Freedom. There is nothing more invigorating than freedom. Freedom is many things to different people. To me, it is the sun warming my skin. It is clarity and lungs full of clean, fresh air.
We decided to make a tribute drive day to our area. To the Sheyenne River, in fact. The beauty of nature that begins in some of our very own back yards. The plan was to visit the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway.
The map: Begin on Sheyenne in West Fargo, continue south on 17 through Horace, west on 46 to Lisbon where the scenic byway begins. It winds north through Fort Ransom, Kathryn, and Valley City to Baldhill Dam.
As we made our way south on Sheyenne, the billowy gray clouds were lit up by the sun that was not visible to us but made the clouds glow. They looked majestic!
These miles showed us farmland with the crops barely peeking above the black earth. One area had an old church lifted in the middle of the field; I cannot wait to visit again later in the season to see it sitting on the hill with a growing crop. How much more original to North Dakota can you get?
As we pulled into Lisbon on the immediate right was a sign, "America's Byways" and a gravel road expanded behind the sign. We found ourselves in a valley with lush green trees all around us. As we continued upon these curves the shades of green became more intricate.
This countryside was scattered with little towns and ranches. One particular sheep ranch had beautiful white (and very large) dogs standing watch. They stood so still, just watching, and we were no exception. They kept their eyes on us and did not discount the possible threat that we posed. They did not watch all at once as I would have expected, but just one at a time: casual but stern. A system, if you will. A couple of young black sheep even dotted our vision among the white.
At one point we came upon Pyramid Hill by Fort Ransom, with the statue of the Viking on top. We took the Walt Hjelle Parkway (also a gravel road) and continued to follow it. We came upon a cottage across from a fishing hole with a small waterfall. We drove past a couple of spots where part of the earth had been removed from a hill and we could see the different layers and colors of the soil. We came upon Preston Lutheran Church. Systematically enough as we passed through looking at the soil and lush trees, Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" played through the radio.
We passed a farmstead that had two tall banks with a wooden and rope bridge between the two. This vision was striking. It was the last thing I expected to see in North Dakota. Part of it had broken and was hanging just like in the movies. Closer to the road was a huge red barn with bright white letters stating, 'God made all of it.'
Some time after this, the road became unusually straight and we found ourselves on a highway passing a sign that said, "Dickey 19 miles". Dickey? Um...I didn't remember seeing Dickey along the route map. We hadn't even taken any turns lately! Where is Dickey in relation to where we were supposed to be anyway?
After we collected our thoughts from the shock of being lost and not even knowing it, we regrouped, looking over the map for an entryway onto the byway once again. As it turns out, Dickey is just west of where we were supposed to be.
We were led to a still gravel road, that led us by Waldheim Lutheran Church (have you ever noticed that prairie churches seem to be white with red bottoms?) and Wadeson Park historic site where we were able to view a hand hewn cabin. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/hand-hewn defines this as "Adj. 1. hand-hewn - cut or shaped with hard blows of a heavy cutting instrument like an ax or chisel; "a house built of hewn logs")."
By Kathryn we were able to view a monument signifying a school and barn. The air here seemed the cleanest of anywhere I had been before. The grass was clean, the clover was abundant and the lilac scent was deep. We were able to learn about barns and farm homes from the monument.
As we rolled into Valley City, the lushness continued with large rocks in the hillsides. Unfortunately, with all the wasted time we had we were unable to finish the ride at Bald Hill Dam Overlook. After a brief store visit we were able to head east on I-94 back toward home.
This trip was much more than I had expected. I was concerned that the day was too cloudy to be able to enjoy too much of the scenery, but it was as beautiful as ever. I think that it is important for each of us to learn about different parts of North Dakota and what it has to offer. I wonder how many people don't know what this beautiful country around us looks like. How many of us actually take the time to utilize the back roads to look at this landscape? I was very surprised to see the extent of the beauty that I did not know was there, and the great thing about it, there is more to see! I do hear some people say, "there's nothing here" but I swear that the people who say that have never seen the sun reflect off of the wheat fields or have waved to people walking on their farmstead and having them wave back to you. There is so much here. It is North Dakota.
Lorissa Lenertz is a longtime West Fargo resident, active member of the West Fargo Fire Department volunteer squad, and avid motorcycle rider, who loves to write about various excursions, emphasizing the points of interest that might entice other travelers looking for new and exciting places to visit. We will be featuring her stories periodically in our publications.