North Dakota

Picture of north_dakota North Dakota. Before we went we expected most of it to look like this. It does not disappoint, most of the state looks more or less like this. You can see a long way from the slightest of hills. Coming from heavily forested mountains though, this is rather novel. If you're wondering if people actually go on vacation to North Dakota .. Well, we did. We met a handful of other people who did too.
Picture of capitol This may be the least interesting site in North Dakota. It's the state capitol building. We give it points for being different from other state capitols - no dome and neo-classical architecture here. Let's move on, shall we.
Picture of powwow_aztec We stayed in Bismarck. Probably we would've ended up in Bismarck anyway because it's in the middle of the state and really there are not that many cities in North Dakota with a range of hotels and restaurants. However we specifically came to Bismarck to see the United Tribes International Pow-Wow which is held here every September. Along with 'local' tribes, they have a cultural exchange each year and in 2013 it was an Aztec dancing group.
Picture of powwow_dance It's a bit hard to describe the experience of the International Pow Wow. For the most part it's like a county fair without too many exhibits and a slightly more interesting range of fair food. The action is centered on the Lone Star Arena which is really a covered ring of short bleachers. Periodically throughout the event the tribes make a Grand Entry here accompanied by rings of drummers. This is very much worth seeing.
Picture of powwow_entry We can't really explain what happens during the grand entry, it's more of a spectacle to watch. The tribes come from most of the central US and Canada and include various Sioux, Lakota, Cree, Crow, Chippewa, Navajo and more. There are a variety of singing and dancing and possibly drumming competitions. We can't really explain those either but it's an interesting thing to see.
Picture of salem_sue North Dakota is all about having the largest something or other in each town. Perhaps because they're located so close to Canada it sort of wore off on them. Either way you can see a large Buffalo in Jamestown, a large Sandhill Crane in Steele and Salem Sue - a large Holstein - in Salem. Is this exciting? No, not really but it's someplace to get out of the car and it does make for some unique photos.
Picture of roosevelt_np The premier attraction in North Dakota is Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the western part of the state. It is made up of several units that encompass grassland, badlands and ranching areas.
Picture of wild_horses The South Unit near the town of Medora is the easiest to visit and has the majority of the facilities in the park. There is a loop drive which covers most of the territory. If our visit was any indication, the park is teeming with wildlife. We saw several groups of wild horses; these obligingly came close enough for good photographs.
Picture of prairie_dog There are many prairie dog colonies inside the park. Some of these colonies are surprisingly vast and after watching for a while you start to realize that there are hundreds if not thousands of the little rodents running around.
Picture of bison Bison are the iconic animal of Teddy Roosevelt National Park (and the entire National Park system for that matter). We saw loners scattered about the park as well as two large herds. One of those herds was ambling up the middle of the road for perhaps 15 minutes or so.
Picture of hiking There are many hiking trails in the park as well, ranging from short loops to multi-day backpacking. Hiking here means you are out among the bison, the wild horses, and the pronghorn antelopes. Given the long vistas we could almost always see at least one group of these animals somewhere off in the distance. Nothing approached us closely but it appears you could have quite the interesting hiking experience here.

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