May 3, 2008
This is my first journal entry since late summer 2007.

I miss the prairie.

April was a cold month, and so I did not venture out at all. On top of that, the prairie is bone dry, and very little is growing. I am guessing that the pasque flowers have already bloomed, probably sometime in early April when there was a short spell of warm weather. I had hoped to find a late pasque flower blooming during my hike, but was disappointed to not find any.

As I walked to my favorite coulee to hike, my jeans collected lots of dust, and each foot step I took resulted in a loud crunch due to the dry prairie grasses - and the lack of any measureable precipitation as of late.

Earlier before I started my hike, I drove by the sharptail grouse lek that I usually visit quite often in the spring. However, I am not going to set up a blind to photograph the sharptail grouse this year. I'm just not finding the time to make that happen. When I drove by the lek, about 6 p.m., I saw 30+ grouse dancing on the lek. They are back, as predictable as winter in North Dakota.

Few trees were leafing out - only the poplar trees. Thus, when I looked at the coulees, I could see everything as there was no canopy to hide the ground. Soon, though, as it warms up and as the trees leave, the coulees will turn into a mini jungle, providing a stark contrast to the prairie.

Wildlife were abundant on this hike - deer (at least six), turkeys (2), a muskrat, lots of hawks, and of course, the sharptail grouse that I had driven by earlier. Despite the cooler weather as of late, I still managed to find two ticks crawling up my pant legs, hoping for a free meal that they didn't get.

One thing I did many times during my hike is that I stopped and listened. I enjoyed the sounds the most when I stood on top of a beaver dam and listened to the water quickly finding its way down the face of the dam. If I were young again, I think of the fun that I could have playing in that area and damming up the water, or tearing a few branches and some mud away, and watching the water flow with much force out of the dam.

I ventured down the coulee, and enjoyed the quiet pace of the walk. Even though I was only 15 miles from Bismarck, I felt as if I were walking on the prairie some 150 years ago when things were much quieter. It definitely took my mind off all the things that have to get done in the upcoming week.

As I neared the furthest point of my walk from the vehicle, I saw that the deer were venturing out. They didn't have a worry as they walked in the meadows about one-fourth of a mile from me.

I quickly headed back to the vehicle, following a dried up waterway for about three-eights of a mile (where I saw ice from the previous winter that hadn't melted), before heading up a steep hill, and then walking over mostly flat prairie.

It was a great walk, maybe one of my last for a while. With the dry weather, I have no illusions of being able to take lots of photos of wildflowers this spring. A significant change in the precipitation pattern will be necessary for that to happen. However, once it does, I can guarantee that at least a weekly walk will be on the schedule.


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