2021 ~ Adventures with The LovedOne

Well, 2021 started out bleak, then got happier, then got sad again. This was thanks to the two V’s – variants and vaccinations. Too much of one, not enough of the other. But we survived (yet again), with The LovedOne remaining as elusively photogenic as ever. But, thanks to being vaccinated, we were able to have a few big adventures without expiring.

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Oak Leaf Loop (Sheyenne National Grassland) 28-Sep-2021

The Sheyenne National Grassland sits about 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Fargo, North Dakota. It’s the only national grassland on the tallgrass prairie; The National Park Service manages another remnant of this prairie type in Kansas. Tallgrass prairie once covered 170 million acres (68 million ha) of North America, but within a generation most of it had been transformed into farmland. Today less than 4% remains intact.

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Four Days in Fargo (September 2021)

It’s the early 1890s. A young man from Wisconsin steps off the train in Bismark, North Dakota to grow wheat on the 160 acres (65 ha) he’d obtained either from the federal government or the Northern Pacific Railway (now part of the BNSF Railway). The railroad, desirous of customers, had painted a pretty rosy picture of how easy it would be to grow crops on the Northern Plains. It wasn’t. It was a hard life. His family grew to seven children, but only four survived past infancy. The weather could be beyond harsh. But he hung on and perhaps even prospered – for a while.

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Jones Creek Trail (Theodore Roosevelt National Park) 15-Sep-2019

Our homage roadtrip to explore some of Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation legacy finally brought us to where it all seems to have started – Medora, North Dakota and today’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Again we were graced with good weather for hiking, with some artistic clouds, mild breezes, and a cool (at least in the morning) air temperature. To call this area the “badlands” completely obscures the alluring beauty of its rolling terrain with its scattered trees already changing color as Fall nears, multi-colored grasses and shrubs, incised watercourses, and sweeping horizons. I felt a subliminal affinity for this land (but then we weren’t visiting in mid-winter either o_O ).

With a good number of trails in the park to chose from, we went with a Jones Creek Trail / Roundup Trail combination mainly because it didn’t involve too much driving or too many creek crossings. It had rained heavily in the days prior to our visit and the creeks, while no longer too deep to cross, were nonetheless pretty muddy in spots. Along Jones Creek we had only two easy mud-free crossings followed by a short climb up the Roundup Trail to some big views. Our plan to continue along that trail to where it intersects the park road was thwarted when a herd of buffalo – with one especially large bull in front – decided to scatter themselves along the trail. These large animals look seductively placid until suddenly they’re not and you’re pulped into the trail and splattered with buffalo poop. 😥 So we decided to retreat gracefully to the trailhead and go watch the prairie dogs gambol about (hikers are almost never trampled by prairie dogs…).

We wrapped-up the day with a visit to the banks of the Little Missouri River and Roosevelt’s Maltese Ranch cabin (which is preserved at the visitor center). In all, a very good day for a hike, for family memories, and for enjoyment of TR’s legacy. 😀

Along the Jones Creek Trail
Along the Jones Creek Trail
Grasslands and clouds along the Jones Creek Trail
Clouds and sage along the Jones Creek Trail
Jones Creek
Coming to the junction with the Roundup Trail
Consulting our map at the junction of the Jones Creek and Roundup Trails
Along the Roundup Trail
View from the Roundup Trail
Along the Roundup Trail
The LovedOne contemplates the view
Colors in the soil
Painted Hills
A line of hoodoos
A large buffalo claims the trail
Heading back after being buffaloed
Fall colors
Crossing Jones Creek
Approaching the trailhead
Clouds over the Little Missouri River
Roosevelt’s Maltese Ranch cabin (preserved at the visitor center)