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.