For the first half of my life I lived in western North Dakota, on the edge of the Badlands. I had the privilege of exploring the wide open prairies, endless canyons and tall grass butte tops with little interruption from human activity. It was a place you could go and recharge, get back to nature, take a deep breath of fresh air. And to this day, it still is that great place. Sure there might be more oil wells, more roads and more activity, but it is still so wonderful. This is why we need to protect all that we can.
I’m sure there are other individuals out there who see the beauty and greatness of the Badlands like the rest of us. Our goal for this year should be to find those people and encourage them to join BCA. Let’s get them out for an outing or just encourage them to visit the Badlands. How many of us know friends that have lived in North Dakota all their life, but have never been in the Badlands?
This last March my wife asked me what I wanted to do for my 34th birthday. I said, “let’s go to the Bullion Butte in the Badlands.” I’ve been to Bullion Butte a number of times, but my wife that grew up in North Dakota, had never experienced the most remote part of the Badlands. This outing is what Alastair Humphreys would call a “microadventure.” (I highly recommend checking out alastairhumphreys.com, get inspired and have a microadventure.) We set out the morning of Saturday, March 18th from Bismarck and drove to Medora where the temperature was 65 degrees and sunny. Upon turning south on West River Road we found out what makes the Badlands so great, not a car (or oil truck) to be seen for the next 25 miles.
As we drove down West River Road I couldn’t help but slow down at every corner and point out the trees, deer, turkeys, buttes or rock formations. My wife savored every moment and asked question after question. The best question she asked was “what is a cattle guard?” For someone that grew up in Linton, ND a cattle guard was a mystery. But after you drive over half a dozen guards the concept becomes clear pretty quickly.
We eventually arrived at the base of Bullion Butte, parked the car and proceeded with our hike to the top. Since we live in the flat land of Fargo, our legs were not conditioned to the hills so we didn’t move as fast as we had anticipated. As the porters on my Mount Kilimanjaro climb said, “polepole” (slow). We were in no hurry to get to the top, so we were able to enjoy every moment, observe every deer track, appreciate all the new flowering vegetation and breath in deeply all of the fresh air.
Eventually we made our way to the top, dropped the packs and ENJOYED THE VIEWS (you just have to be there understand). Since we had plenty of daylight remaining we ventured over to the Rock House on the south side of the butte. A flat top butte of tall grass prairie, although brown in spring, is still impressive and beautiful.
We ventured our way back to the north side of the butte where we had some protection from the crazy North Dakota winds; we all know those winds. With a flick of the lighter I started the stove to boil some water for our gourmet, dehydrated meals. To class it up, unbeknownst to my wife, I slipped a bottle of red wine (her favorite) into my pack.
Unfortunately, due to the awesome North Dakota winds we decided that moving down to lower elevation would allow for a less windy, tent rustling night. We found a great flat area around half way down the butte to set up the tent. It didn’t take us long to fall asleep under the star filled sky.
We awoke to the sounds of pheasants, turkeys, geese and a beautiful sunrise. After a cup of instant coffee and oatmeal it was time to pack up and enjoy a peaceful hike back to the car. Arriving back at the car we took one last look at the butte and dreamed of our return.
Each of us joined the Badlands Conservation Alliance because of our own reasons. Maybe you had a similar adventure or experience in the Badlands. Maybe you can recall the “good ole days” when the Badlands weren’t full of oil wells. Today things are changing. There are more oil wells, which means more traffic and this will only continue to expand if we don’t make our VOICES heard. All it takes is one email, one letter, one new member to make a difference.
It is a great privilege to be your Badlands Conservation Alliance President and I appreciate each and every one of you members. I couldn’t make a difference without all our members who choose to make their voices heard. I encourage each member to recruit others to join the alliance, make their voices heard, and make a difference.
Craig Kilber, BCA President