Is today a holler day in Halliday?

If you spend your driving days in cities or towns, you know how easy it is to pull over for a cup of coffee.  You can’t do that out here on the vast open prairies of North Dakota.  You can, however, pull in to a small town such as Halliday, just off of Highway 200 in Dunn County. We did that one Sunday afternoon in March, early spring.

Sunday afternoon is quiet on Halliday’s Main Street…but it’s probably never very busy.

Jode O’s was open, and the coffee was waiting for us.

It’s a traditional small town family cafe, right down to the swivel stools at the counter, and that’s where we perched ourselves.  Coffee coming right up!

Jode O’s is quiet and comfortable. Half of the ownership waited on us at the counter.  Sometimes she was in back cooking when an order came up.  The other half of the ownership, an oil field businessman was at the center table — approachable, talkative and friendly.

There’s no doubt that Halliday once was a noisier town with a lot of hoopin’ and hollerin’ goin’ on. It is past those busier days.  Highway 8 clips the eastern edge of the town.  Before the Army Corps of Engineers flooded the Missouri River Valley, Highway 8 was a major thoroughfare from the Canadian border to the Black Hills. Traffic dried up when the lake took over the valley.

Now, oilfield workers live in town, and some of the long time residents of Halliday work in the oil field.  So, oil has been good for the little town, and that’s something to holler about.






The hand-written daily special menu advertises what is good, such as the apple-pie filled pancakes.  We didn’t try them since we were there for only coffee, but it’s on our list of things to try next time we’re there and it is the special of the day.

We thought it humorous that the handwritten menu also lets us know there are a few items that are not currently available.

Next time we’re in Halliday, we aim to make it a mid-week stop to see if we can catch all the latest news of the town shared at the center table in the middle of the cafe.    If we miss it, we can always get the latest happenings from the town crier hollering on the street corner, or as it is now, the quiet little entry bulletin board.



The Achenbach Trail fits your physical endurance any time of the year – but it’s easiest in the spring


One of the well-treed plateaus on the Achenbach trail gives hikers a chance to rest before the next altitude change.

One of the well-treed plateaus on the Achenbach trail gives hikers a chance to rest before the next altitude change.

No matter how many times I hike the trail and back country of the North Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, there is one trail I keep coming back to, the Achenbach Trail.  You’d like it because no matter your level of fitness, you’ll find an accessible section that matches your skill.  The entire loop is nearly 20 miles (some measure it at 16, others at 18, and still more people add the Buckhorn Trail to make it a nearly 30-mile hike).

One of the moderate rises gives hikers access to a ridge the trail crosses

One of the moderate rises gives hikers access to a ridge the trail crosses

It is more than a day’s worth of hiking – but of course hikers who are more committed than I can set up overnight camp off the trail if they want to hike it in two days.

For those two-day hikers, steep climbs and descents provide a workout; two river crossings can be a challenge, but the rewards are unmatched vistas for sunsets and sunrises.

It's thought that once upon a time the Little Missouri River flowed in to the Hudson Bay. Glaciers changed that, and now the river cuts through one of the most narrow passageways in the region.

It’s thought that once upon a time, the Little Missouri River flowed in to the Hudson Bay. Glaciers changed that, and now the river cuts through one of the most narrow passageways in the region on it’s way to the Missouri River about 50 miles from here.

This spring on the birthday of the National Park System, entrance to the park was free. We took advantage of it and drove the entire length of the park evaluating where we wanted to park and how much time we had to hike.

A blue bird rests in a tree top below the trail.  The most common wildlife here are hawks or sometimes eagles.  Bison are far more numerous than people.  Rattlesnakes are plentiful when it's hot.

A blue bird rests in a tree top below the trail. The most common wildlife are hawks or sometimes eagles. Bison are far more numerous than people. Rattlesnakes are plentiful when it’s hot.

Daylight gets incredibly long mid-summer so there is plenty of daylight even at 9 or 10 o’clock in the evening.  On this day, we had until 8:30, so we picked a section that would get us out in to the overlooks above the Little Missouri, and then cut cross-country back to the Jeep.TRNP_MAP_R-300x221

This part of the trail, the “North Achenbach Trail” is only about 4 miles long.  One section of it is easily accessible near the famous landmark Oxbow Overlook; here families with young children can get a taste of Badlands hiking.

Take your camera and be set up for lanscape shots.

Take your camera and be set up for landscape shots.

Further out, the view is spectacular as the trail follows a ridge above the Little Missouri River. Mary climbs hill sgntre Most of the trail is single-track. Some of the more challenging hillsides have ancient log steps laid out, but they’ve been moved by nature’s erosive forces; often, we found we were better off just making our own trail up the side of a bluff.

Several rocky narrow passages give hikers a chance to pick their way through the pass -- provided they have hiking boots with good traction.

Several rocky narrow passages give hikers a chance to pick their way through the pass — provided they have hiking boots with good traction.

An April or May hike on the Achenbach is perfect for temperatures. Mid-summer temps easily edge near 100 degrees, or more.  The reflective surfaces make it even brighter and more uncomfortable. That’s why a spring hike is good, but it’s also less green. We recommend late May or early June.  That’s when wildflowers and prairie roses are abundant and the sparse patches of grass are most green.

What time of year do you prefer to hike?  Have you tried hiking on those 100 degree days? Have you tried a winter hike?

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A Sunday stroll up Chimney Butte

It doesn't look like a chimney, but that's what it is called, "Chimney Butte."

It doesn’t look like a chimney, but that’s what it is called: “Chimney Butte.”

It’s been called “Chimney Butte” for more than 200 years, but I’m not sure why; it doesn’t look like a smokestack.  Lewis and Clark used it as one of their markers when they trekked the Missouri River a few miles north.  You can find it between Mandaree and Keane between Highways 22 and 23 in McKenzie County.

The McKenzie County road past Chimney Butte is well-maintained and an easy drive.

The McKenzie County road past Chimney Butte is well-maintained and an easy drive.

It was our target for the Sunday hike because for one reason, it’s public-access land.  We didn’t have much time because the sunshine we’d enjoyed all day disappeared; rain clouds moved in at the same time we parked along the road on the south side of the butte — a well-maintained road.

We’ve been adding to our Beautiful Bakken Facebook page and thought this Sunday photo hike would help add to the collection of images displaying the beauty of the Badlands, the Bakken oil field.


Here’s the address –

and our gallery of Beautiful Bakken photos on our website at this address —

Rain approaching from the southwest gave us a sense of urgency.

Rain approaching from the southwest gave us a sense of urgency.

We packed only our cameras and something to drink, then crossed the prairie and up the slope toward the base of the rocks. There, we stopped long enough to survey the incoming rain behind us to the south.

Chimney butte wildflowersOur mission was to photograph a seasonal transition,  capturing the change from early spring’s dormant brown to the more lively green.  A few hints of spring met us along the slope such as the wildflowers sprouting ahead of the green grass.

Once at the base of the rocks, we followed the grass line around to the opposite side where we could more easily follow a switchback to the top.

At our destination, the top, we could survey the entire region of the heart of the Bakken Oil Field, eastern McKenzie County and western Mountrail County.  To the east Chimney Butte’s partner, Table Butte invited us to hike and climb to the top, but we declined. It’s private property and we thought we’d first get the rancher’s permission to climb Table Butte.

Table Butte looks more like a table than Chimney Butte looks like a chimney.

Table Butte to the east looks more like a table than Chimney Butte looks like a chimney.

While at the top, we could see where we’d started and there, a mile or so away, was whatMike shoots from Chimney Butte copy Chimney butte mare and coltlooked like dogs running across the region.  I used my telephoto (as low-power as it is) to try to get a better glimpse. It wasn’t dogs, it was a pair of colts.  I zoomed in on one when it ran back to its mother at water’s edge.

After resting a bit, we hiked back down the easy side.  It would have been faster to go down the rock side, but that would mean a jump of 70 or 80 feet.

At the bottom, we hiked back across the grassland base.  Over the hill, a different sign of spring watched us — a mare and her colt. This was not the same ones we had watched when we were up on top.white mare black colt appear over the hill

white mare black colt walk by in the trees sigWe stopped to see if the white mare and black cold would get closer. We were between them and the water — their apparent goal.  Mom chimney butte white mare black coltprotected her babe, so they skirted around us. We stopped, watched and photographed their patient easy stroll past us.   They disappeared over the hill.




Oh, and those first two colts we spotted?  They had moved on, but not far. We looked around for them, but they were safely out of sight. We got back in to our pickup and drove around Chimney Butte to the east side.  There they were! The mares and their colts didn’t mind us driving by. We stopped long enough to grab a shot or two of spring’s new life.two colts and a mare on a hillside

two colts








two mares two coltsWe’d met our goal. We’d captured signs of spring in the beautiful Bakken region of North Dakota where nature underground is yielding a harvest of plenty and where nature above the ground displays the beauty we’ve come to see.

Beauty is where you find it — if you’re looking for it.

An abandoned truck from decades ago in the Badlands.

An abandoned truck from decades ago in the Badlands.

Have you ever noticed that negative critical people find negative things to criticize? Conversely, a person who goes looking for good, for beauty will find it – often in the same area where black-hearted people see decay and destruction.

That’s the case here in the Badlands, the Bakken Shale Play region of North America. People who do not live here are sending film crews, photographers and others here to document the destruction of the Badlands caused by the oil boom. With a predetermined point of view, a prejudice, they look for and find what is in their heart.  People with a good heart see good, see beauty.  What is in the heart of the Bakken haters?

magpie creek

One of the many oxbow bends in the Magpie Creek that feeds in to the Little Missouri River

I see the same beauty out here that I’ve always seen in my 33 years of exploring and hiking the North Dakota Badlands and Grasslands.  It’s one of the most popular galleries on my website

Little Mo ice jam

Ice goes out on the Little Missouri River as it winds through the Badlands toward the Missouri River and Lake Sakakawea.

On this day, March 11 I drove one of my favorite roads for only about 10 miles. The Long X road extends from south of Watford City to north of Killdeer, about 30 miles of gravel – much of it “unimproved” gravel.   The ice was going out and rain was moving north of the region.  Sure signs of the exciting time called “spring.”

A month later, I found the other end of the road near Killdeer.  The road follows the Little Missouri River that flows through the epicenter of the Bakken Oil Play where there are literally thousands of oil wells extracting oil to build up America’s energy independence.   It’s even more spring-like and even more exciting.  It is beautiful, open country.

Destruction? Pollution? Damage? I don’t see it. Do you?

Muddy water from snow melt up in the hills finds its way to the Little Missouri River

North of Killdeer, muddy water from snow melt up in the hills finds its way to the Little Missouri River

You can see more of not only mine, but my hiking partner’s views at

Dang it’s wet.

Flooded farm

Spring 2011 is historic for its wetness, beyond anything every recorded in North Dakota.  In the prairie pothole region of North Dakota between Steel and Devils Lake, up through Hurdsfield, the saying is, “You can’t get there from here.”  Even if you’re in the farm house, you can’t get to the barn.  I’m standing on the road to the farm house, and I can’t get there either.

Hwy 36 flooded at Wing

It’s true everywhere.  In the morning I drove down this road and the water was lapping at the shoulders.  By evening, it was deep over the road and I couldn’t get the last 23 miles home.

Kids sandbagging

Of course what was an inconvenience for me was a disaster for many. That’s why sandbagging became the social event of Spring 2011 in Bismarck.  You can bet when these youngsters are grandparents, they’ll be telling their kids about the flood of 2011 when the Missouri River topped all historic levels.  The town of Bismarck and area residents turned out to shovel sandbags.  I borrowed a neighbor’s trailer and hauled sandbags to folks who were fighting the Muddy Mo.  But if it weren’t for the hundreds of volunteers at the sandbag sites, there’s be no way homeowners could protect their homes from the 500-year level flood.

From the northwest corner of the state at Williston through central North Dakota, down to South Dakota, the story was the same.  Too much water.  The Army Corps of Engineers held back as much water as it wanted at the Corps dams, Sakakawea, Fort Pierre and Chamberlain until the river threatened the dams.  Then came the big releases that flooded downstream cities such as Bismarck and Mandan.

Though the sign was in the perpetually flooded town of  Devils Lake when I drove through there it summed up the feelings of most people — just add a few more zeros to the capacity of the requested ark.

Now as you look back to the spring of 2011 — what word would you use to describe it?  I already used the word “wet.” Your turn.

A wet Grand Forks — May 15

Grand Forks Red River bridges

It sure can be pretty, the full moon, the still water, and the bridges over the Red River, but as spring 2011 winds down and summer is headed to North Dakota, there is still plenty of water — or as some would say, “water under the bridge.”

Water under the Sorlie Bridge

A stroll by the Red River in East Grand Forks

And indeed there is water under every bridge in Grand Forks in May 2011.  The East Grand Forks Recreation Trail goes now where, suitable only for scuba divers.

The Sorlie Bridge is a landmark in Grand Forks and all of North Dakota. There are few if any bridges like it.  In order to accommodate the freeze-thaw cycle that causes steel to expand and contract, as well as to accommodate the traffic on the bridge, it is built on railroad wheels that move with the bridge in it’s seasonal changes.

Sorlie Bridge

Near the Sorlie Bridge, along the Red River on this spring evening people gather at one of the more popular watering holes in East Grand Forks.  They’re anticipating summer. ready to ride through the bridge across the swollen water on their bicycle.

Or next to the bridge, they park their motorcycles while grabbing a beverage along the river, then heading out for a evening’s chilly ride.  They’re excited to see spring, even if they’re a bit concerned about all the water.  On this particular evening, even the dogs are out, well sorta out.  They’re in their master’s truck while he and his family enjoy a night along the river.  These dogs are particular friendly and have a nose for the camera…well almost, until I stepped just out of the wet sniffer.

I had already eaten and now was wandering the parkway looking for a way to capture the swollen river.  The sun set before I got out of there, and headed back to my motel for the night.  But before I left, I had to capture the image you see at the top of this blog, and the one that ends this blog, the traffic across the landmark Sorlie Bridge.

Have you been to Grand Forks and enjoyed the summer evening next to the Red River?  It’s a nasty beast as residents can tell you, and as you can survey the rebuild from the 1997 flood.  But on this night, though flooding it was peaceful.  How’s it when you are there?

June 2

Rabbits and dandelions.

Remember that rabbit who moved in to my backyard? I introduced her to you a few days back here on ND 365.   I noticed she’s got a bit of a wound on her face, it appears.  Life in the wild, especially for rabbits can be tough.

Did she run in to something?  Was it an offensive attack?  Does she have  mange and is losing her fur?  Rabbits can carry nasty bacteria and parasites.  I wonder if that’s the problem.  But she still looks healthy, anyway.

And not just rabbits have invaded my yard, but so has the annual crop of weeds including dandelions.  They’re actually kind of pretty, but they can sure take over a yard and turn it in to a mess.  So, every year, I’m cutting, pulling and spraying to keep them down.

I hate it when they turn to seed because each one of those seeds represents a new battle next spring.  Has anyone come up with a good way to control the springtime crop of dandelions?

May 23

Old rest stop

There along the road is a rest stop that once was very busy back when Highway 10 or the Red Trail was the coast to coast transcontinental highway.  When I-94 came through, rest stops were upgraded and not quite as homey, nor like the park that this one is near Steele.  It’s a good place for a couple of riders to pull over and chill for a bit, even take a nap.

A friendly engineeer

But the nap is short-lived.

Highway 10 runs along the BNSF rail line that hauls coal from Wyoming and points west to power plants east of North Dakota.  The train is just noisy enough that any nap is disturbed.  But at least the engineer was friendly when I took his photo.

The train was a long one and obviously heavy. It required an extra engine at the rear to push the load up on to the prairie and to get it started. I imagine at some point the push engine was disconnected and returned to Mandan.  I don’t know if that’s the case, do you know?  Does it happen in Dilworth, the next BNSF point?

Push engine at the end of the train

May 21

Green grass red barn

Man it’s green!

I don’t know what these horses were looking at, but I was looking at their pen and all the green grass there.  I wonder if during the winter when their diet is mostly hay, if they long for the taste of soft chewy grass.

It was late afternoon when I drove down a gravel road west of Wilton toward the river. There wasn’t much light left as clouds were moving in. So, once I got an image of these horses turned out to spring grass, I had my one-a-day.

Lazy, I know.

May 8

No sooner does a blast from winter sweep through the region, than farmers are back at it, this one doing a little spring cleaning of a nearby hay field.   The cattle are still feeding on hay because pastures are not quite fully nutritional, so bringing in a few more bales of hay will help carry the herd through until spring.

The trailer the farmer here is pulling out to the field will carry a few big round bales of hay back to the feedlot.  It will also remove the last of the bales in the field in preparation for the coming hay crop this spring.