Sunset on the Prairie

It has been quite some time since I last made a post here, so I’d say I’m a bit overdue for an update. For the past two and a half years, I have been living in northwestern North Dakota. Saying this is an adjustment is an understatement. North Dakota is considerably flatter than any place I’ve lived, and there are almost no trees here. Winters are extremely harsh and long. We can have weeks where the daytime high does not exceed 0ยบ F, and the wind will send a chill to your core. Our corner of the state doesn’t get much snow compared to northern Idaho or eastern North Dakota, but when we do get snow, the wind blows it into drifts which can shut down the highways. And winter can persist until May without any sign of spring. Summer has the opposite problem. The wind still blows, but without much shade, the days are hot and dry, except when gnarly thunderstorms roll through dropping large hail and threatening tornadoes. Ok, that last part sounds scary and it is when it happens, but we aren’t technically in Tornado alley, so those events are relatively rare.

There is some fascinating geology on this side of the state. We have the Dakota Badlands carved by the Little Missouri River. But the Badlands terrain is comprised of a sticky and slick clay that, when wet, is quite treacherous. And thus the only time to really get out there and hike it is in the winter, when everything is frozen, or in the summer when everything is dry. Did I mention that the prairie is only green for about a month? I seem to miss it every year. Nevertheless, I do get out once in a while to explore.

Sunset on the Prairie

Theodore Roosevelt National Park lies about an hour to the south of here. There are trails to hike in the badlands. The Little Missouri National Grassland is just beyond the park’s borders. I’ve had some fun exploring this area. There are lots of deer in the area. But we also have pronghorn and prairie dogs, which are a fun treat for me to see in the wild. The national park also has a bison herd as well as some bighorn sheep.

I’ve gotten back into rock collecting while I’ve been here as well. The Yellowstone River is a great source of Montana Moss agates and petrified wood. I even discovered a petrified forest of giant and ancient redwood stumps.

Most of my fun has been on extended breaks. In the winter, I’ve been trekking across Montana back to Idaho to spend time with the kids. For spring breaks, I meet Erin in the middle and bring the kids home with me (except this year). And in the summer, I go pick up the kids and we have a camping adventure back to my place. Then we’ve been making epic road trips to North Carolina where my parents and sister live. Our first trip took us across Minnesota to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Last year’s trip took us down to the Black Hills and then across Nebraska, Missouri, a stop to explore the giant things in Casey, Illinois, and a night of camping in southwestern Kentucky. Then we all went to the beach for a few days where the kids got to experience the ocean for the first time. This year’s summer trip is still in planning, but we will all be traveling back to the Upper Peninsula to explore some more.

This year’s spring break was…. well, it was epic, and it will get a post of its own.

It’s been an adjustment living here, and I can’t say that this will be my forever home. It’s been easier now that I’ve found a group of people to play board games with. But I’ve been missing easy access to mountains, forests, and good hiking as well as being closer to the kids.