Sunday, July 18, 2010

Travel/Sight-Seeing Day: North Dakota July 16

Friday I drove out of Bismarck in the morning, and had a day seeing more natural, wondrous beauty than I think I have ever taken in in a single day. I veered off I-94 and headed to the Knife River Indian Villages National Park, near Stanton, North Dakota. This is the place where Sakakawea's people once lived, where Lewis & Clark met her, and where she departed from with these new travelling companions to guide them and perhaps act as an ambassador on their behalf to other native people they might encounter. It seemed only right that I visit this place, having never visited this part of the country before and about to travel through much the same land that Lewis & Clark covered.

There is almost no trace of the native people that once lived there, except for some large, oval-shaped depressions in the ground in certain places, where the earth mounds they lived in collapsed over time. But walking the trails through the vast, open fields, I could feel the presence of those who lived there long ago quite strongly. I can't imagine anyone being able to walk on that land and not feel a tremendous sense of connection to the earth as they did. I felt an overwhelming sense that I am a small but integral part of a much larger, maginificent whole - made up of the earth, the sun, moon and stars, all humanity and every thing on the planet, living and non-living.

There were only two other people at the park when I was there, and it turns out they are from the state I was born and raised in, Maine. It was quite a surprise and a treat to meet Sherry and Gary, they are a wonderful, friendly couple, taking a full year to travel all around the United States. We bonded, albeit briefly, as fellow modern-day explorers of this vast country called America. I wished them safe and exciting travels as I departed.

Heading out of Stanton, I continued west on State Route 200 , then turned north on State Route 8 at Halliday. I drove just into the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. The road I was on ended abruptly, but it did so at a most amazing spot. It overlooked a huge, gorgeous canyon that seemed to stretch to my left and right as far as my eyes could see. The canyon was surrounded by rocky, sandy cliffs and containing the most beautiful blue water I have ever seen. I'm keeping the photos here to one a day, to make sure I don't overwhelm you with visual clutter. The photo above (which I took) is of the Knife River from my earlier stop, but it was a tight competition between that and one of my many photos of the canyon in the Fort Berthold Reservation.

I turned my new (well, new to me!) red Honda Civic around and headed back down Route 8, and continued south past Halliday to hook back up with I-94 West at Richardton. On both sides of the car I was continuously inundated with visions of natural beauty. I was almost on overload! I continued my westward jaunt on I-94 for another hour or so until I hit Dickinson, North Dakota, around 5pm or so local time. It had been a wonderful but long day of driving, walking and taking photographs, so I pulled off the highway and got a hotel room for the night.

Next day: Montana!

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