Montana & Wyoming - Travels with Susan 2013


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So here we are my niece, Susan & I... can you see the family resemblance?

In this photo we have completed our trip and are soon to part, but we did have a very interesting trip out west which I will share with you now.

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It began in Billings, MT.  I flew in on Monday July 8th and Susan took the bus arriving within a few minutes of my flight at the bus station.  I rented a Subaru which we named Subbido and we went out for an amazing dinner.  Billings in July is hot and we had a couple of days to check it out and shop for some camping gear before catching up with Susan's great friend, Heyoka, seen above.  Susan and Heyoka were going down to the Crow Reservation to dance in the Sun Dance and I was going to provide some support for them.  The Sun Dance is a native prayer ceremony and it involves some sacrifices on the part of the dancers - they neither eat or drink from Thursday night to Sunday morning and of course they dance for as long as they are able.

We arrived on the reservation, which is in the Little Big Horn area, around noon and were able to watch the building of the lodge in which the dancers would stay for the entire ceremony with only short breaks for washing and toilet.  The elders and some of the other men had scouted for a perfect tree, then cut it down and brought it to the site where it became the center pole of the lodge.  But as with so many things in life it was more than a center pole, it was a type of altar.  Dancers touched it as they prayed and so did the chiefs - in fact no one entered or left during the ceremony without touching in, much like Catholics genuflect before an altar when coming or going.  Many of the older native people do not like cameras and taking photos was frowned upon - but I didn't learn of this right away and since i saw one native woman taking photos, I took some too... So here are some photos of the lodge being built and of the camp, taken from a high hill nearby.

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While Susan and Heyoka danced.  I was left to wander around the camp and make friends - I began helping out in the kitchen as there is always so much to do there and usually so few workers - this proved true in fact.  My little tent was over by the two teepees and the big teepee was next to the kitchen area.  While helping out there I got to meet some of the children.  I had brought water color pencils and I invited a few of the kids to draw with me.  This was a good idea and soon I had a small gang with whom to hang out:  Melville, Blaise, Keith & Lena were so much fun to be around... we could sit and draw or just talk or climb a high hill or go swimming at the springs - I was invited to join in whatever they were doing.

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When the dance ended, Susan and I left the native reservation camp and drove down to Sheridan WY for a couple of days to allow her to eat and rest after her long fast/dance.  We shopped, saw a movie and got our nails done... and just enjoyed sleeping on clean sheets and taking showers again. Then it was time to get on the road and see some of the great western landscape.  OUr road trip wnet from Sheridan to the Hot Spring in Thermopolis - from there we drove to Red Lodge and then through a piece of Yellowstone Park before going up to Bozeman and then ending back in Billings... For my money the drive from Red Lodge to Cooke City was the most beautiful part because of the great views but there were other lovely areas driving down from Medicine Wheel to Thermopolis as well.  Here's just a sample of the grandeur to be found along the road.

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And yes, in addition to the Capricorn Mountain Goats, we saw animals - most of them in Yellowstone Park where they seemed to be very used to people.  We saw buffalo, antelope and some deer & elk

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We saw lovely water too... at the Yellowstone River and at Shell Falls:

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But the only bear we saw the whole trip was that famous Wyoming brown bear, RJ, who was our constant companion...

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If you haven't paid an extended visit to the west I urge you to go and see it all for yourself!