07-Jul-2014 -- I love corners of states, and to have a confluence point near one of these corners makes them even more attractive to visit. The confluence of 46 North 104 West was very close to the junction of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. I had been on a whirlwind 3 day trip to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and had visited 4 confluences in the first two days. Today was my last day in this region, and I hoped to add two more confluence points. I left the national park at 3:55am, but being only 2 weeks after the summer solstice and so far north, the sky to the east was already becoming light. The dawn was long, though, and as I drove east on I-94, and then south on US Highway 85 to Bowman, the sun did not rise until I was very close to the highest point in the state. I had not been on these roads before, and enjoyed the sights on US Highway 12 with the sun now behind me. Turning south on Camp Crook Road once I passed over the Little Missouri River, things became even more interesting. I was the only person on the road and had wide open spaces all around. Truly a geographer's paradise.
The road became gravel but still well graded, but I had a long distance to cover today, and therefore I passed up numerous opportunities to take photographs of oil wells, abandoned buildings, and the sweet yellow clover that grew everywhere this year given the ample rainfall that they had received. As the road bent to the west, I did not see a good place to begin hiking, and when the distance to the confluence began to increase rather than decrease at the next bend, I parked at the side of the road. Gathering supplies but not finding a way to easily walk to the northwest, I simply plunged into the grass, clover, and other plants, hoping that I wouldn't step on a snake or cactus. About 100 meters into my journey, my toe went into a prickly pear needle. I was making very slow progress; the 1.5 mile trek would likely take an hour at this rate. Fortunately, about 10 minutes later, I found a track that had been driven on long ago, but following it was faster than cutting cross-country. I followed the track as far as I could, even though its route was to the west-northwest. Once more, I cut cross-country, but this time remained close to a fence running toward the north. I passed a watering trough and prairie potholes--small basins that hold water during and after heavy rains and important habitat for migrating birds. One was full and the next two were dry. Walking on the bottom of these potholes was a treat, and made for a bit more rapid progress, and I made a video on the return trip. Otherwise, though, it was very slow going, with prickly pear and holes seemingly everywhere. It would have been better if I had brought along hiking boots. Nearly an hour after I began my hike, I found the confluence, having no trouble zeroing out the GPS receiver under big North Dakota skies.
The confluence lies on a small knoll, about 2 meters higher than the surrounding prairie potholes. The view is magnificent in all directions, with a prominent eroded knoll about 1 kilometer to the northwest, perhaps a bit less. The skies were getting a bit dark to the north; perhaps I should exit the scene soon. The temperature was about 80 F; I thought about how mild it was, contrasted with the bitterly cold trek I had to the point one degree east of here one February morning. A few birds were in the distance but I spotted no animals or people, nor any houses or farms. I stood there for a while, thinking about the Native Americans roaming these hills and the settlers trying to cross this region with wagons. I had a difficult enough time trying to walk through here on foot and not carrying much on my back; I had great respect for those who trod here before me. It was a magnificent confluence and even lovelier than I had expected. I had stood on 46 North several times over the years, from Oregon on the west to Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan on the east. Thinking about my day ahead, and it already being nearly 8:00 am, I only spent about 20 minutes at the site. This was a fairly difficult confluence to reach distance wise and hiking wise, and I hated to leave, knowing I probably would never be back here.
Given the time constraints, and the walking difficulty, I resisted the temptation to make a circle route for the return hike. I thus largely walked back the way I had come in, with a small exception at the end: I stuck to the west-northwest east-southeast track longer on the way back, taking it almost to the road. I made a bit better time on the return trek; the sun came out again and I was glad I had brought some sunblock. The coiled barbed wire made for some excellent photographs. Fortunately, I stepped on no additional cacti. I was glad to see the vehicle and some additional water. Continuing on Camp Crook Road, I passed a few minutes later into South Dakota, even though there was no state line sign of any kind. I filmed video while passing through the sweet yellow clover on this magnificent and remote road.