Leaving the Black Hills, we headed west to the base of the Big Horn Mountains and Sheridan, one of our favorite stops. We settled into Peter D’s RV Park for a few days of exploring along U.S. routes 14 and 16 which cut through the towering mountains to the west. The foothills this time of year are a brilliant green that often contrasted with the dark skies as thunderstorms developed in the mountains and moved through the plains.
We’re always interested in the history of the West, and so our first stop was Fort Phil Kearny, a state historic site where one of the most memorable incidents involving the Army and Indian tribes occurred in 1866. Ten years before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, members of the Lakota, Arapaho, and Cheyenne tribes, angered by the influx of settlers and the building of Army Forts to protect them, decided to act. On the morning of December 21st, a wood-cutting party came under attack about four miles from the fort. Captain William Fetterman, a Civil War veteran who boasted “Give me 80 men and I can ride through the whole Sioux nation" (you know this is going to end badly), left the fort with 80 men, mostly infantry. Instead of following orders not to pursue the enemy, he and his men chased a number of Indian decoys over the ridge seen behind the monument. There, over 1000 warriors waited – and within 20 minutes all 81 were dead. Captain Fetterman would probably be more widely known if, ten years later, Custer had not led his troops into even a bigger debacle. It’s an interesting story of poor judgment and finger pointing – you can read more here.
Two routes cross the Big Horn Mountains, 14 to the north of Sheridan and 16 to the South. Of the two, Route 14 is the one with the most difficult climbs, and most RVers use Route 16. Route 24 climbs quickly and then levels out with wide meadows and distant mountains. There are plenty of dirt roads to explore and they gave us great views of fast-running streams and distant snow-covered mountains.
We didn’t do any hiking on this trip; maybe because the temperature was in the low 40s and windy but also because of the altitude. Just before the highway dives down into a valley as the mountains end, we stopped at this observation point, which wasn’t the highest point of our day, but may have been the coldest at 34 degrees.
We always enjoy a stay in Sheridan. The town is just the right size with ample shopping and dining, but without traffic jams or pollution. And how could you not be in a good mood walking around town with the friendly people, rolling green hills in the distance, and snow capped mountains on the horizon?
We’re still traveling – check back and see where we’ve been!