I scrambled up White Butte, the Highpoint of North Dakota at 3506 feet, on Saturday, July 31st, 2004. It was my 25th state highpoint.
I decided to stop at the highpoint of North Dakota on my way home from the Konvention in Washington. With the help of the directions in the Wingerís guidebook I arrived at White Butte at 1:30PM. It was hot and sunny. While turning onto the gravel road leading to the Van Daeleís house I briefly spoke to a man in a van with Florida license plates. He was the only other person I saw in the area and the only other person that signed the logbook that day. It was his 46th highpoint. Although I had heard that Mrs. Van Daele had recently died I went to the house to see if anyone was there. The house was padlocked and looked as though noone had been there in awhile. The pickup truck was still there but there was a mailbox with a fairly new looking sign at the beginning of the old road that leads to the highpoint where donations should now be placed. It said something to the effect that donations would help keep the highpoint open to the public. It didnít specify how much the donation should be and since there was noone around they apparently depend on the honor system.
I recently read in the Highpointers Club Newsletter that this property has been sold and is now owned by Daryle & Mary Dennis. As a courtesy permission to cross their property can be obtained from the Dennisís by calling them at 701-879-6310. However if nobody is home permission is not mandatory. I also read elsewhere in this forum that the new owners have dropped the donation from $20.00 to $10.00.
I drove south following the tire tracks along the fence line and parked on the grass along the side of the road about 100 yards past the old abandoned farmhouse. The ground was dry and I probably could have driven a little farther but the guidebook said not to so I decided not to push my luck. Besides it was a beautiful day for a hike. After passing through the gate and making sure it was fastened behind me I stayed along the fence line as I hiked up the steep dry hill with lots of loose dirt and stones. I had to scramble at times but was thankful that it was not wet and muddy. On my way back down I followed a path that was farther away from the fence line toward the west. That seemed to be not as steep and probably would have been an easier climb. I passed a lot of cattle on the way to and from the highpoint but did not see or hear any rattlesnakes. The only other wildlife I saw during my visit to White Butte was some birds and hundreds of red flying ants that appeared to be having an orgy at the summit. They seemed to be congregating near the box containing the logbook. I read and signed the logbook, although I took it away from the box for a while to give the ants some privacy. I enjoyed the excellent views for about 20 minutes, before returning the book and heading back to my car.
I drove south toward South Dakota and Harney Peak. I thought that the motels would be full on a Saturday night in the Black Hills in July so I thought I was going to sleep in my car and get an early start up Harney Peak the next morning. I also thought the motels would all be pretty expensive. The Motel 6 book said that their rate in Belle Fourche, SD was $62.99, which is almost twice what I usually pay for Motel 6s. However shortly after entering Belle Fourche, as I drove south on US 85, a couple blocks past the Pamida store, I noticed a sign on the left side of the road that said Ace Motel with an arrow pointing toward the left. I think the price shown on the sign was $35.00. I wound up paying $37.77 including tax. I doubted there would be any vacancies but decided to check it out. It looked nice and fortunately did have a few rooms available. It was run by a very nice elderly couple that told me that I was lucky it wasnít the following weekend. They had been booked up well ahead for the big motorcycle rally in Sturgis.
As it turned out the Ace Motel was one of the cleanest and nicest inexpensive motels I have ever stayed at. There was also an excellent hamburger/ice cream stand a block away on US 85. Incidentally, I read that Belle Fourche, SD is considered to be the geographic center of the United States, including Alaska.