The Dakotas – Day 2

The next morning we woke up and got going early so that we could miss the Memorial weekend crowds. Ha, this is a joke in North Dakota. In Colorado on a holiday weekend you can’t do anything outdoorsy by yourself but in North Dakota…you don’t see anyone else the entire time.

Goal for the day was to hike the Petrified Forest loop trail which also uses part of the Maah Daah Hey trail but not the same part that we had been on the previous day. It was a 10 mile hike through grasslands and a valley with the petrified forest stumps scattered about.

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Shortly after accessing the trail there is some scrambling up some rocks and the trail is not marked very well. It took a couple of times going different direction to find where we were supposed to head. After accessing the top it opens up to the grasslands. We decided to do the loop clockwise heading to north first (best way to do it). A short while down the trail and we were heading straight towards a herd of bison. It was a herd of about 15 and they were right on the trail.

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We had to walk in a large circle around the bison to avoid them. They all stood staring at us as we moved. I think if one of them would have even bluff charged us I would have peed a little in my pants. The thing we liked most about hiking here was that the scenery was very different than Colorado. It was rolling grasslands and dry bluffs.

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The trail is mostly well marked but they do warn that the bison like to use the trail markers (6ft tall wooden post) to scratch on and quite often knock them over. We found lots of bison hair on the posts and saw some that were laying on the ground. We also saw lots of buffalo wallows were the bison take a dirt bath to clean their hides.

After we walked through a damp area where there were tall grasses and a small creek running though we noticed some small bugs on our pants. They were ticks! We were so grossed out. We striped (somewhat) and started checking each other for ticks. After brushing them all off and ascending to higher ground we thought we’d see the last of them. Neither one of us felt like stopping for lunch yet and we were making good time on the 10 miles so we decided to keep going. We could see a large herd of bison in the distance that was much larger than the first herd. As we approached we could tell that once again they were hanging out right on the trail. This group was about 30 strong and had babies with them. We saw a lone hiker that was walking towards us. He stated that he had tried to get around but wasn’t quite confident enough to do it alone so he tagged along with us. To give the bison a wide enough berth we had to bushwhack through a wooded area that dropped down into a small valley. We could see the baby bison running for the safety of the herd and all the large male bison turned to stare at us as we passed. As we were coming up on the other side we were unable to know if there were any bison above the ridge since we couldn’t see up there. As we climbed the incline we heard the loud snorting of a bison. Hubby crested the ridge and a large male was standing right there. Hubby told us to stay down below and we continued to bushwhack our way through eventually being able to come back up and relocate the trail.

We continued to hike with the stranger from Wyoming exchanging hiking stories until he stopped for lunch at the junction with another trail. We wondered if we’d have to contend with any other bison along the rest of the trail. It was a sunny day for the entire hike and since we were hiking early enough the heat was not too bad. In the distance we saw something on the ground that was round and dark in color. We kept trying to guess what it might be. Oil drum. Log. Discarded scrap metal. Satellite dish. Never did we think it would be the head of a bison! We had guessed that it had died of natural causes and the coyotes, foxes, and birds had finished off all of the meat leaving only the head. It was one crazy site that reminds us just how nature really works.

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Now we were on the homestretch. We were hiking at a pretty good rate, telling stories, and having a good ol’ time when I heard something rustle next to my right leg and looked down and saw it slither. I jumped back (probably the farthest I’ve ever jumped) and yelled “snake”! It rattled again and I realized that the “rustle” that I had heard was actually the rattle of a rattlesnake giving me a warning. He slithered away quickly and hubby and I just stood there in amazement. I couldn’t believe that I was so close to him, maybe 5-6 inches away. He was not coiled up and his head was facing away from me but that doesn’t mean that he couldn’t have bitten me. I did some research later at home and found that they can deliver a bite even when not coiled up. I got kinda lucky on that one!

We got back to the truck and while hubby was driving us to South Dakota I found another tick in my hair. UCK! I pulled it out and threw it out the window. Hubby then found one on his leg while driving. That was it. We stopped at the next gas station and while I was doing my own body search in a restroom stall I found one that had embedded himself into my abdomen. I tried several times to remove him with my fingers and on about the 4th try I got him…head and all. I felt violated. 😉

We arrived in Spearfish, SD just in time to set up camp and get over to Crow Peak Brewery for some well deserved brews! We had one hell of a day and we were in for our rewards. I started off with my usual (ha, we’ve only been here one other time) the 11th Hour IPA and hubby did his usual Pile-0-dirt Porter. The only downside to this joint is that they don’t serve food. I tasted a sample of their Mjollnir (Thors Hammer) which is a brown ale that is brewed with spruce tips. It was the best brown ale I’ve ever had! So, my 2nd and 3rd beers were Mjollnir! We downed some Mexican food at the place next door before turning in for the night. It was a great hike followed by great beers.

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~ by willtriforbeer on June 15, 2013.

2 Responses to “The Dakotas – Day 2”

  1. Wow as your mother, I think I could have done without reading about your North Dakota trip! Glad you had fun and very happy things worked out for you.

  2. You guys earned the shit out of those beers!

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