Great Dreams from Heaven

A wonderful spot for standing still and listening to the wind. The title above comes from an old tune recorded by, among others, guitarist Mike Bloomfield. Speaking of, here’s a Vimeo link to a video that I recorded a short distance from this spot while driving northward, if you’d care to see more of this marvelous terrain. (Video duration: 2:43)

Little Missouri National Grassland, North Dakota

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Old Steel

Tired steel. I’m older than the hunk of steel on the left, and I’m tired as well. This trip’s tally of 5,797 miles has been exceeded on three prior occasions, but it seems that this year’s journey took a heavier toll on the Pontiac, and on me; too many long days of driving from Hotel A to Hotel B. I need to formulate a different approach for 2019…spend more days in a central location and branch out on shorter excursions from there. We’ll see what happens.

Dust. Dust, dust and more dust, in record quantities…on me, on the car and on everything in the car. Yesterday, I spent several hours decommissioning the Pontiac for winter storage…removing everything, dusting it off, washing the inside and outside of the vehicle, lubricating the locks and latches. There are plenty of repairs and maintenance tasks ahead to fill the winter months.

Grass. I enjoyed traveling through a whopping nine (out of twenty) National Grasslands last month: Buffalo Gap, Cimarron, Comanche, Grand River, Kiowa, Little Missouri, Oglala, Rita Blanca and Thunder Basin. (Would’ve hit Pawnee once again had a snow storm not forced a detour.) All of that dust came from those many miles of gravel roads in the grasslands. I didn’t keep score, but I’m certain that the Pontiac set a record this year for miles driven on gravel…my best estimate is in the range of 500 to 600 miles.

Statistic: The Pontiac odometer now stands at 331,245.3 miles.

Grand Beauty

Yes, still on the road. So many miles, so many grasslands, so many amazing vistas and so many hills to climb. Y’all are gonna be sick and tired of butte-climbing stories, photos and videos within the next few weeks. As for me, I’d like to build a house near here.

Little Missouri National Grassland, North Dakota

Right Place, Right Time

After my 2016 visit to the Dog Ear Buttes of South Dakota, I posted this trip report, where I mentioned my long-standing desire to conquer the summits of these little hills on the prairie. When I returned to the buttes this past September, I had no plan in place for tracking down the landowner so I could get permission to hop the fence; I figured I’d wing it once I got there. Turns out, it couldn’t have been easier.

As soon as I had parked on the side of the road, a van came around the curve and slowed to a stop beside me. I introduced myself to the friendly family inside and asked if they happened to know who owns the land south of the road. “We do.” Cool. I asked if they would mind if I walked to the top of each hill. They gave their blessing, as the cows were grazing in another pasture that day. I thanked them and we said goodbye. As they drove on to their destination, I rolled a short distance westward, looking for the best spot to climb the barbed wire.

(Above: View to the west from the north summit; the Pontiac parked below)

(Above: View of the north summit from the south summit)

Once over the fence, I made straight for the north summit. Not difficult hiking, certainly, but steeper than it looks from the road. The ground was stony and dry, studded with yucca and prickly pear. In short order, I was standing on the rocky peak of the north Ear, enjoying an unobstructed view of the big sky and the sweeping prairie.

(Above: Looking eastward from the south summit; a vulture gliding through the center of the frame)

I then made the easy stroll across the saddle to the top of the south Ear. The only movement I noticed in this panorama was a single soaring vulture, making a slow circle around the buttes; not an uncommon sight on the plains, but this may be the only time I’ve seen one circling below my eye level. Pretty sweet. (You can spot the vulture during the first few seconds of the video I’ve linked below.)

(Above: View to the south from the south summit; 18 miles to the Nebraska line)

In addition to the great view up there, I enjoyed the absence of noises from the civilized world; I tend to linger in places where I can bask in the silence of the wind.

You can follow this link to Vimeo and watch a 45-second video showing a slow 360° rotation atop the south summit.