Day 212 – North Dakota Sampler (Part 2)

Day 212 – North Dakota Sampler, July 16, 2011

I failed to mention some interesting sights yesterday, the
first being during long waits due to road construction.  As we were all waiting for the flagger to
wave us on, it was mostly truckers and me, I was debating rolling down
VANilla’s window and turning off the engine.
As I glanced toward the driver side mirror, I noticed a trucker,
probably mid forties, brown hair, sunglasses, periwinkle blue T-shirt and jean
shorts step out of his cab, sidle into the space between his cab and trailer
and assume the position necessary to relieve himself.  As he is looking from side to side, I thought
surely this isn’t the case, but as he turned back toward his cab while zipping
his fly my suspicion was confirmed!  Not
too much further up the road, as I entered the town of Alexander, I was greeted
with a billboard listing the Ten Commandments.
Anyway, it was an interesting day.

I’ve survived another night of hellacious
thunderstorms.  Lightning flashed in the
sky like a strobe light in a dance club.
Some of the tent campers moved into their cars while the storm
passed.  Upon leaving the campground, I
turned east and continued past countless hay fields, rolling hills, and
farmland to Garrison.  It wasn’t a
numbered stop in the book, but New Town, the “major” city (it’s all relative)
on the Indian Reservation seemed uneventful and frankly it was too hot to spend
much time hiking across prairielands on the sunny, somewhat humid day.

Garrison calls itself the Walleye capital of the North and
displays a 26-foot fish statue named Wally at the town park.  Not far from the town park is another park
that geocaching led me to.  I found a
container hidden under an old city horse trough.

After visiting Garrison, I took a short drive through Audubon
National Wildlife Refuge until the road closure in the park required me to turn
around.  I got a quick glance of a
grouse, but it hopped into the bushes, but I think the animals were like me…not
too active.

We moved on the Knife River Indian Villages.  The earth lodge people of the Knife River
were known as the Hidatsa and are believed to have arrived around the
1300.  The tribe remained in the area for
more than 500 years.  The tribe survived
by farming land, hunting bison, and trading materials.  Lewis and Clark encountered the Indian village
during the winter of 1804 and they eventually hired Charbonneau, a
French-Canadian trader as an interpreter.
Along with Charbonneau came his wife, Sakakawea, a Shoshone who was
invaluable to expedition’s western travels.

Petey and I walked along the 1.5 mile path past the
undulating green field which was basically the remains of the earth lodge
village.  The area looked more like a
perfect golf course fairway.  The heat
index was so high, that at the end of our short walk Petey, panting heavily,
decided he just couldn’t make it to VANilla across the parking lot and plopped
down under the shade of a tree to rest.

Indian Village was a final touring spot before coming to a
rest in Bismarck.  ETB


Day 211 – North Dakota Sampler

Day 211 – North Dakota Sampler, Friday July 15, 2011

I survived a wicked thunderstorm last night.  Thunder roared as lightning flashed and rain
washed VANilla for over two hours.
VANilla is a closer shade of white now that the red Utah clay has been
washed away.  I had planned to complete
several short hikes this morning in the south end of the Theodore Roosevelt
National Park, but after 2 inches of mud caked to my trail shoes over a hundred
yard walk to the bathroom in the campground and knowing the forecast called for
out of the ordinary 97 degree temperatures, I thought better of it.

Instead, we took the 36 mile scenic loop drive through a
prairie dog town, to a handful of pullouts overlooking the North Dakota badlands
and to the Beef Corral Bottom.  Along the
way, we spotted some wild horses that live in the park.

The Beef Corral Bottom used to be a large corral constructed
in 1883.  During the open range cattle
industry, ranchers would work together in the spring and fall to round up their
cattle.  The Beef Corral Bottom was one
of the areas where cattle were held for transportation to the slaughterhouse.  The disturbed land provides an ideal location
for a prairie dog town.

I was unsuccessful in spotting the bison in the southern end
of the park, so I headed for the northern section.  Despite only being home to approximately 100
bison, 1/3 of the population of the southern section, I located just about all
of them.  A portion of the herd with
calves rested on the hillside close to the road while another portion camped out
atop the ridge.

I was also lucky to find nine of the eleven longhorns known
to live in the park!

In addition to the wildlife I enjoyed the vast fields of
wildflowers and a variety of geological structures including slump formation,
Bentonitic Clay, and Cannon Ball Concretions.

Slump formations are tilted mounds that were once part of
higher cliffs.  Over time, the stream
cutting against their base over-stressed the cliffs which slid downhill yet
still maintained their layered pattern.

The blue-black popcorn-like soil that caps some of the
plateaus is known as Bentonitic Clay.
The clay flows when it is wet and can be traced for miles up and down
the river.

Cannon Ball Concretions are large spherical boulders.  They may have any shape, but most are
round.  Concretions are formed within
rocks (shale, clay, sandstone) by the deposition of mineral around a core.

After visiting the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, I
continued to the north to the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
where a partial reconstruction of the fort stands today.

Just down the road, I visited Fort Buford State Historical
Site.  The field officer’s quarters,
constructed in 1871, is the location where Hunkpapa leader Sitting Bull
surrendered in 1881 which helped end warfare on the northern plains.  Sitting Bull told his young son Crow Foot to
hand over his Winchester to Major Brotherton and is recorded as saying, “I
surrender this rifle to you through my young son, who I now desire to teach in
this manner, now that he has become a friend of the American people.  I wish to teach him the habits of the whites
and to have him educated as their sons are educated.  I wish it to be remembered that I was the
last man in my tribe to surrender my rifle.”

I finished the day camping in Lewis and Clark State
Park.  It was absolutely packed.  Every campsite was taken.  They let me stay in a parking lot where
walk-in tent campers park.  At first I
just thought it was due to a Friday night at the lake; then I realized several
of the campers were decorated with Christmas lights for a Christmas in July
celebration.  Too bad I missed the
festivities!  ETB