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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