Monday, September 8, 2008

Sheyenne National Grasslands

Well, it's been a while...again. I could write a post about how well the carrots are this year, the kohlrabies that were okay, and the three great tomatos. I could show how disappointing the bush cucumbers where (none) or the couple squash that grew (wonder if it was the squash borer?). There are many great blooms that have presented themselves, like our 13 foot tall sunflowers! And of course the various missing Sunday Safaris (I still have been looking at them).

But today I will write about my overnight hike in the Sheyenne National Grasslands of North Dakota, which is part of the Dakota Prairie National Grasslands organization. Primarily I followed the trail segment that belongs to the North Country National Scenic Trail....a hiking trail in progress that reaches from North Dakota to New York. The grassland trail used to be 25 miles end-to-end and is now about 30 miles. I had planned to "yo-yo" the route and have my wife pick me up at the drop off point, but 1) I planned for the 25 mile route and 2) I haven't conditioned quite enough to make a 30 mile a day pace. I took a 23 mile and a 13 mile day.

The grassland home to the threatened Western Prairie Fringed Orchid and the ND population of prairie chickens (grouse). Apparently you can also find Dakota Skipper and Regal Fritillary butterflies at the right time of the year. I plan to return when I can spot these.

Apparently we are to be on the lookout for invasive weeds: purple loosestrife, saltcedar, yellow toadflax, and spotted knapweed.

The grasslands were really great and gave me a new perspective on my gardening goals as well. I mean, even when we "work with nature" in the garden we really aren't out to totally reproduce it (at least that what it seems).

This gives an idea of the trail surface and the marker posts for the North Country National Scenic Trail.

Close-up of the NCNST symbol.

Many "self-closing" gates blocked off sections for cattle grazing. You had to be a little quick to get through before the spring bounced the gate back.

The windmills were the main water source in the area. At least the water is pumped from a pipe in the ground.

These hills were painted red.

This is the rolling hills area...

Know what this is?... It's a red ant hill.

There's varmints out there...

I think it's a prairie chicken feather.

Was this an omen or something?

This is little guy was crossing the trail as I was nearing the end of the hike.

A small stand of pine didn't quite fit in, but it was a welcome cool from the hot prairie on the second day.

The flat prairie section, can you spot the "evidence" of cattle in this section?

Great grass view.

A bridge in the grassland.

The dew on the grasses gave an interesting look in the morning. Not a great experience to hike in wet shoes. Now I know what to plan for next time.

A marker at the west trail head.

Here are a few plant shots I took while hiking...

How could I miss a prairie rose in the prairie?

These are the sumac (I believe) that gave the hills a red color.

Some flowers...notice the sandy condition of the soil. This is why the land never worked for farming and one reason it is federal public land now.

It was a bit of an adventure that let me test the hiking waters - it wasn't the middle of nowhere, really. I could get phone coverage on hill-tops standing still. Any direction was only a few miles to a road that would lead to a town within a day.

A great hike and excellent conditions for late summer. Day one was overcast with little wind and no rain. Night was crystal clear with bright stars visible - something you don't get in town. It was a bit chilly at night, but I was toasty in my sleeping bag. I could hear sounds of wildlife including coyotes.

Human influence could still be seen...some windmills and fences. Disappointing to see a couple of beer and soda cans on the trail. At first I was upset to see all the "evidence" of cattle in the various sections - but then I learned that the cattle perform a role similar to the bison of old.

Thanks for walking with me!


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful National Grasslands. It was cool to see all the wildflowers & wildlife. Thanks for sharing your nature hike.

Beth said...

Hey Chris - I think we were near that trail this summer - near Valley City. The prairie is some of the most underrated scenery in the country, isn't it?

ChrisND said...

Hi PGL, I thought it was nice to get out and see some local public areas. It's nice that they are there to use - people just have to take care of it.

ChrisND said...

Beth, the NCT does pass from Lake Ashtabula, through Valley City, and on to the Sheyenne Scenic Byway...I have heard that the Byway is considered one of the most scenic drives in the nation! My next hike will likely be around Lake Ashtabula.

Oh, and the segment I did was near Lisbon.

Roses and Lilacs said...

That was a very interesting trip out onto the grassland. We have many of the same plants here on the eastern edge of the prairies.

Can I ask a question about the post with the ladybugs and aphids. What is the yellow flowered plant in the photos?

Connie said...

That was a neat, nostalgic virtual walk! Being a native North Dakotan, the prairie is still in my heart.
The windmill looks like the one was on our farm when I was growing up. It is now gone, damaged by winds and time.

ChrisND said...

Hi Roses and Lilacs...well Illinois is the Prairie state :-)

I will try to answer your question, but you'll have to let me know if I got the wrong plant...from "It's Aphid Control" (July 31) those are dill plants. I always have them, and they do seem to attract ladybugs.

ChrisND said...

That's great Connie...I have seen many windmills from the road, but that was the first up close in a long time great way of harnessing the wind here! I was happy to gather water from the running pipe rather than the stagnant water of the trough the cows use (I still felt better treating the water though).

Q said...

Wow, an overnight hike! I am impressed. I love going hiking but I stay out for only a few hours. I need to download photos!
The Prairie is one of my favorite places to take pictures. I love all the bugs and the blue stem grass is so lovely.
Thank you for sharing your hike.

ChrisND said...

Hi Sherry,

The prairie/grassland is a great place. It's a different experience observing the changes as night approaches and through a night. Then early morning is another set of changes. I will return here maybe a few times before freezing temperatures hit.

Day hikes are great too - the benefit is you can easily endure any bad conditions and end up comfy at home.

Gloria said...

I just found your blog,great pictures and substance.
Hiking and camping there sounds like an adventure. I so would like to do the same,soon. Maybe in the late spring would be possible.
I'll be searching through your archives for a bit...and watching for new posting whenever it appears.

ChrisND said...

Thanks for the visit Gloria! I will have to stop by your blog...I see you also have the purple aster in your garden.

It was a fun adventure...something I think I will repeat there and other places...late spring sounds like a good time to go - I know the season is getting late now (and I'm a little afraid of deer hunting season). I see that IL has parts of the American Discovery Trail (a coast-to-coast non-motorized trail)...