Home Trekin' To Dillon, MT Dillon, MT Livingston, MT On to Medora, ND Medora, ND Medora Musical Around Medora & Park On to Mandan, ND Mandan The STORM Travel Diary 2015
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June 16 – Tuesday We had a great time (excluding the spider bite) in Medora and now we head for Mandan, ND, 145 miles on I94.  Our destination is Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.  Like a carelessly tossed ribbon, I94 cuts through the grasslands.  Water-sodden clouds are dumping their load on the earth as far as the eye can see in any direction.  No hint of the sun off in the distance, just dark sky.  Dark enough for the freeway on/off ramp night time lights to be on.  Traffic is generally light, but occasionally the opposing traffic headlights look like a double strand of diamonds.  It rains the entire 145 miles.  Little or no wind, thank goodness.  The herds of cattle we pass stand patiently as the rain soaks them.  The few oil wells we see bob up & down, unperturbed. Mandan & Bismarck are 2 miles apart so the two towns share a lot of visitor information, making it easy to find interesting things to do in both places for the 7 nights we will be here.  Heyden & Sue have their own rented trailer delivered to a site near ours.  The rain stops.  We arrive & find the campground is excellent.  Pretty to look at, generous spaces, nice shade, level sites and very clean facilities.  We fixed dinner, had a round of Rummikub (Heyden, 7, does very well) and Sue & Heyden headed to their trailer & we fell into bed.
Wednesday June 17 We’ve walked through the campground and find it clean, green and just ideal, except for no sewer hookup, but the dump station is nearby.  And now a search for a market is mandatory.  Medora had no real grocery stores & it’s time to find one.  Not too far away we get lucky and once again the fridge has fresh salad makings and fruit.  Needing the fast food fix, Heyden spotted the Dairy Queen & in we went.  Returning to Ft. Abe Lincoln State Park, we stopped at the commissary (gift shop) and had some quality retail therapy there. General Custer’s home had concluded tours for that day so we’ll catch it another time.  We drove around the Fort, which takes in quite a few acres, and spotted several areas of interest that we will visit in coming days.  We all ate dinner IN the coach as the mosquitoes are on the march.  Played a few games of Rummikub after dinner and Sue & Heyden headed for their rental trailer and, once in bed, we drifted off to sleep.
On to Mandan, ND
We’ve arrived & the rain is stopping.  So hard to believe that just a bit to the right of the picture, but out of sight due to trees & bushes, is the very big Missouri River.
Most of the campground is a wide oval shape.  The individual camping space is a semi- circular driveway parallel to the interior road of the campground.  So the interior of the oval is a very wide, grassy area with large & small trees.  Lots of room to run pets & for kids to play.
We’d barely settled in.  Being a Tuesday there were few other campers, so I guess this pretty deer felt  comfortable munching on the grass.  In the background you might be able to see the reserved sign.  Don’t know if she called for this spot to eat, but probably another camper is due to arrive.
American Goldfinches are busy eating weed seeds and taking a puddle bath.  They are tiny, but, oh, so colorful on a cloudy day.
As we drove on a state highway to Mandan looking for a supermarket, we encountered these horsemen busy doing whatever horsemen do.  Such a beautiful day and all the lush growth and with the guys looking so natural in the landscape, the pavement really seems out of place.
The incredible Missouri River runs along the campground’s edge.  There are only a couple of places that we could easily see the River without having to walk through a tangle of bushes & trees for a number of feet.  Since the deer seemed to enjoy that tangle, we did not want to walk through & disturb them.  One momma had twins and she was very skiddish.  Didn’t want to add to her fears.
The sky is sooo blue and the clouds so white that it just takes my breath away.  So gorgeous!
This picture was taken inside the Park.  The ground was covered with yellow flowers.  Just seemed so pretty.
This well-designed brick silo of long ago really caught the eye.  How can one create a round design using rectangular building materials?  The adjacent stone barn, or whatever, had been reduced to rubble.
Thursday 6/18 In 1872, Fort Abraham Lincoln Infantry Post was established.  There is a cavalry post on the lower elevation, close to the Missouri River, where the officers’ housing, barracks, stables and commissary are located.  We spent the morning taking in the infantry post, taking a close look at the blockhouses and the tremendous views offered by this location.  We could see the cemetery, which, at one time, included civilian workers, soldiers who had died of illness or injury and the survivors of Little Bighorn Battle who died after being brought here.   When the Fort was decommissioned in 1891, the remains were relocated.  The Little Bighorn veterans were returned to that site, the unclaimed civilians were moved to a cemetery in Mandan and the other soldiers’ remains were taken to another military cemetery in North Dakota.  We could see the buildings of Bismarck off in the distance over the Missouri River.  We could see what the soldiers saw for miles over the grasslands. As we looked at the blockhouses and signage for self-tours, I really could envision the soldiers as they went about their business.  It was quite moving.  Heyden really enjoyed the hands-on features.  Climbing the stairs to the 2nd story of the blockhouse and walking around the observation deck was one of her favorites. Climbing the stairs to the 2nd story of the blockhouse and walking around the observation deck was one of her favorites.
Sue & Heyden are really enjoying the close inspection of this blockhouse.  Visitors are able to wander through these buildings and get a sense of the soldiers’ views of the surrounding areas.  One side of the view has changed.  That would be the view of modern downtown Bismarck, just a couple miles away.
This blockhouse, one of 3, was built to protect the Fort.  They were a safe lookout post, a defensive fortification and, sometimes, a holding place for prisoners.  At times, army scouts were billeted there.
A reproduction of the original cemetery for the Fort.  As stated above, the remains have been relocated.  Just as we looked over the headstones indicating where the soldiers died at the Bighorn, this cemetery signified the reality of the dangers that were all too real.
Another view from the infantry post…..the Missouri River.  For the soldiers, this view included the cavalry post below.
This tree swallow posed pretty for us as we departed the infantry post.
The Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park also includes an agricultural Mandan Indian village, located on the banks of the Missouri River, occupied from 1650 to 1750.  This village consisted of about 75 lodges on 8 acres.  The Mandans built these earthen hills, carved out the inside & strengthened the hollowed out hill with timber infrastructure. Quite unique.  See pics below.  12 to 15 people occupied each earthlodge.  It was a polygamous society.  Some men had two wives, typically sisters, practical since there were twice as many women than men.  The Mandan tribe migrated north and eventually the tribe was put on a reservation.  Quite a unique society.   There are many interesting facts about the Mandan Indians.  Too many for me to write about.  Google them, they are interesting and different from my limited Indian knowledge.  We then visited the Custer home at the Fort.  It had to be rebuilt as the original was stripped for parts for other settlers’ homes after the Fort was decommissioned in 1891.  Some of the original furnishings were also recovered during the reconstruction.  A center for entertainment for the officers & their families, this home was a busy place during the Custers occupation.  We had a marvelous tour given by an engaging docent whose winter job is teaching high school in Bismarck.  He made the story come alive.  He could/would not accept the tip we offered to reward his wonderful stories.  We wearily returned to camp after a looong day.
A Mandan indian earthlodge circa 1650 to 1750.  This is a reproduction.  When Lewis & Clark came through here in 1804 the village was in ruins.  Rebuilt in 1937.
Inside the lodge is the timber infrastructure.  I think the original timbers were more primitive.  It’s a bit dark without the flash.  They must have had good eyes.  Well, they kept a fire burning I suppose.
3 in a row.  Kind of looks like condos, eh?  The other earthlodges on site had a bit more space between them.
This house was for the use of the commander of Fort Abraham Lincoln.  General Custer & his wife occupied the house in and around 1875.  Originally it  was surrounded by officers’ housing that no longer exists.
The dining room was often in use as the Custers entertained frequently.
At one end of the parlor is a space for music.  Our docent showed Heyden how to ‘play’ the violin to illustrate how an evening’s entertainment was accomplished in the good ol’ days.  A corner of the piano can be seen in the lower left of the pic.
The large kitchen was fully stocked and a very busy part of the home.  There were a few servants to help run this busy household.
Heyden clutches the sabre usually worn by our ‘sarge’ Johnson, docent.
A  Northern Flicker is busy hunting beetles & ants in the grass outside Custer’s home.  Flickers are woodpeckers who eat on the ground.  We have watched them rat-a-tat furiously with their beaks jamming into the ground just like their cousins jam into trees to get bugs.
On to Mandan, ND