open space

Wind River Hot Springs at Thermopolis, Wyoming
And, may I remind you, Mother's Day is coming, and a wonderful gift would be my book about a wonderful and devoted mother, Madame Dorion. Your local bookstore will be happy to order it for you, if they don't already have it in stock. If you don't have a favorite bookstore, may I suggest Barnes & Noble—they are supporting me by having a signing at our local store on 7 June. Now, back to our regular blogramming.

The Bighorn/Wind River
Modern day highway #16 roughly follows the trail the Astorians took through the Bighorn Mountains between Buffalo and Worland, Wyoming.* In the mountains they found trees, shade, and somewhat cooler weather. By the 7th of September 1811 they were back on the plains with game and water both scarce.

They met several Shoshone and Flatheads, all friendly, who traded with them, traveled with them, for a while at least, and helped when they could. The Astorians followed the Big Horn River as much as possible; however, they did not realize the Big Horn River became the Wind River at the present day site called Marriage of the Rivers.

Heading toward Wind River Pass
"13 September 1811.  Crossed the Wind River.  The mountains have closed in and are rugged. The terrain is tortuous to ride or walk. The peaks are high, the winds strong and constant.

The walls of the canyon are almost straight up and a gorgeous red.... There are few trees and little game."

Red Rocks of the Wind River Pass
By the 15th of September, Hunt had ordered the group to leave the river and follow the Indian road. The men did not like that and grumbled. By now, many of the men had lost their faith in Hunt's ability to lead. (He was not a mountain man/trapper but a businessman. He hired guides and often ignored them.)  Marie, by now, didn't care. She was just too tired, and wanted this journey to end!

On the 16th September 1811, they reached modern day Union Pass, where we will pick up our story next week.

Going into the Wind River Pass
*If you Google the Wilson Price Hunt Expedition, you will see where much of their overland journey, as near as I can figure, seemed to follow what became our highways, byways, and freeways. The reason for that is the local First Nation folk followed the game trails because they were the easiest. Then the trappers followed the First Nation roads because they were there. Then the Immigrants came along with their wagons and cattle and eventually the Highway Departments followed all with their concrete trucks. It would have been nice, however, had Hunt said, in his Journal, "this place is the future site of Buffalo, Wyoming (or wherever) but I guess he just didn't know where we'd plant our towns further down the time line ;-)

Green flowers, red dirt

Monday, April 21, 2014

At Last! The Famed Powder River

Do not, I beg, get eye strain trying to read this, but it is interesting.
First, however, we absitively posolutely must have a word from our sponsor, Madame Dorion: Her Journey to the Oregon Country. It is, after all, the sponsor who pays our bills;-)

There were, of course, no fences when Marie came through.
"Imagine yourself a young woman on a cross-country road trip from St. Louis to Oregon. Okay, you say, that's easy. But now imagine that there are no roads and the trip is made on horseback, in sometimes make-shift boats, and on foot through incredibly rugged unexplored territory, two toddlers in tow (one of which has a "strangeness about him") with a third child on the way. Throw into the mix hostile Indians, unimaginable thirst and hunger, heat and cold, and nothing to sustain you except the will to go on. That was the journey that Marie Dorion took with her husband 200 years ago as the only female on the ill-fated hunting/trapping venture known as the Wilson Price Hunt Expedition. Ms. Good's remarkably well-researched and well-written account of this event expertly weaves in the fiction while ensuring that the actual events remain unbruised by it. The result is a novel that sweeps you along not only on a gripping true story of survival, but also takes you on a spiritual journey into the heart of this amazing and stoic Native American woman. Madame Dorion is, indeed, deserving of a place in history alongside Sacajawea and Pocahontas.

I doubt if there were tulips, either.
"This is an easy, enjoyable read, both entertaining and educational; whether you are a history buff or simply enjoy a great adventure, this story is not to be missed." – JA

Before we return to our regularly scheduled Blogram, may I remind you that Mother's Day is coming, and Madame Dorion would be a wonderful gift for that favorite mother of yours. (If nothing else, it will remind her that she didn't have it so rough when she raised you ;-)

The locals claim the Powder River is not only a mile wide and an inch deep, but it is also too thick to drink, and too thin to plow. As the photos below will show, they're pretty right on!

Probably close to what it looked like, if you take away
the fences and trash trees.
The river today looks somewhat different than it did 200 years ago. Back then, if there were any trees, they were probably cottonwoods that lined the shore. Today, there are two invasive species of trees, one being the Russian Olive, which is a water hog, and should, at all cost, be eliminated. The olives, though edible, just aren't worth the cost in water. And I can't remember what the other tree is, but both were introduced about 100 years ago.

Looking West from the Powder River rest stop
31 August 1811. The party has passed through the barren hills, crossed tributaries of the Powder, and have finally reached the main branch. They suffered days of thirst, and the loss of one dog due to thirst (the dog died two hours before they came to water).

Marie and the boys found buffalo berries (choke cherries) and gooseberries along the rivers edge which gave them a little variety in their meal that night.

Thunder storms rolled across the prairie, and down the river. The group camped on the highest ground they could find.

Walking along the bank of the Powder River
The next day a group of Crow came, and Hunt managed to trade his horses for 121 well-fed and mountain-trained ones. They were about to cross mountains, and trained horses would be a help. Many of the men were weak and tired, and the company moved too slowly for the Crow to accompany them as they continued west into the Big Horn Mountains and Powder River Pass.

As you can see, it's only an inch deep -- if that

Shallow, but a nice reflecting 'pond' for the sky
Cottonwood and Russian olive

Too thin to walk on, too ;-)

Russian Olives.
Next week: Through the pass, across the plains, and arrival at the Wind River.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Side Trip to Devils Tower

As promised last week, a side trip to Devils Tower. But first, a message from our sponsor! That would be the book, "Madame Dorion: Her Journey to the Oregon Country."

"I enjoyed the book very much, could not put it down. I've recently traveled parts of the trail she traveled, and often wondered why our local park is named for Madame Dorion. I liked the descriptions of daily life for the trappers and hunters. Seldom do we see a woman's view. Even though the woman's view is reflected from actual diaries from other male trappers, it rings true. The book is a good representation of various cultures who must learn to live side by side, and interact for survival." –CL

Don't forget Mother's Day is coming—sooner than you think! This little book is the perfect gift—a story about a mother with indomitable spirit for a mother who raised you right, showing her true spirit. Or grit. ;-)

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogramming:

Sidekick Judith & her two Flat Grandsons
I found no mention in the journals and books I read that the Astorians travelled by what is today known as Devil's Tower. Prior to 1875 when it was named Devils Tower during an expedition led by Col. Richard Irving Dodge due to an interpreter who misinterpreted the name to mean Bad God's Tower. (The apostrophe was deleted following a geographic naming standard.)

If the early trappers visited the tower, there is no record of it, and no graffiti to show for it, and they were great for writing/carving their names and the year visited on anything they found that wouldn't run away. Frankly, I'm surprised I've never heard of a trapper named "Kilroy." The first documented non Native visitors were members of CPT Wm. F. Raynolds' expedition to Yellowstone in 1859.

Devils Tower from the North (I think)
Devils Tower from the South
Tribes of the area, including Arapaho, Crow, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Lakota, and Shoshone had their own cultural and geographical ties to the monolith before the white men came along. These names include: Aloft on a Rock (Kiowa), Bear's House (Cheyenne), Bear's Lair (Cheyenne, Crow), Home of Bears (Crow), Bear's Lodge (Cheyenne, Lakota), Bear's Lodge Butte (Lakota), Bear's Tipi (Arapaho, Cheyenne), Tree Rock (Kiowa), and Grizzly Bear Lodge (Lakota).

In all probability, the Astorians were a tad too far north to see the tower. We, however, made a side trip to see it, and were not disappointed. We drove around it, but did not go into Park itself. Undoubtedly, we missed a great deal of information, but wanted to get back on the road.

It really does just jut up from the plain
The Tower stands 5,114 feet into the air, and is quite impressive. If you check the Wikipedia site below, you will find a great deal of information about the Geological history, Native American folklore, and if you're so inclined, information about climbing the tower.

Close up of the layers
If you watched the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" you undoubtedly recognize the tower. If you haven't seen the movie, get thee to Netflix! Do not pass Go, and do not collect $200!

Type "Devils Tower Wyoming" into your favorite Search Engine to find all the information you will ever want, and then some, about this intriguing monument.

for most of my source material for this blog.)

Next week we finally reach the Powder River – an inch deep and a mile wide. ;-)
After this one, we headed back to our trip

Monday, April 7, 2014

Slim Buttes and Castle Rock Butte. Or, a whole lotta nuthin'.

One of the reviews on Madame Dorion: Her Journey to the Oregon Country.

"I've been a longtime fan of pioneer women's diaries and have often traveled the northwest roads, looking at the landscape and trying to see it through the eyes of a woman who might have traversed it back in the 1800s. Marie's story--told in journal form--in format might be fictional, but many of the entries have been based on real-life journal entries by the trappers with whom she traveled years before the more well-known Westward movement began over the "Oregon Trail."

"I read the book in draft form and again after publication. Both times, I "felt" the (albeit fictional) urgency to reach Astoria where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean *before* her baby was born. Both reads, I was reminded about the early misconceptions of distances and geographical obstacles they faced (factual).

"This historical fiction telling of Marie's story without splitting the focus on all the other members of the *voyageurs" was appropriate to give a reader a notion of exactly who is the woman for whom the "Madame Dorion Memorial Park" in eastern WA State was named. --J.W."

One of the first of the Slim Buttes we saw. As you can see, there are trees here,
to some degree. Mostly where they find water/
As promised, today we head into and through the Slim Buttes country.

16 August 1811, the party left the Big River, and the gentle rolling hills and passed through what is today Custer Park, near Reva, SD.  They received their name because they are wide in one direction and narrow in the other. Some of the men climbed them, but they were too steep for Marie. Highway 20 goes through the park.

Close up of above. I wouldn't want to climb it, either. Pregnant or not!
The men killed a big horn sheep the next day, a welcome change to their diet. They saw several red-tailed deer, but the men thought black tailed deer tasted better.

Having left the river, they were now into dry, broken, and desolate country, but they ate well when the men could get fresh buffalo or deer. The land was broken and rough, and there were no trees for shade or shelter. At first glance, it was a whole lot of nothing, but there was food to be had if one knew where to look. Not much water. And a lot of dust.

Take a good look at this green. It's about they last they see outside of
streams and mountains.
It was difficult to trace their exact route. I thought they might have gone due west to the Powder River, but in talking with a historian very familiar with the expedition and that part of the country, he assured me they never went into Montana, and turned south, then west into Wyoming. A long, hard, and very dry trip. By now, there is no doubt Marie is pregnant and she still does her share of the work, plus she cares for the boys. She carries Paul, not yet 3, in a sling over her right hip.
Castle Rock Butte on way to Belle Fourche SD
I do not know if they saw Castle Rock Butte, the photo gives you some idea of the desolation they went through. This woman must have had an indomitable spirit to have walked as far as she did, only complaining once (that we have a record of, when she thought she was pregnant and wanted to stay and Pierre wouldn't let her), and to have had her two boys with her. Life was hard in that day and age. Not sure I could have done it. But, then, had I been born to it, it might not have been so ba

Out of the Slim Buttes area, this is what they saw for the majority of their trip.
I don't know if they came the same route we did, or if they saw this particular
butte, but it is indicative of the land through which they travelled taking
turns on the horse and walking, and Marie with her Paul in the sling at her left hip.

Next week a side trip to the Devil's Tower.