Coda: the Dakotas and East

With the weight of Glacier National Park and its surroundings sitting feather-like in our thoughts and on our shoulders, we drove eastward through Montana and on to North Dakota. The immense plateaus of eastern Montana were especially dry, and recent fires had blackened thousands of acres of cattle country populated with mule deer, pronghorn and coyote.

apparently the yellow columbine, found high in Glacier Nat’l Park, is quite uncommon there.

We stopped at North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park and not surprisingly found it much quieter than all the other parks we visited (less tourism). We enjoyed a 36-mile loop road through the modestly beautiful and arid region of “badlands,” or eroded buttes. Bison greeted us at several locations and, anthropomorphically speaking, the busy prairie dog towns seemed friendly and accommodating as long as you were not a ferret or a falcon.

Glacier still on our minds

We ended a long drive into South Dakota at a pleasant camp-site in the West Whitlock Recreation Area on the Missouri River. I would add two more life-birds near this comfortable camping ground. One of them was a group of chicken-like birds identified as sharp-tailed grouse (seen on three occasions), and the other was a family of burrowing owls that huddled together in the doorway of their house inside a prairie dog town.

the tree hugger, w/ western cedar, Glacier

Another first for me was the sighting of a badger. This short-legged omnivore was seen at the roadside scrambling into an open area, perhaps stalking for a ground squirrel or a prairie dog. Even though I once lived in eastern South Dakota and western Wisconsin, I had never once encountered this elusive creature.

at T. Roosevelt Nat’l Park,ND

Speaking of eastern South Dakota, we drove through the city of Brookings where I lived for a short period of time in the late 1960s and where I spent a year attending South Dakota State University (before I switched to Alfred U. in New York State). The city has almost doubled in size since that less than pleasant occasion, but the house where we lived still looks good, and the university grounds seem more attractive than they did in those turbulent days when this country was at war in Vietnam.

in a prairie dog town…

All in all, our journey that began with a stop in Arlington, Virginia and then proceeded to nearly the Mexican border before turning northward through the Rocky Mountains almost to Alberta, Canada was a great success. We visited four national parks plus Dinosaur National Monument. I had the privilege of fly-fishing in six beautiful western states, caught four species of trout, including four sub-species of wild cutthroat. The people we met and the places we encountered form a wonderful bank of memories.

local residents, TRNP

I could not have done it half as well without the managerial skills of my lovely wife with whom I have now shared 35 years of marriage (anniversary, September 4th– hey I remembered!).

looking down on the Little Missouri, TRNP

I would do it again, of course.

West Branch, Ausable (Adirondacks)

Meanwhile, the fishing has been pretty darned fair at home, considering the time of year. I even got to fish the West Branch Ausable River for a while, along with other fine streams.

More on this, the next time.

lots of brown trout in the early morn & evening hours (Adirondacks)

Ausable brown w/ Slate Drake

Dyke Creek brookie


About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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16 Responses to Coda: the Dakotas and East

  1. plaidcamper says:

    Congratulations on the 35th wedding anniversary – that’s a successful partnership! I wish you both many more happy years on and off the road ahead.
    Now you’re off the road, as it were, what a trip to be able to look back and think about. It always seems that the Dakotas, like Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north, get a bit of a bad rap, probably because they can’t compete with the wonders to the west. As you captured here, they do have a more modest beauty, and I like how the vast skies and oceans of grasslands encourage the mind to wander. (That said, I rarely venture that way in winter, and have never lived there…) Plus, where would a prairie dog call home without these expanses?!
    It’s exciting to get away, and pleasant to return home – and start planning another trip?
    A fine series, Walt!

    • This old prairie dog thanks you, Plaid, for your understanding and insights! Yeah the
      Dakotas (and adjacent provinces) are like that, as you say, but they too invite the mind to wander. I didn’t much care for living in S.D. when I was young, but now I wish I had time to explore it more fully. Anyway, I cant help thinking and dreaming ahead a little bit, perhaps planning for another venture.

  2. Bob Stanton says:

    Congrats to you and L. on your anniversary! A fitting coda, indeed, this post, to a memorable circumambulation (of sorts) of a good chunk of the continent. And fitting too, to me, as one pal has returned east and another westward bound – Jeff sent a picture of the moon on the rise in Wyoming not but minutes ago. Envious, I am! Ah, well, I’ll just continue to tramp the unglaciated plateau, for now. A wonderful travelogue of an epic trip, and I’ve enjoyed tagging along. Thanks, Walt!

    • Thanks always, Bob. I like that east-west travel tension line that you present while currently tramping “the unglaciated plateau.” I love walking the drifted and glacially undrifted portions of our region, although the same moon that Jeff saw in WY the other night appeared on a hilltop for me here, just briefly before getting obscured.

  3. Brent says:

    Don’t you mean “Da Kota”? Either way, it was a lot of fun to see your images and read your thoughts on a pretty epic trip. May the world manage to stick around long enough for many more!

  4. Or “duh Koda”? Yes and thank you! And let’s cross our fingers and walking sticks and hope for the best…

  5. That’s one amazing vacation Walt. Congratulations to you and your bride!

  6. We thank you, Howard. Back to it here. And on!

  7. Walt – First of all Happy Anniversary and Congratulations!
    I’ve enjoyed reading of your travel’s west, thanks for taking us all along. I do hope you do a short post on the Ausable as I haven’t gotten up there at all this year.

  8. loydtruss says:

    I’ve say you are putting a dent in your bucket list. Didn’t know you lived out West at one time, I know it was difficult to leave. Congrats on your 35th.—–Thanks for sharing

  9. JZ says:

    Happy anniversary to you both Walt. It sure seems like it was an incredible trip from start to finish. No better way to enjoy it with your wife by your side. That partnership you’ve enjoyed for 35 years is a culmination of love, trust, sharing and just plain having each others back. Marriage is a journey Walt, much like your trip. Your longevity found in honoring your vows to one another makes the celebration brighter and stronger. I have enjoyed reading about your adventure and your wonderful detailed description. However, call me a sappy sentimentalist if you want, but 35 years in the midst of it should touch every reader. I tip my hat to you both and wish you many, many more..

    • Ah, thank you, JZ, very kind, and your words about marriage as a journey are spot on. We’ve each tied the knot just once, and that’s all it took. Not always a smooth trip but a very good one nonetheless. And experiencing the Rocky Mtns. as we did, with all its highs and lows, wouldn’t have been the same alone. Hey, hope that all is going well with you, friend, and that the trout are being kind, as well.

  10. JZ says:

    Fished Sliders Branch last weekend. A small twisty stream that manages high grass, thin water, blow-downs and narrow passages along its course quite well. Sun-up to sun-down and some colors along the way. I found the trout to be shy at spots and kind at others, typical. Cherries next with another small stick. Really enjoy your reading your adventures Walt, there amazing.
    I always admire couples who take there vows seriously and stick it out. Lets face it, its easy to leave. Marriage is work, when you think of it, and its needs attention for it to be lasting. It always takes two to dance though too. Meaning, both partners have to be committed for the long haul. Congrats…

    • Thanks again for the wise words and the kindness, JZ. Glad that you had a successful outing on Sliders Branch! I would have guessed it to be too small to fish in this season, but I often guess wrong. I haven’t fished that one in a long time. Maybe I should check it out this fall as I work my way up Kettle. And you say, Cherry is next? That one is even smaller, I think. I need to get back into those hollows soon and take the bamboo stick with me.

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