Flora of the Sonoran Desert

One year ago I was standing on the edge of a big hole in the ground. This year, I’m awaiting the impending apocalypse. What a better way to pass the time than to relive the days when we could all go shopping and not worry about whether or not there will be toilet paper on the store shelves. If you’re one of the 3 people who will read this post, and you also happen to have a thing for cacti, then you’re in luck – this post is filled with cacti. Also flowers, because duh. Arizona was a really, really neat place and I will go back there someday, no hesitation. That is, if the world is still functional in a few years. Time will tell. The photos below are from the few days I spent in AZ last March. The first day there, we went hiking at a place called Cave Creek. An amusing aside, before the photos: less than 24 hours in AZ territory, I thought it would be fun to pick up a little cactus and bring it, where? Unclear in the moment; what was clear was the fact that as I was carrying the little cactus by one of its spines, I dropped it. Instead of letting it fall to the ground like a normal human being, I instead used my cat-like reflexes to catch the little cactus. Gravity assisted in the usual way, and caused the spines to become deeply embedded into my fingers. Of both hands. It was painful, yes, but I think I was more embarrassed than anything. I ran up to my travel companions, and asked for assistance. They thought I had a handful of rocks – imagine their surprise when they saw a handful of cactus, instead! Using a bottle cap, a rock and some ingenuity, they were able to free my hands of their spiky prison. It resulted in a little blood and a lot of complaining. Overall, a fairly typical experience for me. Also, I can say that I’ve been “cactus-embedded-in-hands” free for one whole year, now, so I’d say that’s something to write home about.

Please enjoy the photos below, as I think they are very nice. But don’t take my word for it.


Cave Creek, AZ


Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix AZ


Sedona, AZ


The Grand Canyon, South Rim

Words & Flowers

Okay. So the six individuals who are currently following my blog (with a passion, I’m sure) might have noticed that I recently went through a name change. The essence of the blog remains, which is flowers, accompanied as always by words. Words & Flowers. Makes sense, right? I thought so.

As a sort of “grand re-opening” to my blog, I should like to share with you a series of photos I took in the last week or so, of my most favorite of flowers, lilacs and crab apple blossoms! They really do capture the essence of spring, embodying it fully. They make me oh so happy. Seriously, just take a look at them! I’m sure that if you are in a bad mood, you will be totally in a much better mood after spending some time on my blog. Unless you hate flowers and find words to be particularly annoying, then perhaps you should go somewhere else. I’ll bid you farewell now.

For the rest of you that love (or in the very least, tolerate) flowers, hold onto your hats! It’s about to get a whole lot more pink, purple and white up in here.

First up, the lilacs. They’re pretty self explanatory, I should think.

Oh aren’t they just lovely? You can almost smell them through the screen. If you’ve not ever taken the time to go out and put your sniffer to a lilac bush, you’ve been missing out on life. Now, if you are deathly allergic to lilac pollen, I am in no way encouraging you to go out and smell one, for your safety. Obviously. Anyway, they’re all but done blooming in this part of the land. A bittersweet time, spring is. The flowers bloom but ever so shortly, before giving way to plain old leaves. How dull. If you must, take a moment and go back to look at the beauty of the lilacs. I’ll wait.


Okay, now that we’ve twice examined the lilac flowers, let’s move on to the crab apple blossoms, in shades of pink and white.

Don’t they just make you happier than heck when you look at them? I know they do for me! Such happy, cheerful little blossoms, just going along doing whatever it is that blossoms do. Obviously making people happier than heck is priority numero uno for them.


Alright, moving onward to the last section of flowers I’ll be showcasing in this blog. I went back to southern Minnesota for Memorial Day weekend, and there was a whole pasture filled with purple Dame’s Rocket flowers. According to the Minnesota Wildflowers website, this plant is invasive and must be eradicated. Um, no thanks. I like flowers too much to just kill them for being who they are. It’s why I hate to partake in any dandelion massacres as well. They’re only a weed till you get to know them.

And there you have it! Words and Flowers, as promised. Expect to see more of the same soon. Soonish. Probably.

Have a wonderful day! 🙂

There And Back Again: A Swedish Christmas Adventure

Quick question: where did the first 1/6th of the year go? I had several intentions of writing a blog post immediately after returning from my three-week hiatus in Sweden with my sister, but time just kind of slipped away. Also I had to go back to work and do adult-life things, like buy groceries and get a promotion and purchase a new bedroom set. All necessary things, I assure you.

Okay so moving on, or perhaps backwards, to the middle of December (way back in 2017), when Sara and I were at home, mentally preparing ourselves for the 9 hours we would be spending on 2 different planes over the course of the next two days. Traveling across time zones is just the weirdest thing ever.

We were packed and ready to go. The parents were kind enough to give us a lift to the cities, and once we made it through security it was time to begin the waiting game. Our flight from Minneapolis was delayed about an hour, and we finally boarded around 7:30 after sitting in the airport for 3 hours. Upon arrival in Iceland, 6:30 am Icelandic time and 1:00 am MN time, we were baffled to discover a strike was in progress. Yes, an actual strike by the maintenance crew for Icelandair. They wanted more money. Same old story. Anyway, our 7:30 am flight was delayed until who knows when, with more information being provided at 9 am. So, the waiting game continued. We did board the plane at 9 am for Stockholm, thank goodness. I did not relish the idea of hanging out in Reykjavik. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy the opportunity to explore the country, I just had places to be and people to meet 1700 miles east of there. We did end up getting to said places and meeting up with said people. Our flight into Sweden took about 3 hours, and we made it to Arlanda around 1:30 pm. Sweden time. A total of 11 hours had passed since adjourning our journey; needless to say, we were a bit sleepy. And in need of a shower.

I shan’t regale you with the minute details of our time in Sweden, but let me tell you that there was definitely sight-seeing, family-visiting, and walking in the rain. Sweden is a damp, dark country in the winter. Nearly everyone we talked to said that we really should come back in the summer, it’s so much nicer in the summer, why did you come in the winter, it’s so dark and there’s nothing to do, and so on. We really just wanted to go on an adventure in a semi-foreign country and see if we could manage it. Well, we didn’t die or get mugged so I’d say we managed it just fine.

On to the photos.

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This is Mälaren, a very large lake with many fingers, stretching East to West, North to South. This photo is taken from Hässelby Strand, where Sara and I stayed for two of the three weeks.
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Flowers in December!
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The big clock tower in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan. It’s only like, 4:00 in this photo. Depressing, right?
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The Christmas Market in Gamla Stan, held in Stortorget Square, was quite quaint, with several homemade goodies, glögg, and reindeer meat.
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The Christmas Market in Old Town.
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The man standing below the half moon of lights is selling candied almonds. I didn’t have any but boy did they smell delicious!

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Christmas trees in the King’s Courtyard.

So that was the first week. We figured out how the trains worked, went to Old Town and the Mall of Scandinavia (which is the largest mall in Sweden, but is still way smaller than the Mall of America), and we bought groceries and slept and watched Netflix. Swedish Netflix is just subpar compared to American Netflix, because TV shows are released at different times in different countries. Sad, I know. We learned that the hard way.


The next series of photos are from our time in Skåne County, in southern Sweden. Our cousin and his family live near Malmö, so we traveled by train to spend Christmas with them. Apparently Skåne is just littered with castles, being on the coast it makes sense. We visited a castle which is now a museum/restaurant, although we did not eat at the restaurant due to the fact that it was closed due to the fact that it was Christmas Day. There was a nice forested path around the little lake that the castle sat near. It was fairly chilly and misty, but it was nice to go exploring.

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The two-year-old was not impressed with my camera. It interrupted his castle-staring.

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I found a small herd of horses, and they were hanging out in the distance but I coaxed them over and soon they were close enough for us to pet them. They were friendly little buggers. When I was in Sweden I was told that it is “illegal” to have one horse by itself. Horses are herd animals and therefore need a buddy. I’m totally on board with that law. 🙂

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Just five-year-old things.
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This guy lived next to a road and was therefore much less impressed by my clicks and kisses. Grass is more important.
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Finally, the castle! How regal.

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Okay so that was the castle we visited on a rainy Christmas Day. On the 26th, my cousin took Sara, his 5-year-old daughter and I to the southernmost point in Sweden, as seen below. This was the first day of the 4-day-long cold I was plagued with during the trip. Sara was also ill. Riding the 4-hour train ride back to Stockholm the next day was not fun, I tell you what. I think people looked at us like we had the Black Plague or something.

Moving on to a better topic, Smygehuk!

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The distances to various major European cities from this point.
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Sara and Freja, looking out across the Baltic Sea.
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A rare photo of me, plus Sara and Freja.
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It was hella windy, as you might be able to tell by this photo.
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And this photo.
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And this one.
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This was a giant metal funnel thing you could peer through. If you scroll down to the photo immediately past the daisy photo, you will see a giant metal statue of a man sitting on a giant metal chair, with the giant metal funnel in front of him as if he were looking through it.
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A daisy! A real, live daisy! In December!
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The giant metal man, chair, and funnel, as described in the photo above the daisy photo.
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The Southern Swedish Sea.
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The most quaint boathouses I ever did see!

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My cousin and his daughter, cheesin’!

Okay, so good food, laughs, and sharing memories basically sums up our time in Skåne county. Oh, we also went to Copenhagen, Denmark for a few hours, basically to say we did it. The bridge between Sweden and mainland Europe is about 15 kilometers, and because we took a car (there is a train that passes underneath the bridge for regular commuters) we had to pay a $60 fee. Both ways. But hey now I can say I’ve visited Denmark, so that’s a thing!


After we got back to Stockholm and spent two days recovering from our respective colds, we spent our last Saturday in Sweden with our good family friends, who took us to Sweden’s oldest town, Sigtuna.

But first, we made a pit stop along the way:

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This is actually the church in Sweden where my parents got married!

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As you can likely imagine, Sweden is home to many, many, many runestones. So many, in fact, that people decided to use them when building walls. It makes sense, why waste a perfectly good piece of stone by putting it in a museum?
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It’s also the church where my grandparents on my Mom’s side are buried.
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Isn’t it just the prettiest?
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HĂĄtuna = village name; k:a = church
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Oh, the moss on that stone wall! How vibrant!

Okay so after our pit stop we continued down the road to Sigtuna. Being the oldest town in Sweden means you should probably be home to some pretty bad-ass ruins, and sure enough, there were some bad-ass ruins.

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This is St. Olof’s Church, which is through to be built around the year 1100. Nobody really knows who built it, but it is dedicated to the Norwegian Viking King Olaf Tryggvasson. Apparently there are remains of an even older stone church that this currently really old church is built upon. It is thought to be the first one built in Sweden.
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Can you spot the sneaky runestone, built into the wall of the ruin?
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There is a fence around the church, likely to keep mischievous children out or because it’s currently crumbling down and is a liability, probably both.
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Usually these runestones say something about someone’s father, but it’s hard to say.

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Here was another, less interesting ruin.
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The house that was located near the second ruin was vastly more interesting.
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A festive tree in the middle of the town square.
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Sigtuna has the loveliest, most colorful buildings and it was wonderful.

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More colorful buildings.

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This café, Tant Bruns Kaffestuga, is thought to be one of the oldest in Sweden, serving coffee since the 1700s and it’s still open today!
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Such festive windows!
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The cutest little ever-gnome! (I just made that up, will be officially claiming the term)

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The cutest door award goes to this fella.

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How classically Sweden is this little house?

After our stint in Sigtuna, we headed over to Uppsala, a university town through-and-through. Uppsala Univeristy is the oldest university in Sweden and all of the Nordic countries that is still in operation. Fancy, huh?

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This is the Uppsala domkyrka, a super huge church with lots of important people buried in it, like the first king of Sweden and Carl Linnaeus, the famous botanist.
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Very symmetrical.

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Below this gorgeous stained glass window is an enormous pipe organ; a few of the pipes can be seen glinting in the shadows to the left.

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The first king of Sweden.
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And his crest.

It was a good day of sight-seeing, to be sure.


The remaining photos are from one of our last outings into the city. I managed to get a few photos in between rain showers.

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SO MANY SWANS AND DUCKS
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A classic shot of Stockholm.

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A remaining rose in Kungsträdgården.
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They had a large ice skating rink in Kungsträdgården as well, open to the public.

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I included this photo because this is the very bench we sat on as a family in 2010, as you can see below.
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My dad took this photo. Don’t we look like a happy bunch! My brother is pissed, my sister is mad, and I’m eating ice cream. This photo ended up being on our Christmas card for that year 🙂

Well, that’s it, folks! I hope you enjoyed browsing through my photos and reading about my adventure. It’s easier if I don’t set a timeline for these things, so I’ll just say till next time, dear reader!

 

 

 

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. 🙂