White Butte, ND Trip Report of 7/11/05

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    [Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum]
    [By: Lanny Wexler on July 23 2005 at 1:30 PM]

    We followed the directions in Charlie and Diane Winger’s Highpoint
    Adventures Book we reached the former Van Daehle’s abandoned
    residence about 6:30 pm after following a good dirt road in from US
    85, just east of Amidon, ND.

    I stopped to check if the new owners were home. Boy, this place gave
    me the willies. It was abandoned, and in a state of great disrepair.
    I decided not to knock on the door as it looked deserted and was
    overgrown with high grass, a prime hiding spot for snakes. We did
    make our presence knowen but no one came to the window or the door,
    so we proceeded out of their driveway and drove about another half
    mile south on a poor overgrown dirt road and parked.

    As soon as I left the car, I went to the trunk to don my snake
    leggings. The beauty of the place was inspiring but the danger was
    ever present. I felt the excitement of being in this distant place
    and now having the chance to add my 37th state highpoint and first
    new state highpoint in nearly three years. White Butte beckoned
    across the vastness of the praire.

    My friends got themselves organized and we started walking towards
    our objective. We proceeded south on the road passing a field of
    junked cars off to the west, soon we reached the end of the barbed
    wire fence. My friend Ken was in front of me and no more than five
    minutes from the car, he startled a rattlesnake that was lying in a
    rut, obscured by high grass, near the center of the dirt road. I
    yelled snake as I thought I heard it rattle and hear it slither off
    into the grass to the front and left of my friend.

    I was on edge after that but we proceeded on. It was a bit confusing
    at first with the multiple trails. I saw trails taking off to the
    right where the fence started but continued onj the road south until
    we spotted the gate. As my friend opened the gate and were surprised
    when we saw the fence posts collapse. I was not expecting this and
    wasa concerned about property damage as we wanted to leave things the
    way we found them.

    We figured we would fix the fence on our way back. We proceeded
    forward, apprehensively with me stomping my feet and beating my stick
    to warn snakes of our presence. Snakes don’t hear noise but they do
    sense ground vibrations so I thought it was prudent to let them know
    we’re coming and to “get out of the way”.

    My friend George and I soon had doubts that we were on the right
    trail as we walked the fence south. I had seen Charlie and Diane
    Winger’s graphic and description of a grove of trees to the southwest
    but we saw none. We saw the Butte in front of us and another one off
    to our west. There were multiple routes and we were concerned we
    would be following a herd path that would lead to a dead end. I
    thought I saw another route that went off to the west some 5 to 10
    minutes back, near the north end of the fence, close to where we
    encountered. Knowing the lateness of the day, I knew we could not
    afford to be wrong, otherwise we’d have to call it quits for the day
    or risk being caught out after dark. Our motel was well over a
    hundred miles away, so alot was at stake.

    Trying to be conservative, I backtracked to the north, retracing our
    steps. It took us several minutes to latch up the gate (restore the
    poles to a somewhat vertical position). We walked north to the end of
    the fence, we then turned west and followed the trail but my heart
    sank as it became apparent the trail was petering out.

    Now with a sense of urgency, I told my friends we would follow our
    original course and proceed directly south. I sized up White Butte
    and felt somehow a southerly route directly towards White Butte would
    get us up there. It was a gamble.

    We resolutely retraced our steps after having lost about 10 to 15
    minutes. The clock was ticking. We undid the gate and I had my friend
    put on long pants as I realized Ken was only wearing shorts. We soon
    passed the spot we had turned back. I fearfully proceeded onward
    following the narrow foot wide trail with eyes wide open and the with
    grass often brushing against me.

    Soon the trail led off towards the right (southwest) and we began to
    climb the white clay hill. We made our way up steep pitches that
    alternately leveled off. As wse climbed the vistas grew wider and
    wider. Despite the danger I could not get over the beauty of this
    place. Someone had descibed this as looking like Scotland and it
    really did have that appearance. It seemed a gentle landscape with
    soft green heathland, wildflowers, sweet grassland scents and even
    trees hidden among a sheltered spot. I nervously plowed through grass
    at one spot as the trail seemed to almost disappear but I emerged in
    the open again. As we climbed up two more steep hills before we
    arrived at the summit at about 7:30 pm.

    Despite this fact White Butte was only a 400 foot climb I had a real
    sense of accomplishment. I had been dreading this climb for months
    because of my fear of snakes and had consider either not doing this
    highpoint or coming here in winter. Not a fun prospect, as winter has
    its own set of challenges.

    I looked down on a benign landscape with farms stretching out to the
    horizon and adjoining white clay buttes. Some of the rolling
    grassland among the buttes looked like a golf course. I think
    arriving late in the day made the experience all the more unique,
    with the long shadows being cast and the delightful temps rather than
    coming here in the blazing white heat of midday. I was even able to
    see my rental car, some one mile away.

    I opened the green register box and signed in and took a bunch of
    photos for my “bragging rights”. After spending about 15 minutes on
    the summit I proceeded down with the same sense of caution I used on
    the way back.

    As we descended, I was unable to find the same path down but soon
    recognized the grove of trees mentioned in the Winger book that I was
    unable to locate on the ascent. The path down seemed to be a bit more
    established than the one I used on my ascent. It sidled over to the
    east and then took the right fork which descended towards the same
    barbed wire fence that comes up from the road.

    The trail finally led to an open slope that led very steeply down to
    the praire below, It required myself and our friends to sit down on
    our butts and slide down about a 100 feet of white crumbly clay with
    only a few spots to grab on to, to slow our descent. As I reached the
    bottom first, I joked we got white butts on White Butte!

    After that it was another 10 minutes til we reached the car. We
    affixed the gate and walked the final hundred yards or so to the car.
    I wasted no time packing up and driving away.

    Well we were pleased and drove some fifty miles north on US 85 to
    dinner in Belfield, ND at I-94. I treated my self to a burger, fries,
    ice water with apple pie and ice cream ala mode and the continued on
    our way west to our motel in Glendive, Montana.

    Lanny Wexler

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