White Butte trip 7/8/05August 1 2005 at 12:17 AM
|Mark James Mullins |
Response to White Butte, North Dakota (3,506 Feet)
This is a shortened summary of my trip with good friend C.D. and plastic action figure "Woody" from Toy Story of course (who attended Konvention and conquered IL with me in 2003, and to this point has attained all my HP's with me. He will likely be retired to the future highpointer museum when he completes.)
The uncensored blog version of this and other HP, tri-pointing, boundary, and other adventures (due to language) will soon be available by request to my email, in which I'll respond with a URL link. The site will include many pictures and likely some panoramas we've taken. I can be reached through cxdomains at yahoo dot com ..
White Butte, ND - HP #5 for this Arkie.
The afternoon of 7/8 was ticking away.. C.D. and I had attempted to conquer the ND,SD,MT tri-point and failed since his mapping software indicated a road that didn't exist. We swore to come back at a later date to try again.
I had remembered Mr. Dennis'es number and gave him a call. He answered and asked where I was from. I told him we'd be there shortly and he gave us permission. It still bugs C.D. to no end why I can remember entire phone numbers effortlessly, but I regularly remind him I still get em' wrong sometimes.
Since I didn't have anything less than a $20, C.D. fronted me a $10 to cover the entry. Upon reflection, perhaps the ghost of Angie (Van Daele) was laughing out loud that afternoon. It's sad I didn't get to meet her as I believe we'd have gotten along quite well, since I too used to smoke like a chimney and sometimes will enjoy the smoking area at restaurants. The road had heavy grass growth and some deep ruts so the car was driven slowly at times, and more aggressive at others. A 4-WD is best, but a car can make it. I'd recommend special care and discretion be used for any passenger car on the road past the mailbox, especially after a rain!
Since it was late in the afternoon, with the sun preparing to set in about an hour or so, we began preparations. Because the 'skeeters were already out to feed and were hungry, we used "Off" mosquito repellant which worked pretty well, but I regret not taking along the DEET-100 that many North Dakotans (and this Arkie) swear by. Fortunately, C.D. took along his flashlight which proved invaluable later, along with his camera and tripod. I took along "Woody", my GPS unit, camera, and cellphone. We did this trail without any of the HP guides since the internet was peppered with information on how to get to the trail, yet there are quite a number of false trails on this trek, so be prepared to add some time to backtrack unless you're with someone who has been to North Dakota's roof before.
We made it to the fence corner and this required a 2-man operation to get under the barbed wire - one holding up the wire while the other squatted underneath. Getting closer, the scene was becoming more majestic and almost surreal. So far, mosquitoes weren't an issue, and we were making good time along the trail. After the grasses, we came across the first false trail we had to backtrack. A chipmunk kept a close and curious distance from us for about 600' along the first rise of elevation once we figured out the correct path. Another grassy area after that first rise was tall enough that I listened intently for rattlesnakes. Twilight was approaching, but if we continued our pace, we could get some good pictures and sign the register. This place has been described as if being in Scotland, and in the late afternoon, the amber light of sunset gives it an unforgettable look, one I enjoyed and may come back another time with more daylight. Another set of mild switchbacks and the wind really picked up around 3400' which kept the bugs away. A right turn, then a few hundred feet more, and voila! I could see the pipe with survey marker - dangit, we made it to the top! I signed the register for C.D., "Woody", and myself, and we took several pictures. Since my hat wasn't outfitted with a stampede string, I had to use a large rock to hold it on the ground while filling out the register, and had to really screw the hat down on my head (just like at some of the rodeos years back) so it would stay on during the few we were able to take in that stiff 30+ mph wind. I made a cell call to friend Patrick in Little Rock to tell him we made it atop White Butte. Only analog service was available to my Alltel line, which was ironic since I experienced the same thing the day before at Sibley, IA visiting Hawkeye Point with Midwest Cellular. Perhaps I remembered to put my quote in the registry "It's all downhill from here!" but perhaps not. We left the summit, much happier we had hustled like we did to make it happen. There was still enough light to work with at the top. As we approached the small saddle of the hill going down, I realized I had forgotten to "shoot" the survey marker with the GPS! I told C.D. to keep going that I'd return after grabbing that set of coordinates. I hightailed it there and made the summit again in 5 minutes, then took about 10 seconds to grab that precious waypoint which rendered:
46 23.222 N
103 18.154 W
and ran back to catch C.D.. Another mishap became apparent when I reached him. Somewhere, my cellphone had come loose. All the wear and abuse to the Nokia cellphone holder had taken it's toll where the plastic holder was no longer stiff enough to secure it. I had to run back up through the saddle and found it in the middle of the trail, close to the switchbacks. Although I lucked out, I knew I'd have to hold on to all items the remainder of the way, and until replaced, I could never trust the small plastic belt clip again.
Once we were out of the winds, we quickly became the main course for hundreds of mosquitoes, being there during a peak feeding time. We already had on the flashlight to ensure no serious mishaps would take place, which probably attracted more. Because of the winds drying out much of the protection the "Off" gave us, and the sweat which began to pour from us, it was going to get even worse. We chose another trail which led us to the fenceline, a different way of returning. Another small area of elevation gain was probably the worst, since the 'skeeters were gaining on us. I turned back and could hear the buzzing and droning of literally hundreds of them! It was even worse than the annoying droning of political TV ads during voting season. We then found an area with about a 100' natural slide at about a good 45-degree angle with some small scree mixed in for good measure. Both of us slid a few feet and toward the bottom were able to run through the last of it, which helped us to evade plenty of mosquitoes. We constantly brushed ourselves, especially the neck, face, and arms. To the fence crossing we arrived, and it proved more agonizing than before thanks to the bugs. After the same 2-man operation to get past the crossing, we had yet another half-mile to the car.
I'm surprised neither of us lost anything getting back, especially the speed we were running. Certainly we weren't worrying about any snakes. Even if the remote on C.D.'s keychain to start up the car didn't work, I had still marked the waypoint of the car on the GPS at the beginning of the trek to get us back to it in one piece. We saw it, he started it up, and the air conditioning was full-throttle when we did a final scrape of ourselves before getting in. The last of the twilight had disappeared just before we made it. Later on, I was surprised how few bites I'd gotten. C.D. on the other hand had wound up as more tasty to the lovely winged ladies out for a bite. We had maybe a dozen or so bugs in the car, even less than at KVLY's tower site. nearby at Bowman, ND we discovered the sandwich shop had closed, but I bought two postcards - one as a distinct memoir of the evening: "North Dakota State Bird" with a Texas-sized print of a mosquito. To close, I want to thank the Dennis'es for their decision to allow continued access to White Butte, and allowing the experience of my fifth highpoint. After all, completing can't be done with less than 50.