A Visit to the Desert of North Dakota

North Dakota? Home to a desert? Who would have guessed that. North Dakota is fairly well known for it’s immense flatness and subzero coldness, which doesn’t quite fit the bill for what is traditionally thought of as a “desert.” Okay, so maybe North Dakota doesn’t quite have a desert, but it does have some pretty spectacular-looking Badlands in the southwest corner of the state.

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This past weekend, I went camping in the Badlands of North Dakota with this guy named Dan. Dan and I have been hanging out for the past few months, and I think I can safely say that he is basically my only friend in Jamestown at the moment. Well, technically he is my boyfriend but that’s beside the point. Not that I’m 100% clear on what the point here is. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been working here since May and I haven’t made any friends other than the dietitian (who was also my preceptor at the State Hospital this past spring) I work with. And even so, she’s more of an aunt-like figure in my life rather than a friend. Making friends is hard, especially when you don’t have a great affinity toward most people, like I do.

Okay so now that we have covered the fact that I don’t have any friends, let’s get back to the camping trip.

We stayed in a campground outside of Medora, ND. If you’re wondering where Medora is, just find I-94 on a map and go approximately 25 miles east of the Montana-North Dakota boarder. It’s a good distance (as in 130 to 330 miles) from basically all larger cities besides Dickinson, but even Dickinson is 40 or so miles away. Medora sits right on the southern edge of the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Which is the only National Park in North Dakota. So that’s neat. National Parks are always fun. I honestly don’t know if people actually live in Medora or not, or if it is basically a summer tourist-trap town and people commute every day or live in housing during the busy season. Totally unsure. I guess I could have asked someone, but that would require interaction with another human being. So I’ll have to settle with never knowing. Which is fine.

Dan and I left Jamestown around 11 am on Friday morning. We arrived in Medora (after Google Maps took us on a super random dirt road that we definitely did not need to drive on, there were a lot of cattle on the road, which made for difficult driving. The scenery was breathtaking, however.) around 3:00 or so. And actually, we were planning on staying at Sully Creek State Park, which was about 2 miles south of Medora, but when we got there the park ranger told us that all of the campsites were full. Everything out there is non-reservable, and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Apparently there was some big bike race that weekend, and there were people from all over there to ride their bikes in either the 25 mile or the 100 mile bike race. Now, I enjoy riding my bicycle, but 100 miles seems excessive. If I were to hop on my bike right now, without any training, it would probably take me about 9-ish hours to go 100 miles. And that would be 9-ish hours without stopping. So, good for those people who spent their Saturday riding their bicycles for an inordinately large amount of miles; I spent mine sleeping in and looking at colorful dirt hills. But more of that in a moment.

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The colorful dirt hills.

Dan and I set up the tent, which was much easier to assemble than the tent that I had when I went on my road trip out west with Sara and Jennifer. And Dan had totally offered us his tent but we decided to go with someone else’s tent, which was great but it definitely leaked. Dan’s tent, we found out that night, does not leak, which is a nice characteristic for a tent to have. It also has a fancy little porch area, screened in, of course, in which all of the shoes and dirt from the shoes can gather. This porch area also get super full of water when it rains, as the rain fly does not cover that particular part of the tent, but the designers of the tent kept this in mind and made sure that there is a handy way of removing any puddles from inside the tent. So, to make a long story short, Dan’s tent is a good tent, and does not leak. Actually I think this is the first time I have slept in a tent and not gotten wet. And I’ve gone camping a lot. I guess we just had bad luck with tents.

Okay, so tent was assembled, and we were hungry so we walked to town. Oh, yeah. So since the Sully Creek State Park sites were all full, we asked the Park Ranger where else we might stay. He gave us a few suggestions, and Dan called these suggestions. We managed to find a place to stay, at the Medora Campground. Which was conveniently located about half a mile from its namesake. So, Dan and I walked to the town and wandered around a bit. We had already decided that we would eat at a place called Badlands Pizza, because Dan loves pizza and requires pizza at least 2 times per week. We got there before the dinner rush, and we had nothing to do for the next two hours, so we got a pitcher of Summer Shandy and drank that, and then we got a bottle of Moscato, which we also drank. I am not a beer person in the slightest, but Summer Shandy was tolerable. The wine, however, was delicious. We ordered a pizza with vegetables, and it was spicy, so I did not enjoy it. I’m sure the average person would have not thought anything of the spice, but as the saying goes: “Swedes think milk is a spice.” I guess that fits, because I do not like spicy food. But my mom, who is 100% Swedish though and through, loves spicy food, so much so that she probably doesn’t even notice when it is spicy and so I have to specifically request that she not make food spicy to which I receive an eye roll and a mini-lecture on how spicy food is good for me. Yes, I am aware of the health benefits of spicy food, but that doesn’t change the fact that it hurts my tongue. So, for now, I will avoid spicy foods, lest my tongue fall off in protest.

After pizza and beer and wine (does pizza go with wine? We weren’t sure, but we also didn’t really care.), we made our way to the Medora Musical. Since we had been drinking, we decided to walk. It was only like, a mile and a half, but this mile included a rather large hill, which we had not been anticipating. We were offered a ride, once, but we declined. The walk was good for us, and it only took about half an hour.

The Medora Musical is a musical (who would have guessed) that is held every night during the summer. They do a different show every year, but the same show every night. It’s kind of a big deal, like, multiple-billboards-along-major-interstates-in-North Dakota-and-probably-Minnesota-and-maybe-South Dakota-kind-of-deal. Yeah. So, it was an experience, and my first time attending the Medora Musical will likely be my last. The singers were good, but it just wasn’t really my style. Too much country. Which I probably should have expected, but to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect. Anyway, I can now cross the Medora Musical off of the bucket list of things that I didn’t know I would ever have on a bucket list.

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A nice photo of the outdoor amphitheater in Medora. I think they’re trying to channel a Hollywood-esk vibe.

So after the musical concluded, Dan and I walked back to our campsite. It was cold but we survived. Going downhill is incidentally much easier than going uphill. We made it to the tent, and shortly thereafter it started raining. Which is very pleasant when you know that the tent isn’t going to leak.

On Saturday, we got up and had breakfast and eventually got our act together enough to go do something. We decided to drive through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park since it was possibly going to rain more and we also had no idea what else to do in Medora. We could have played mini golf. Or real golf. But those require effort and besides, I’m not really good at golf, real or mini. So driving through the national park, to observe the beauty of the world while polluting it with carbon emissions from the vehicle, seemed the better option.

IMG_4380_1_1T. R. National Park is a lovely place, though. So many hills and so much dirt. Colorful dirt, though. I believe the rock that this area is known for is scoria. It’s a fancy red volcanic rock. Lovely. So, side note: I collect rocks, quite avidly. Not for any particular reason other than to clean them and place them in a jar with a label. I have approximately 70 some jars of rocks from places I have been. No clue what I am going to do with them, but for now I have a good shelf at my parent’s house in Minnesota for them to rest upon. Anyway, the national park. It was a good 40-ish mile loop around the South Unit of the park, and we stopped occasionally for photos. We stopped at this one place, called Wind Canyon. It was, you guessed it, a canyon with the Missouri River flowing through it, and several rock formations with fancy holes in them from the wind being powerful and windy and forming said holes. It was rather neat.

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Hey look, it’s Wind Canyon! And the Missouri River.
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The fancy holes made by the fierce wind.
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And the lovely rocks I was able to choose from.

Probably the most-neat part about this little area was the fact that we could get down to the river. It was about a quarter-mile trek along a cow-path, which quite possibly could have been fraught with rattlesnakes but that did not even cross my mind. I was super focused on collecting rocks. Now, I realize that this probably wasn’t the most legal thing I’ve ever done, seeing as I was trespassing  on protected land and such. But hey, needs must. I collected my rocks and we made our way back to the car, sans rattlesnake interference, and continued on our merry way. We drove around some (mega) curves and Dan was like, why do you speed up when you go around a curve and I was like, because it’s awesome. So that’s how that went.

Please enjoy these photos featuring the North Dakota Badlands.

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And because I can’t go anywhere without taking pictures of flowers and/or grass:

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Do you see the Missouri River hiding behind this scraggly-looking sunflower? 🙂

20170805_130531_1_1IMG_4383_1_1We made it back to our campsite and decided to nap, which turned into a 2.5 hour sleep. And then we were hungry so we went back into town for more pizza. And we had the same waiter from South Africa. And of course he remembered us. Also we happened to sit in the same booth as we had the night before. But the pizza was 100% times better, as we got a cheese and mushroom pizza, with half pepperoni because Dan needed to have meat on his pizza. Which means it wasn’t spicy, so my mouth was happy. We had more wine and got pleasantly drunk. We were walking around Medora at like, 10 pm and “apparently” I was being “rambunctious” because I was doing “crow pose” in the “street.” Improper use of quotation marks? Of course not. But maybe.

We made our way back to the tent and then it started raining, again. And the tent did not leak, again. Which was nice. And then Sunday came and we packed everything up and headed back to Jamestown. It was a good adventure in the desert-y hills of North Dakota, the existence of which I feel the majority of people are not aware of.

IMG_4418_1_1Another thing you may or may not be aware of:

IMG_4402_1_1NORTH DAKOTA GROWS ITS OWN CACTI. LIKE, WHAT? They were the cutest little cacti and I really really really wanted to take one but Dan said no. He said that it wanted to stay in the ground and that I would likely kill it during transport from its natural dirt home to a new fake dirt home. So I reluctantly moved on. After taking some pictures, of course. 🙂

One thought on “A Visit to the Desert of North Dakota

  1. Pingback: Travelers’ Rest Fest – Anna Linnea Photography

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