They don’t have the impact of the Grand Canyon, but South Dakota fields have a subtle beauty–especially in the fall.
When I took off from Lincoln this time, I decided to go north through South Dakota and North Dakota. Part of my goal was to visit a place I’d never been before: North Dakota. However, I also wanted to see more prairie. I love the prairie. It’s a subtle beauty, and I had studied Great Plains geography, history, music, and literature in college. I wanted to see where Per Hansa and his wife played out their pioneering lives in Giants in the Earth. I felt as though I could understand and appreciate it, even if most of the people I told about my destination thought it would be boring.
The golds and browns of South Dakota in the fall have a calm, coming-home quality.
I wasn’t disappointed. As I traveled up through South Dakota’s capitol, Pierre, and then to North Dakota’s capitol, Bismarck, I saw beautiful autumn-golden fields—both pasture and crops. The colors were muted, because it was late in the fall. Bright yellow leaves still clung to the branches on the sparse trees, but instead of presenting as a mass of gold, they looked like lace, almost like mist surrounding the dark branches. Many of the trees had more leaves on the bottom than the top, which made the misty “leaf ring” around the trunk look like a netted tutu, with multiple graceful branches rising up from the skirt into the sky.
Everything has just closed for the season at Apgar Village. The windows are boarded up, summer signs have been swapped for ones with off-season instructions, and only one building has a light in the window–it’s above a gift shop. I find myself wondering who is up there. If I come back in the summer, I will probably see that person behind the counter, asking me how they can help me. But now the welcome talk is nonexistent. That person is cozying up with a good book and a cup of tea, while I wander through this seasonal ghost town.
I imagined myself a bird, flying low across the water from shore to mountains…
Its a little disconcerting to be the only one here. However, I shift and jostle my mind purposefully into a groove, and soon I am comfortable with it. Even happy. No one but me is here on this cool day, seeing this place as I am seeing it.
As I drive around the corner to the boat ramp. I see grey clouds hanging in layers above the long expanse of Lake McDonald. Then suddenly I notice, at the end of the lake, the mountains. How did I not see them the first second I was here? I think it was because I didn’t expect them. I thought I would have to go much further into the park to see such a spectacular sight. And the shore has a personality of its own, with multicolored rocks on the beach and in the shallow, crystal-clear water. Continue reading
Today, a memory popped into my head. It was the satisfying memory of a 21-inch catfish I caught years ago at Fremont Lakes near Fremont, Nebraska. Last night, I stopped at this state recreation area for the night on my way to North Dakota from Lincoln. It was dark when I arrived, but this morning everything was illuminated with a soft glow—a crisp fall dawn, with pink mirrored lakes and lacey silhouettes of trees. If you know me, you know it’s unlikely for me to be up that early. But I woke up early thinking about the catfish and I had to get up and take a turn around the 18 sandpit lakes to see if I could remember which shore had yielded that prize.
I’m not sure I found the right shore, but I found many other treasures: mist along a finger of lake disappearing into a thicket, geese chilling at the edge of an abandoned beach, deep red sumac. Even the silhouette of a spiral slide on the playground provided a nostalgic view for me. Continue reading
Filed under camping, Lakes
Yesterday, I traveled about 50 km to see Maligne (muh-LEEN) Lake west and south of Jasper, AB. (Still waiting for my book manuscript and client product to arrive from the states, so I’m “stuck” here for a few more days.) I cooked myself dinner on the portable stove (fried potatoes), looking up every few minutes to see snippets of turquoise water peeking through the pine trees. I loved Maligne Lake, but I REALLY fell in love with Medicine Lake, a unique series of million-eyes-winking bodies of gently rippling water attached by meandering rivulets, embraced by mountains on all sides, some of them so big I felt as though God’s right-hand men (or women) were watching over me.
Medicine Lake, southwest of Jasper, AB. Meandering rivulets connecting sparkling mini-lakes, with caribou footprints in the sandbars…wow.
Lots of sandbars with footprints on them…caribou! Didn’t see the actual animal, but the spirit of the place really snagged my imagination and intensified my feelings of connection with the natural world. How does a place so beautiful exist? I felt as though my eyes worked better when I was there, because I WANTED to see more. I wanted to really see what I was looking at. You can see more photos on Facebook later today (Foster Executive Writing & Editing).
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