Day 4 Summary Glendive, Montana to Billings, Montana
The fourth day of my 2007 vacation closely matched the fourth day of my 2006 vacation, so it’ll be best if I keep this entry short and provide a link to last year’s day 4 report.
One thing different about the trip from Glendive to Billings this year was that I found more pieces of the old U.S. Highway 10 to travel on. This kept me off of Interstate 94 and allowed me to see a few neat things, such as a couple historical markers near Terry. One marked the spot where the Powder River flows into the Yellowstone River, while another discussed the local region – its economy, geology, and history – and even contained a tiny pioneer cemetery where some unidentified remains are buried.
Both historical markers were set against the backdrop of the Terry Badlands – rocky, brown-colored hills that contrast nicely with the lushness of the Yellowstone River Valley, in which the interstate and small towns between Glendive and Billings are predominantly located. Though these badlands aren’t as impressive as their counterparts about 40 miles away near Glendive in Makoshika State Park, they are nevertheless neat to look at.
Near Tusler, or 8 miles northeast of Mile City, I found a nice recreation site next to the Yellowstone River. The site offered the opportunity to enjoy all sorts of activities, including fly fishing in the shallow river, picnicking at one of the nearby picnic tables, or walking down a paved path following a raging creek that flows into the river. You could even try your hand at hunting for the famed agates that line the Yellowstone River shore.
A couple of the largest remnants of old highway still intact are between Forsyth and Hysham and Custer and Huntley. Both stretches turned out to be very worthwhile to travel down. In fact, if you ask me, they are more scenic than the corresponding portions of interstate in the area. The old highway travels up and down hills lining the valley’s wall, while the interstate travels down primarily flat terrain.
I did see that Pompey’s Pillar National Monument near the town of the same name had changed a bit in the last year. The visitor’s center, which was still under construction last year, appeared to be all complete, and there was now an official entrance gate complete with a staffed ticket booth.
Other than that, not much had changed in the area, including the city of Billings. It was in that city that I spent the night.
Interstate 94 southwest of Glendive
Along the old U.S. Highway 10 - this bridge crosses the Powder River, near the spot where it empties into the Yellowstone River
There's a marker near the confluence of the Powder and Yellowstone Rivers
The following eight pictures were taken near the historic site to the southwest of Terry
You don't usually associate cacti with Montana, but they do show up in some places in the eastern portion of the state
The pioneer cemetery where some unknown remains are located
One of the gravestones - its only marking is the year 1878
The design on the fence lining the cemetery shows the animals which were important to pioneers in the area
The Yellowstone River near the Tulser Recreation Site - notice the cattle standing in the water?
The creek at the Tusler Recreation Area
The following five pictures were taken near Hathaway from an Interstate 94 rest area that overlooks the Yellowstone River and its adjoining valley
These pelicans were big enough, and flying low enough, to make shadows on the water below - it was a pretty neat effect
A westbound empty coal train curves of the Yellowstone River Valley
The Rosebud County courthouse in Forsyth is one of the biggest architectural masterpieces of eastern Montana - too bad it's hard to get a good picture of it and that the lighting was bad at the time I visited
A little bit of downtown Forsyth
F is for Forsyth - almost all towns in this part of Montana have their first letter prominently displayed on a nearby hill
Day 3 Summary Dickinson, North Dakota to Glendive, Montana
Once again, day 3 of my 2007 vacation was similar to day 3 of my 2006 vacation, so I’ll direct you to the report I wrote last year.
One difference between 2006 and 2007 was the amount of time I spent looking around Dickinson. This year, I visited the Dickinson Dam on the west end of town as well as the campus of Dickinson State University.
The dam was located very near to the reservoir I visited in Dickinson last year, so the scenery was largely the same. Still, I once more enjoyed being near a lake – even if it was man-made – in the largely lake-free southwestern corner of North Dakota.
I don’t know what made me want to check out DSU, but I saw a sign along Villard Street (the old Highway 10) in Dickinson pointing toward it, luring me there. The campus turned out to be quite a nice place containing beautiful, old buildings as well as a fairly significant green space. My favorite site, however, turned out to be the International Flag Plaza and Walk of Pride next to the Student Center. The fairly new site consisted of a brick walkway, lined with memorial bricks purchased by alumni and friends of the university, as well as over a couple dozen flagpoles containing flags from all over the world. As a nearby plaque described, there is a flag displayed for each country that an international student at DSU comes from. As it turned out, I chose a good day to see all the flags, since there was a fairly significant breeze causing them to flap around.
After seeing DSU, it was time to head west toward the badlands around Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The scenery was just as great as last year in this area.
Something I found interesting was how empty the tourist trap town of Medora appeared to be when I passed through this year. Sure, there were still people buying knick-knacks in the shops or walking around the city’s streets, but, as tourist traps go, it wasn’t all that crowded. Perhaps it was just because I visited on a Tuesday; weekends probably see a lot of people on day trips to the area.
The drive from Medora to Glendive hadn’t changed much from 2006, so, once again, see last year's report. The oasis of Glendive served as the place where day 3 of my vacation came to an end.
The Dickinson Dam
Some interesting rocks near the dam
The following eight pictures were taken on the campus of Dickinson State University
Jamaica, Republic of Macedonia, Nepal (left to right)
DSU's Student Center
DSU's King Pavilion
The entrance to DSU
The following four pictures were taken on the road in the badlands east of Medora
Beware of cattle
The Medora post office
No trip out here woul dbe complete without making a stop to see the view at the Painted Canyon Visitors Center right off of Interstate 94
A coal train going to Superior, WI ascends the grueling hill east of Medora
The Yellowstone County courthouse in Beach, ND
The landscape north of Beach and about a mile east of the Montana/North Dakota border
One of the most prominent natural landmarks near Beach is Sentinel Butte, which stands at an elevation of 3430 feet above sea level
One of the first billboards eastbound travelers along Interstate 94 see upon arriving in North Dakota is this one for Medora, which is about 25 miles straight ahead
Day 2 Summary Bismarck, North Dakota to Dickinson, North Dakota
Although there were a few differences, the second day of my 2007 vacation resembled the second day of my 2006 vacation. As a consequence, I’ll direct you to the day 2 report of my 2006 vacation and only point out the differences between 2006 and 2007 in this report.
One of the biggest differences was the route taken to get to Dickinson from Bismarck. In 2006, the route was pretty straightforward: I traveled along what’s left of the precursor to Interstate 94, the now-decommissioned U.S. Highway 10. This year, however, I yearned a bit beforehand to deviate from this path and visit the Beulah and Hazen areas. These two cities lie within the heart of the vast lignite coal fields of North Dakota and, as a result, contain numerous coal-fired power plants and related industries that, quite often, employ fresh blood from UND’s School of Engineering and Mines.
To get to this area from Bismarck, I decided to first take ND Highway 25 from just west of Mandan to Center, an aptly named city of 678 located in both the center of its county and state.
Although there’s a lot of North Dakota that is extremely rural, the area to the north and west of Mandan seems to be even more so. The hilly, treeless land around Center is better suited for coal mining than farming, meaning that not much settlement has ever occurred. In fact, Center is actually the last remaining city in its county (Oliver), which has a total population of only 2,065.
From Center, I got on ND Highway 48. A little more than 9 miles north of town, the highway ends at an intersection with ND Highway 200A and crosses the border of Mercer County, which also happens to be the border between the Central and Mountain Time Zones.
As the cities of Hazen and Beulah were located still farther to the west, I got on ND Highway 200A heading west. The barren, hilly landscape that I had traveled through since Mandan briefly gave way to a lush, cottonwood-laden landscape as the road traveled close to the Missouri River.
The change in landscape was short-lived, however, as the roadway exited the Missouri River Valley a little west of Stanton. Once more, the chief scenery consisted of barren hills and the stacks from close by coal-fired power plants.
West of Stanton, the next city on highway 200A is Hazen. This community of 2,457 is one of the largest in central North Dakota and, along with Beulah – a mere 10 miles away – makes up a 5,609 person “metropolitan area” that is the center of commerce and industry in the region.
Although I didn’t see any notable tourist attractions in Hazen while I was planning this vacation, I saw some signs pointing to the Riverside City Park while in town. I didn’t know what sort of park this might be, but I figured it might be a good idea to check it out.
The park ended up being in a secluded area nearly a mile south of town. Nevertheless, it turned up being an excellent tourist attraction for me, since it included an interesting and informative tree walk. Somewhere along the line – I believe I read that it was in 2000 – the Arbor Day Foundation donated a few dozen trees for public display. What’s more, every tree contains a placard describing what type of tree it is. I think I spent a good half hour, or maybe more, walking around the park, looking around at all the unique trees. It was a very enjoyable experience that I think would have been even more so had the trees appeared to be in better condition. Sadly, many of them appeared to be in rough health; the biggest problems were leafless branches and leaves being eaten by hungry insects. Hopefully the city of Hazen doesn’t let the collection worsen any further, as it really is a distinctive tourist attraction.
Before going to Beulah, I took a little detour and went to the Freedom Mine and Great Plains Synfuels Plant. The former is one of the largest coal mines in the area, while the latter is a large coal gasification plant – coal from the nearby mine is brought there and chemically converted to natural gas.
Since I didn’t know what, if anything, I’d be able to see of either the mine or the plant beforehand, it was nice to find a scenic overlook on a hill right across from the gasification plant. The overlook provided not just a good view of that place, but also of the coal mine as well as surrounding countryside. In addition, it had a huge scoop, presumably from one of the machines that once worked hard to scrape coal out of the strip mine.
After seeing the mine and plant, Beulah was next stop. The city is set in the deep Knife River Valley, so if you come in from the north (like I did), you start off relatively high in elevation and keep descending and descending until you finally reach the downtown part of the city.
From Beulah, it was off to ND Highway 49 to Glen Ullin, 30 miles south. While scenic, the landscape on this road was void of pretty much any signs of inhabitation. There was another coal mine or two, but that was about all.
Once in Glen Ullin, I got on the old U.S. Highway 10 to head toward Dickinson. The weather forecast had earlier mentioned the possibility of severe weather later in the afternoon, and by the time I got to Hebron, this forecast was appearing more and more accurate. Though the sky had gotten dark and more ominous while I was still in Beulah, it was very dark in Hebron. I waited around town until the inevitable storm blew past, which ended up happening with relative ease. The only thing Hebron got was a few sprinkles of rain and a few flashes of lightning; the worse part of the storm passed to the south, where it spawned a brief tornado warning.
As that storm continued moving eastward, the sky to the west started clearing. Eventually, the sky cleared enough to let the sun come out and dramatically light up the storm clouds pushing to the east.
As luck would have it, the sun came out right about at the time when I reached the hill north of Gladstone with the “Geese in Flight” metal sculpture advertising the nearby “Enchanted Highway.” The scenes from the hill were absolutely beautiful lit up the way that they were (check out the pictures below).
The sun was only present for a short while, though, as another storm fired up to the west and once again made the sky cloudy. Incredibly, this storm started moving right toward Gladstone and the hill I was on. I got to see nearly everything: the storm develop from out of thin air, grow in intensity, and finally pass directly overhead, bringing a torrential downpour, a little bit of lightening, and gusty winds.
The storm was well below severe thresholds, however, and only lasted a couple of minutes. Nevertheless, it provided a pretty neat experience. The sun even came out, once more, after the storm passed and brought with it a short-lived rainbow.
After enjoying the scenery from the hill for just a while longer, it was time to go the 11 miles to Dickinson to end the second day of my vacation.
The first nine photos were taken in Menoken, the small town east of Bismarck that the railroad has almost always called Burleigh Menoken has a small school, still in use for grades K-8. Enrollment has dropped in recent years, however, as parents now have the option to send their children to the schools in Bismarck for more than just high school.
The Menoken School sign
Behind the school is a small pond
There were a lot of geese swimming in the pond
One of the many gophers(?) that were roaming around the school grounds
Fargo St. in Menoken
The tracks in Menoken, with the Burleigh station sign prominent in the background
An abandoned farm building to the east of Menoken
The Menoken Post Office was one of the only places still open for business in the city's "downtown"
An eastboudn train goes across the Missouri River in Bismarck
Boating on the Missouri
This recently-placed sculpture was on display in the park next to the Missouri River in Bismarck
Some scenery on the road to Center
Some more scenery near Center
Der Imbiss Bar & Grill in Center
The Center water tower is on top of a small hill on the city's east side
At The Missouri River Valley near Stanton
An example of one of the placards next to each of the trees in Hazen's Riverside Park
A buckeye growing on an Ohio Buckeye tree in Hazen's Riverside Park
The following five pictures are from the scenic overlook near Beulah
After the first storm passed when I was near Hebron, the second storm started firing up to the west
The remnants of the first storm I saw
The following ten pictures were taken from the hill with the "Geese in Flight" sculpture. You can see the storm clouds from the first storm illuminated by the sun, the second storm coming in and blocking the sun, the second storm building in intensity and pushing westward, and, finally, the sun coming out once again after the second storm's passage.