13 August, 2006

Trip Report, Day Four

(Wednesday, July 19, 2006)

Currently I Am In: Minot, North Dakota

Ugh. Internet access problems. My wireless card is fried, and there’s no local dial up access number here. Which is why things didn’t get posted last night. It may be a few days before I can post on my blog. There’s a Best Buy down the street from this hotel, so maybe I’ll go in and buy a new WiFi card.


Currently I Am In: Williston, North Dakota

Ended up not buying one. I was so concerned about getting things together and keeping the kids from killing one another that I completely forgot about it and drove right past the Best Buy. And I don’t think there’s one in this town, although chances are there’s someplace in this town where I can pick up a WiFi card. But perhaps I’ll just wait until I get to the Glacier National Park area before contemplating that. So for the moment, probably no updates to the blog until I can get to someplace with decent access.

Oh, and another thing. Images may be few for the time being. Right now I’m using the camera feature on my cellphone. However, I apparently didn’t pack the hot sync cable, so I can’t download the pictures to my laptop. I was planning on getting around that by emailing them to myself from off the phone, but I’ve now discovered that Sprint’s claim of coast to coast internet access for my cell doesn’t seem to apply to western North Dakota. I can call in and out, but no text messaging, no picture mail, no internet access. Blah. Looks like Glacier is going to be my next, best option. There’s a good chance I’ll post the report, and then at some later time post the images.

And in speaking of items not packed, I discovered today that I left all my Jazz CDs at home. I’ve got a bunch of the Classical CDs I’d intended to bring with me, so I’m not entirely without my music. But it does make things annoying.


Touristy things today.

First off, we headed south from Minot to Washburn, ND and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. This is a museum to commemorate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark/Corp of Discovery expedition of 1802-1806. It basically offered an overview of the expedition, of the world of the Native Americans at the time, and of early 19th Century frontier life in general. It’s a nice museum, but nearly everything in it are reproductions and aren’t even from the time period in question. They have only one actual artifact from the expedition, and it’s a small piece of one of the books that were brought along by one of the less well known expedition members. In that view, the museum is somewhat disappointing. Still, they provide a decent amount of introductory information and some interesting exhibits. The most impressive of the latter is a dug out canoe toward the back of the exhibit area.

This canoe was carved out of one single log, using only the kind of tools people at the time had. The canoe shown here is about the size of the ones Lewis and Clark used.

Outside, the boys encountered some horses from the horsefarm next door. They desperately wanted to ride them, but for obvious reasons that wasn't going to happen.

After the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, we headed a couple miles over to Fort Mandan State Historical Site. This is a reproduction of the original fort that the Corp of Discovery erected for the winter of 1803/04. Unfortunately, it is not on the site of the original fort; that site is about ten miles downstream, and sadly is now underwater due to the Garrison Dam. This version of the fort was constructed in the 1970s based on the original plans, and is said to be “98% Accurate” (The main discrepancy is that the walls are apparently three feet too short). The boys loved this place, and wanted to climb everything. They also pestered the tour guide to let them in some of the rooms, which the tour guide happily obliged.

The path to Fort Mandan.

Missouri River from Fort Mandan.

Next up was the site of Fort Clark State Historical Site, which was nearby. Not much there except an open field, a path, and some markers. This was a Fur Trading Post in the middle of the 19th Century, adjacent to one of the larger Mandan settlements. It is notable in history because it was from here that a smallpox epidemic erupted in the early 1830s, brought by the steamboat St. Peter. This epidemic wiped out about 90% of the Mandans in very short order, and eventually led to the abandonment of the site.

(NOTE: I could have sworn I took more pictures than this of the site, but this is all I could find on my camera.)

After that, we visited Knife River Indian Villages National Historical Site. This was the site of one of the largest Native American settlements west of the Mississippi; by some estimates, as many as 25,000 people lived there or in close proximity around the year 1800, making it larger than most American cities at the time. On the site is a reproduction of an Earth House, one of the wood and dirt structures the Mandans used to live in, about 20 per structure. Nearby is a field filled with circular middens outlining where such structures used to stand; at least 50 such outlines have been identified, and probably many, many more have long since been plowed over by the farmers in the area. A sad fate for what was once, for all practical purposes, a huge city.

Earth House interior.

Site of Mandan village. Some 50 middens (structure remains) are present in this field.

It should be noted that all four of the historical sites listed above are within a few miles of each other. One could very easily spend an afternoon (like we did) visiting all four with a minimum amount of travel in between. Indeed, we could have extended the historical sightseeing even more by visiting some the sites to some of the other Native American settlements in the area, but instead we elected to get back on the road and push west.

It took us about an hour from Knife River Indian Villages, but after a long drive on ND Rt. 200 and a shorter drive up a narrow dirt road, we eventually arrived at the Killdeer Battlefield Historical Site. Not much there except a memorial, a flag, and the gravestones of two US Cavalry soldiers who died there. Killdeer was one of those battles that they don’t like to talk about in school. Basically, the U.S. Cavalry came in and attacked a group of Sioux camped there, obstensibly to retaliate for a previous Sioux attack. However, the group they attacked had nothing to do with that previous attack, in fact did try to surrender, but were slaughtered anyway. Among the Sioux to escape the massacre was Sitting Bull; 12 years later, he would annihilate Gen. Custer and the 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn.

Killdeer Battlefield site.

Soldiers graves at Killdeer.

We headed back to civilization (or what passed for it in North Dakota), and then headed back north toward U.S. Route 2.

I had originally intended to try to drop by Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but by the time we arrived in the area of the North Unit it was starting to get late and the boys were eager to find someplace for us to crash. So, we ended up just driving past the park entrance, and continued on toward Williston, ND. Got a hotel there, and are now staying the night.

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