Archive for North Dakota

Trip to North Dakota

// July 20th, 2009 // No Comments » // North Dakota


When we arrived in Bismarck, both Cindy and Cris were there waiting for us.  It was great to see Cindy again and to meet Cindy’s sister Cris for the first time.  We got our luggage and then we were off to see a little bit of Bismarck.  This was my first time to SW North Dakota, so I was excited about the trip.  Cindy drove us around town and down by the river.  Next Cindy took us to a local restaurant called “The Walrus” for a late lunch.  It was a nice bar and grill.  We sat near the window and I noticed a bunch of what looked like white cotton/feathers flying around outside.  I was curious what they were, but didn’t ask.  I learned later that they were seeds for the cotton wood trees that were everywhere in the area.

We then went to Cindy’s home and got settled in.  First thing Chad and I noticed was Cindy’s beautiful garden in her back yard.  It was absolutely amazing.  Chad said there was nothing in her backyard last time he was there.  Cindy told us she had been working on her garden for over a year and it looked great.

For dinner, we went to a very nice restaurant called the Pirogue Grill.  This was high-end local restaurant in town.  It’s so great to go to local hangouts instead of chain restaurants.  The Pirogue only serves food from North Dakota.   They had some amazing foods and interesting tastes.  If you are ever in Bismarck, this is the place to go.

That evening we got to see Cindy’s school, the North Dakota Capital, and then hung out on Cindy’s deck for a little while.


Saturday morning, Cindy cooked up a great breakfast.  We had blueberry pancakes, bacon and eggs.  Chad had a special way of preparing the blueberries, so he took over cooking the pancakes.  Cris and Cindy watched Chad curiously as he counted a specific number of blueberries into each pancake.

After breakfast, Cindy had a day trip planned up to Washburn.  We took a scenic back road there that ran next to the river.  Our first stop was at the Double Ditch State Historic Site.  This is a historic site where a community of Mandan Indians lived between about 1500 and 1781.  The community had two large ditches dug around where they lived for protection.  The ditches at the time the Mandans lived there were filled with water and acted as motes.  You could still kinda visualize where the two ditches use to be.  Also there were a lot of mounds in the park that were covered in burlap.  We think the burlap was there to protect some of the artifacts left from the Indians.  We found a bunch of interesting things.  Chad was lucky and found some bones, teeth and a piece of old pottery.  Cris said that there were pieces of handmade pottery all over that area.  She actually found one large piece that had a design with red paint in the stone.  I was informed though that we (I) could not take anything with us like the pottery pieces or the bones and that if I did, I would be taken away and would remain in ND for the rest of my life.  So, I decided just to take a simple rock from the area as a souvenir.  After doing that, I seemed to have started something because I picked up something at just about everywhere we visited.  Details about each item will come later! 🙂

After Double Ditch, we continued on our drive to Washburn.  Along the way, Cris said she spotted a bald eagle.  I thought to myself, no way did she see a bald eagle.  She must have been hallucinating and just thought she saw one.  Anyway, Cindy turned the car around which I thought was a waste of time and sure enough, there it was!  A beautiful bald eagle was perched on a dead tree sitting there just for us to see!  I couldn’t believe it!  Chad captured a few blurry photos of it before it flew away.

Next stop was to tour the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn which provides an overview of the Lewis & Clark expedition.  There was a lot of information of their time spent in North Dakota at Fort Mandan during 1804-1805.  Inside was an actual wood canoe carved from the trunk of a large cottonwood tree!  It must have taken a huge amount of time to construct just one canoe!  This was a great place to visit.  I bought a couple of arrowheads since I didn’t find any back at Double Ditch! 🙂

Before visiting Fort Mandan which was included in the tour and just a short drive away, we decided to stop for a picnic at a park nearby.  We had the entire park to ourselves.  It is here where I learned about the white cotton/feathers flying everywhere.  Chad took some time to get a good artistic painting photo of the cottonwoods and I found another souvenir which was a turkey feather!   After lunch, we went to see Fort Mandan.  It is an exact replica of the fort Lewis & Clark and their men built and lived in for 5 months during the expedition.  It had about 10 rooms and they were all furnished the way it was in 1804.  After the tour, we took a short walk down by the river where I picked up my next souvenir which was a small smooth river rock!

On the drive back to Bismarck, we stopped at Smith Grove where Cindy said there were some big trees.  I didn’t think North Dakota had any big trees and not many small ones for that matter.  As it turned out, these trees were huge.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  They were about 8-9 feet in width!  I really enjoyed seeing them.  We walked through several trails and Chad got some great pictures.

When leaving Smith Grove and piling in the car, I noticed a tick on my lower leg.  I thought, on well, no big deal.  Then I found two more and thought, ok, we may have a problem.  Then everyone started checking themselves for ticks.  Cris went in front of the car to check in more detail.  We found a few more on each of us, and then decided we were good to go.  After traveling just a couple of miles down the road, Chad felt one crawling up his leg inside his jeans!  Well, that was it for me; Chad and I jumped out of the car and walked to the back, dropped our pants and started inspecting.  It was actually mid-day and thank goodness we were in the middle of nowhere.  Chad and I found quite a few on us and I actually found one in the elastic of my underwear!  After getting back in the car, Cris’s friend Colleen called her on her cell phone and the first thing she asked was “Are you having fun?”  We all then started busting out and were anxiously waiting to hear just what Cris was going to tell her!!  Cris tried to tell her in between the laughing that we were checking each other for ticks and then all of a sudden her cell signal got disconnected.  A few minutes later, Colleen called back and said, “I just wanted to call back and to say, “Carry on!”.  That said it all!  We spent the entire trip back to Bismarck finding ticks and flicking them out the window.  Every time Cris found one on her, she would squirm, and ask someone to get it off of her.  The funny thing was when there was one crawling on her face, and she said in the calmest voice ever, “Can you get this tick off my face”.  Chad later even found one in his hair!

After getting home, both Cindy and Cris went straight to the bathroom.  Cindy found 7 more on her!  Cris found one more and Chad and I found a few that we killed by burning them!  We all had never seen so many ticks.  We had about 50 combined on all of us.  What an experience!

We finally got cleaned up and had great spaghetti dinner.


We had a little bit later start on Sunday.  We got some good rest and then started getting ready for our trip to Medora.  We kept joking about having ticks, but hoped that we would not see anymore.  It wasn’t too long though (we didn’t even get out of Bismarck) when Cris thought she felt one crawling on her.  We made a quick stop and sure enough, she did in fact have one!  We think possibly there were some still left in the car.  Hopefully that would be it!  We took Old Hwy 10 for most of the trip.  It was a nice drive and we made many stops along the way to get some good photos.  We stopped to see an abandon grain elevator which was cool.  This is where I found my next souvenir which was an old railroad stake lying next to the railroad.  I thought it would go well with my old railroad sign at home! 🙂  Other pictures taken were of an old tractor, some flowers, and much of the landscape.  Chad and Cris took some great shots.

Next we went to see the Painted Canyon just outside of Medora.  This was my first introduction to the Badlands.  It was truly amazing.  We had been driving along seeing rolling hills, and then all of a sudden there it was…a beautiful canyon.  I wondered how the Badlands got its name because it was so beautiful, but I found out that it was due to the difficulty to travel across.  Painted Canyon is located in the upper part of the Badlands and has some magnificent panoramic views of all the colorful layers.  While we were there, we decided to take a one mile hike down into the canyon.  One of Chad’s goals on the trip was to get a good shadow picture for his next photography club contest, so I kept looking for something that would be a good shadow picture.  We soon realized that a shadow picture is very hard to come up with.  After the hike, Chad had an interesting piece of grass in his shoe.  I learned that it was called needle and thread grass.  I had not seen anything like it, so it sounded like another good souvenir to keep! 🙂

In Medora, our first stop was to have dinner.  We ate at a popular restaurant in town called the Boots Bar and Grill.  I was quite impressed with the little town of Medora.  It looked like an old western town and was very unique.  Medora was founded by Marquis De Mores who was a French nobleman that arrived in Medora in early 1883.  He named the town after his wife Medora Von Hoffman.

We spent the last part of the day taking a short tour through the first part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Theodore Roosevelt also arrived to the Badlands in 1883.  He fell in love with the land and ended up owning two ranches near Medora.  Our drive through the park was kinda quick because it was getting dark, but we did see a great sunset, some deer, buffalo, and even a herd of elk!  The park is truly fantastic.  I have never seen anything like it.  Many areas of the park look like they are from a different planet.


Monday morning we had a great breakfast at the Cowboy Café which is another popular restaurant in town.  They had a bunch of old pictures hanging on every wall of ranchers that use to live there.  The place was packed full of people.  If you ever get a chance to go there, you must try their pancakes!

After breakfast, we spent most of the day in the park.  Inside the park there is a 36 mile loop that you can drive.  We took the drive slow and made stops along the way to take in the amazing view.  We saw a lot more animals too.  We saw some wild horses (and some tame ones too in the corral :)), deer, buffalo, and some prairie dogs.  We got to see most of the animals up close!  The buffalo would cross the road right in front of our vehicle.  So, Chad was able to get some close up pictures!  One of my favorites is of a prairie dog which was posing for Chad just outside of the car.   One the way out of the park, we stopped to get a picture of some red stone called “Scoria” which is seen throughout the park.  So, my last souvenir that I picked up was a red rock! 🙂

That afternoon, we took some time to look around the little town of Medora.  We went to a few shops and even saw the oldest Catholic Church in North Dakota!  After a while, the weather started to look questionable.  We had planned to see the Medora Musical that night and we were starting to wonder if we should cancel, but we decided to go and take our chances.  We had been very lucky so far during our trip, getting to see all the animals up close and everything in the park, so we said, “What the heck, let’s go”.  I am so glad that we did because it just so happened that the weather was perfect and the forecast had called for 80% chance of really bad weather.  Winds were 30-40 miles an hour, but when we arrived at the musical, the winds died down just for us.   The musical was awesome!  I really enjoyed it.  The musical is dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt and his time in the North Dakota Badlands.  It was mainly country music which I enjoy.  They had a talented cast, a live band and even some live horses!  It was a great show and very patriotic.

That night, you are not going to believe this, but Chad found another tick on his leg.  I had thought the ticks were gone!  No more ticks!!!


Tuesday, we drove through the park one more time before making our way to Bowman to visit Cindy’s parents (Cy and Jan).  We took the scenic route to Bowman on East River Road.  We saw several storms along the way, which made for some good pictures.  When we arrived, I got to meet Cy, Jan, and Cindy’s oldest sister Gwinn!  It was great to finally meet them.  I remember Jan telling me multiple times that I was so cute!  It was very nice.  Also, I got to see some of Cris’s artwork.  Cris is an amazing artist and photographer.  Her latest drawing collection is of horses and it was fantastic!  We then had a great dinner and spent the evening visiting.


The next morning we went to Cy’s for breakfast. Cindy had some bacon and eggs waiting for us.  Later, Chad and Cris went to the Mud Buttes south of Rhame.  Cris said the area contained a bunch of fossils and bone fragments.  Based on Chad’s pictures when they returned, they could have been on the moon.  The landscape was so different and foreign.  While Chad went with Cris, Cindy and I hung out with Jan and Cy.  Cy was also very nice to go get us some cheese burgers for lunch!

Before our trip back to Bismarck, we played a game of pinochle.  It was Chad and I against Cindy and Jan!  It was a fun game.  We will have to play again next time!


On Thursday, Chad and I slept in and then had a relaxing day before our flight back.

Our trip to North Dakota was truly awesome!  We are already planning another trip next year!  Thank you very much Cindy.


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