Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Trek Out West - Part 2

Felicity commented "I love...seeing a part of the world I'm sure I'll never get to see..." I've enjoyed her blog and others for the same reason - she's lived in such interesting parts of the world, documenting the local architecture, culture and scenery for the rest of us to savor. It inspired me take more pictures along the way to Idaho than I might have otherwise so I could share the experience here. And so, it's on to day two of the trek out west.

It was another relatively cool day - 60's F, at least for the majority of it. I expected the scenery to be quite boring going across North Dakota. I'd not been this way before and figured it'd be flat and featureless as the Eastern part of South Dakota just below it. Instead, it was more rolling marshlands - lots of water - and surprisingly beautiful. At one point my friend inquired if anything I was seeing was inspiring me (yes, she'd heard my stories of how I'd discovered just how much my daily walks in the woods had influenced my art). Honestly, I had to answer, "Not a thing!"

The farther west we went, the more rugged the country became when suddenly we see this:

This is the southern unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and very much like the Badlands and Painted desert of South Dakota which both of us had visited, but neither of us had any idea that North Dakota had something similar in its own Badlands. Roosevelt said of these lands,
"I grow very fond of this place, and it certainly has a desolate, grim beauty of its own, that has a curious fascination for me."
Now, we were on a bit of a deadline. We had 4 days to make it to my friend's house in Walla Walla so she could be back at her job teaching by Tuesday. She was pushing it a bit to take three personal days right after the school year started up. It wouldn't be pretty if she missed another day, so it was agreed this trip would not include sightseeing. However, we both looked at each other, and I said, "I don't care, I'm getting off at the scenic overlook." Here I am, windblown and posing like a typical tourist.

It's hard to get a sense of perspective from the pictures - but it really was quite impressive. To give you an idea, in this picture, there is a cowboy rounding up a group of cattle at the base of that mesa.

Here' I've zoomed in on them:

This link explains the red color - something we'd never heard of before. It's actually iron oxidized from burning coal beds ignited by lightning.

After walking along the extensive overlook and reading the explanatory signs, it was back in the car and off to Montana. Western Montana is still rather open country but mountains are starting to rise up and pine trees become more common.

We could see areas now and then where wildfires had burned near the interstate and knew that there was a very large fire burning on the other side of Billings, our destination for the day. The closer we got to Billings, the more hazy it got - smoke from the fires.

We had great accommodations that night at the Cherry Tree Inn, and I finally saw something to inspire me in the parking lot!

We capped off the evening with a great steak dinner - Montana is cattle country and the beef is excellent. One wouldn't think there'd be much difference, but Midwest beef has a different taste to it. Not better or worse, just different. Tonight's dinner is the beef I grew up on and have missed during my stint in Wisconsin.

End of day two.


Anne Wigfull said...

I'm with Felicity on this and really enjoying your photos, Sheila, as an armchair traveller I always enjoy personal photos much more than 'official' web site photos. Isn't it time you had a break from unpacking all those boxes and carry on with your travellogue (?sp)?

margaret said...

"Hazy, near Billings" is the kind of countryside that, to my surprise, I grew to love while living in Alberta (in my early 30s) after living near mountains before that. Featureless, yes - but big sky country, the changing sky and changing light, the wind blowing through the grass ...