Evel Knievel Ride Day 2: Pompey's Pillar

My second day on the road through Montana, I stopped at Pompey's Pillar National Monument. The large rock butte sets beside the Yellowstone River, just outside of Billings. There is a lot of history here and it is worth the stop if you pass this way on I-94.

Pompey's Pillar is noteworthy because it holds the only existing physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. During the explorers' return journey, William Clark carved his name into the rock here, and mentioned this place in his journal. By dumb luck, I just happened to visit on the 207th anniversary of the day Clark carved his name in history.

From his journal we know William Clark gave this place its name. The expedition's Native American guide Sakakawea, carried her infant son with her on the journey. Clark took a liking to the infant and nicknamed the child "Pompey." From that, he named this butte "Pompey's Pillar."

There are approximately 200 stairs that lead to a viewing platform at the top of the pillar. The view of the Yellowstone River and Montana country side is really amazing. It occurred to me that William Clark saw this same view (almost the same) 207 years ago.

Another historical tidbit, in 1873 Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and his men were camped across the Yellowstone from Pompey's Pillar when they were attacked by the Sioux Indians who were firing from the base of the pillar.

Today, Pompey's Pillar is more civilized than when Clark or Custer were here, thanks to the efforts of the National Park Service. There is an air conditioned visitor's center with a gift shop. I appreciated that air conditioning since it was nearly 100 degrees that day.

Outside, I braved the heat and wondered down the cement path that led to the Yellowstone River. A gentle breeze stirred the leaves of the giant cottonwood trees and it was noticeably cooler near the water. I lingered a few minutes in the shade and watched the fast moving Yellowstone flow northeast toward North Dakota. A few minutes of peace, then it was time to go. 

Back in the parking lot, the burning sun bore down and I dreaded getting back into my riding gear. But, refilled my Camel Bak with cool water from the visitor's center and got ready to ride. I hated to admit it, but there was a schedule to keep regardless of the temperature. Butte, Montana was about 250 miles to the west and I needed to be there by evening.

Waves of heat radiated up from the black parking lot as I rolled away from Pompey's Pillar. I would have liked to spent a couple more hours soaking up the history and air conditioning on this stop. These is just never enough time for everything on the road, but this shortened visit it gives me a reason to come this way again.