While there are days to stay inside during the fall, when it’s cloudy, misty, dreary, there are also those days when I want to get out, and just go for a drive. I love exploring the backroads, byways, specialty shops, and local cafes. I call a friend, we fill our coffee mugs, a thermos, and head out for somewhere. Here are five of my favorite things to do in Dickinson North Dakota during autumn…
1. Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway
“Somewhere” ends up being places that I don’t travel to during my working week. There are small communities surrounding me in each direction that have really cool things. The Old Red Old Ten Scenic Byway is a great drive between Dickinson, ND, and Mandan, ND. We find new coffee shops, great local cafes that serve up homemade pumpkin pie, and sometimes a refurbished junk art shop that have cleverly rejuvenated old farm tools into living room pieces of new décor. We laugh at how we should have thought about recreating old tools, but then again, would we ever have come up with that idea? Probably not. So let’s just buy it!
2. Pursue Pottery
And there is this thing about local art. I try to find a unique piece that from each of my neighboring communities. Pottery is a favorite, and whether I am driving east to Assumption Abbey in Richardton, or onto Dacotah Clayworks in Hebron, or going west to Prairie Fire Pottery in Beach, I know I’m going to find really nice pieces. Art of course takes many forms. So, not only is the pottery popular in the area, so are the local drawings, paintings and photography. There really are some very talented people in southwestern North Dakota.
3. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
When I am looking for wildlife for my photography habit, I usually drive half an hour over to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s a 36-mile paved loop that has lots of areas to get out and photograph the buffalo, elk, wild horses, and prairie dogs. All at a safe distance of course! By this time of the year, wildlife is getting their winter coats and eating lots to stay warm. They never know if it’s going to be a tough winter or mild all season.
4. Little Missouri National Grasslands
Not only are the wildlife fun to watch, I love the variety of the trees in the area. The fall season brings out the comforting colors of weathered yellow grasses, warm orange leaves, and brown tones on the hillsides. Little Missouri National Grasslands has over 1 million acres of prairie, savannah, and badlands. Taking a hike over the prairie can surprise you with beautiful rock formations, open meadows, and flowering plants. Just when you think you are alone – up pops a prairie dog, barking wildly at you; and then he jumps back down his hole, only to peer out again, checking to see if anyone is still around.
5. Elkhorn Ranch
There is so much history in the North Dakota badlands, I love exploring it in the fall. As a young man during the 1880s, Theodore Roosevelt ranched and hunted in the area around Medora, North Dakota. He had come west to experience the robust, vigorous life the frontier required of a man. Later in life Roosevelt stated, “I would never have become president if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.”
Even thereafter, he frequently visited western North Dakota to hunt and refresh his soul in the badlands, where he said “the romance of my life began.” Traveling the back road up to the site of his Elkhorn Ranch, and walking through the ranch yard where Theodore Roosevelt once lived, is a day drive that I enjoy. I imagine seeing the same hillsides of rugged buttes that he saw, the Little Missouri River in front of the ranch, and the daily ranch duties of caring for his livestock.
Fall into a cozy season…
Western North Dakota in the autumn season is a great time to get the coffee travel mug filled, get the vehicle gassed up, and a route mapped out for a full day.
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