North Dakota

I left the Buffalo Chip and headed north. It was difficult. As big ‘ol Randy said, “There is something about this place. It’s like an old friend.”

The weather in the Black Hills is so deceptive. I could see this storm to the west on my left. Why I didn’t check the radar, I don’t know? Sturgis will make you forget things. I tried to predict it. Knowing what Randy and I rode into the previous day, I should have known. Even when you are looking dead at a storm, you don’t know how it’s going to behave. Regardless, I saw a storm to my left so I took the road to the right. In the wild, wild west that’s how it works. One can easily forget how quickly one has moved on to a completely different environment. Needless to say, I took the wrong road. That storm to the left was moving to the right as I went straight on to meet it full force. I got slammed.

When I crossed the border into North Dakota the rain let up. I stopped at a gas station and asked some fellow travelers from Sturgis how that road to the left was. They said, “Not bad, a little windy.”

Oh well. I was a little beat up, but I survived. I carried on to stay at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This is the Badlands of the north. I was cold. I was wet. I stayed up to look at the stars, then went to bed.

At sunrise the next morning something fantastic happened. I heard sounds like one would hear in Jurassic Park. Loud snorts and groans. I could hear actual chomping on the foliage just outside my tent. It was the buffalo!

I had seen them from afar the day before, but this was tremendous! Even a wild horse roamed past.

They were all around me! It was the most exhilarating feeling. I got out and walked amongst them.

I immediately figured out the pecking order and quickly picked up on their behaviors. There was definitely an alpha to this herd. They all took his lead in the direction of their grazing.

Below is the look you don’t want to see. THis is how he looked at the other bulls just before he charged at them.

The alpha bull’s main concern was his girl. Every once in a while another bull would get a little too close and he would let him know who is boss by taking a quick charge at him. Then he was quick to return to his babe before another bull went for a mount.

I was tired after a late night with the stars followed by a break of dawn rendezvous with the great buffalo herd. I decided I would stay a second night. As I was setting my hammock up between the picnic table and a tree the camp host came by. Sorry no hanging anything form the trees she told me. Hmmmm. I was not satisfied with not hanging my hammock, so I made my own trees.

The next morning I headed out to ride the loop around the park.

A group of wild horses grazed about near the side of the road.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park did not offer the variety of color and formations that the it’s South Dakota Badland brother does, but the wildlife more than makes up for it. Running with the buffalo was an overwhelming experience I will not soon forget.

Just outside the park are the remnants of an old slaughter house.

I traveled a route recommended my the cook at Sturgis. There was lot of lush farmland along the way.

I rode past a sign. It said Knife River Indian Villages. I knew the site of Fort Mandan was nearby. Fort Mandan was where Louis and Clark had set up camp. (If you have kept up with this blog, you will know I am a big Louis and Clark head). So I turned around. What was this Knife River site?

The village at Knife River was only the home of Sakagawea herself. Well, it became her home once she was kidnapped by the Hidatsas from her people. I was in awe of the fact that I stumbled upon this.

The parks department has recreated an earth-lodge dwelling as would have been see here in the scores. It’s a phenomenal structure. Unassuming on a the outside. and spacious and cool on the inside.

The village once sat here by the edge of the Knife River. And Louis and Clark once walked amongst these people right here.

I spoke to the ranger for a while. He told me that the Fort Mandan site is not only a recreation of the old fort, but many miles from where the actual fort would have rested. He said the actual fort site is long gone and believed to be where the present power plant lies. How fortunate to have come here. This is sacred historical ground.

It is difficult to see the texture of the ground from eye level. But from an aerial view you can see the circumference of the form earth dwellings.

The Ranger snapped a shot of me holding a buffalo skull.

I camped out at Lake Sakakawea State Park. The spelling and pronunciation of this amazing woman who probably is  soley responsible for Louis and Clark’s survival on numerous occasions is varied. The park and nearby town use the “k” version. I had a peninsula on the lake all to myself. I placed the tent with in some all day shade on a bed of soft grass. Real comfy.

In the morning Keith the Park Ranger stopped by my neck of the woods. He was on a mission to kill a pesky badger who has been burrowing in the sides of the cliffs compounding an already bad erosion problem.

Keith used to ride. He said he quit after his 3rd near death experience. Flat front blow out at 75MPH, a wipe out from some gravel of a twisty curve, and something else I don’t remember.

We talked about this and that. Freaking fracking and whatnot. He tells me this lake is the best fishing spot in the United States. The best fish around with the lowest mercury content. He said if I ever pass by this way again, I should look him up and he will take me out on his boat to do some fishing.

This was a real nice park. They even had a kid come around before I left just to dust off the signs.

That cook at Sturgis told me I should check out the National Fishery while in the area by the dam. So I did.

The fish start out in these jars before being introduce to tubs, then large beds, then ponds outside before being released.

I moved on east. I am going to leave you with some photos of the rest of my journey across North Dakota. Later!

10 Responses to “North Dakota”

  1. That was nuts, Pat. Bufallo everywhere. Surprised that big one didn’t flatten you. It’s a Bison though, right. Aren’t buffalo extinct?

    • There was a moment with that big guy. He gave that look and a snort. I gently backed off. Yeah bison is the correct term for them, but I am the Great White Buffalo!

  2. brian sherman Says:

    You have you path planned coming back east?

  3. Gary Grammond Says:

    Pat, my son and I were backcountry camping in Theo Roosevelt this summer and had many fantastic experiences with the horses, buffalo, and elk. I’ve been following you’re trips for a couple of years now and really enjoy the balance of writing and photography. Both are excellent! Don’t change a thing. Keep the shiny side up, Gary

  4. Brian Sherman Says:

    Good enough, enjoy the ride. I was out and about in the Mid Atlantic riding this weekend, was checking to see if our paths would cross. Be Safe and look forward to more posts and photos. Great work!!!

  5. Peter Bauman Says:

    Really amazing stuff Pat!

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