Montana is a BIG state.
Big sky, big rigs, big hearts.
I’ve been walking east of Glacier Park now for about two weeks, following a “cross-country ribbon of blacktop. Within Montana, this stretch of road and railway and towns and surrounding landscape became known as the Hi-Line… It’s a part of the state that never appears in the Marlboro ads or the ski brochures. Its beauties are severe and subtle and horizontal, rather than soaring and picturesque. It’s not for everybody. But the Hi-Line contains scenes, lives, and voices with dramatic force all their own. ” (excerpts from National Geographic, “Northern Montana’s Hi-Line,” Jan. 2012)
I’ve found this to be true. Those who live here — the Native people from the beginning of time and homesteaders who flocked for “free” land in the early 1900’s — deal with weather extremes year round.
Right now it’s a gentle season, yet I have felt blazing sun, whipping winds and below-freezing nights, all accompanied by the steadfast call of the locomotives that continually pass by, day and night.
There have been quiet days of few cars and fewer visits with people.
But there have been some exceptional welcomes.
Coming into Browning, the home of the Blackfeet tribe, I was greeted seven miles out by a police officer who escorted me all the way to town. At 3 miles per hour, that was a slow drive for him! Others joined the walk as I neared town, and was greeted by the Warrior Society. They honored this Veteran project by presenting a hand-beaded necklace and a large flag of the Blackfeet Nation, which flew on my cart as I crossed the reservation. Then Veterans with the Warrior Society walked a ways out of town with me, and it was a pleasure to get to know these fine people.
As I was nearing Havre, a friend from my “rocket scientist” days at China Lake joined me and walked 15 miles toward town. My wife also drove up for the night, and we were able to visit with Sterling and Von Haaland over dinner. Sterling grew up in Havre, and still has family and the family ranch nearby.
On Saturday, Linda and I explored the fascinating underground city beneath Havre, and got a good dose of Havre history from our knowledgeable tour guide. It was difficult to say goodbye to my wife that afternoon, but she is faithfully holding down the fort at home.
The next Reservation along the walk is Fort Belknap. Our friend and veteran Bernie Azure grew up there, and thanks to some phone calls, I was greeted by the leaders of Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribal council of the Fort Belknap Indian Community, including President Tracy “Ching” King and council member Donovan Archambault.
Before a nice meal in the park, they offered an Honor Song on a single drum.
It was really touching and encouraging, and I am so thankful for these Veterans who really understand the meaning of sacrifice.
I also want to thank the others who have hosted me for a night, donated to the project, and stopped to offer water or a handshake. I can’t list everyone, but please know that I am grateful that you are willing to give up your time to support the wounded veterans programs, the very reason I am taking all these steps!
I am nearing 1,000 miles and should be there sometime outside of Wolf Point.
The tenacity of the residents along this Hi-Line is remarkable, and I look forward to meeting more as I make my way towards Sidney for Monday’s Memorial Day events.
~ Semper Fi ~
Nearing 1,000 miles, Tuesday, May 21
Montana is a BIG state.