Trip Details

Location: North Dakota and South Dakota

Weather: Cold, drizzly and very windy. Gusts around 25 mph.

Time: 4:00 p.m.

Herpers: Mike Pingleton, Jeff LeClere, Austin Scharosch, Jim Scharosch & Matt Ricklefs

Account by: Matt Ricklefs

Photos by: Matt Ricklefs except where noted

Thought of the Day: On the Wings of a Buffalo!!!

When we planned our “annual” trip this year and decided on North Dakota we knew it was a little early. It was the time we could get us all together, including having Austin go this year, and we maximized our time with Memorial Day weekend. Now, we had picked this timeframe for our Texas trip in 2010 and we knew it was a little late in the year for that, but the same reasoning prevailed. That didn’t work out so well as it ended up being the start of a long drought cycle for Texas and it was hot and dry. Now, this year, the weather was unseasonably warm in the Midwest including North Dakota so we thought we had hit it right. The week before we left was favorable…but the forecast was not looking great.

With Austin along (making five people total) we decided we needed a little bigger vehicle than any of us had so Mike rented an Subarban and met Austin, Jim and I at Jim’s house. We all then went up to Minnesota to get Jeff. By the time Mike got into town it was getting cloudy, cool and a few sprinkles were starting…but that was OK, as we had Friday set as a travel day unless we saw something that looked promising and we had time.

When we got up to pick up Jeff the weather had not changed a lot, but it was not raining. We decided to stop at an Irish pub that had some good beers on tap and have dinner. Since it was Friday and it was St. Paul, it was busy so we sat outside. We had a lot of fun getting everyone together and Austin was a good compliment to the group and we all had a lot of fun. We pondered the mysteries of herping, music, modern culture and how we end up with such crappy weather on our Memorial Day trips. After dinner we drove a little ways and stopped just on the Minnesota side of the North Dakota border for the night and planed to hit the rest of the trip Saturday.

Saturday 5-26-12

Saturday the weather was pretty much the same. Our destination was Jim’s uncle Edwin’s ranch. We would herp in the general area using that as base camp

When we arrived we stopped and talked with Edwin who mentioned it was a bit cold to be looking for snakes. As if the comment was not ironically funny enough, the ability to see his breath in the cold air kinda put it all into perspective. We talked in the entry of his garage at the house because outside the winds were also howling at about 20-25 mph. We knew it was fruitless to even try and herp obviously and Edwin directed us into Medora so we could at least see the sights, get some food and as it ended up getting a hotel. Medora is right in the middle of the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park so on the way we at least got to see all the really cool landscape from Edwin’s ranch to the town. It was here that we got to see our first animal sights on the trip. Unfortunately they were not herps, but they were very cool. It was herd of Buffalo.

We got to see them as they walk parallel to the road and then walked ON the road around us. It was a lot of fun and the State Farm commercial with the Buffalo came to mind, but we had no ramming incidents. However we did get to see a couple of them fighting each other which was very cool. After taking some nice pics we parted ways. Not far along I got to see my first Prairie Dog town complete with barking/yelping doggies.

We stopped and watched them (since we didn’t have anything else to do and a lot of day to do it) and got some pics of them as well. On the way out we also saw a Golden Eagle high on a rock outcrop on a butte.

It really is amazing out there and it really takes you back in time. As we drove around we listened to cowboy music courtesy of Riders in the Sky. Listening to that, in that area is pretty neat. You can see that in the absence of herps we got a lot of habitat shots including a mini Devil’s Tower (this means something….).

We got into town and walked around as it was a neat western town set up, ate dinner and drank some beers back in the room. I had brought along my DVD player and seasons 1 & 2 of Archer. Jim and I were fans (Sterling Archer and I even share a birthday) and got to introduce Mike and Jeff to the hilarity that is one of the best shows on TV. We pondered what our next step would be as the forecast was dismal. By the end of the night and a few beers later we decided that based on the weather our closest move to the favorable would be to head south.

Sunday 5-27-12
Since this post is already very long…and not very herp filled, I will skip ahead a bit. You can tell even on a good day, our clothes are a little more layered than usual herping attire should be. We got up late, ate, drove and ended up close to South Dakota. We did get a little sun and it warmed up slightly. However it was not until 5:00 p.m. that we found anything. I spooked a bird off its nest and got a pic of her eggs.

I also got some far away pics of some Pronghorn Antelope which I did hope to see.

We moved to a location we hoped to find Pale Milks at. One goal was to find suitable habitat for them in North Dakota and getting a state record as they had been found just right across the border. We did find some nice areas but no Milks.

Every once in a while we all got separated and at times quite some ways away as you can see in the pic that I got of Jeff as he was coming from exploring an area we were moving from.

You also get to see the storm clouds in the pics as well. We did end up in South Dakota and it was Austin that found the first herp of the trip, A Bullsnake (Pituophis c. sayi)

Photo by Austin Scharosch

Photo by Jim Scharosch

It was in shed, rather dirty and did not want to stay still for pics, but by God, IT WAS A FREAKIN’ HERP!! The Bullsnake was about 27 inches. Soon after Mike found a juvenile Racer (Coluber c. flaviventris) about 10 inches long.

Another Herp! Amazing.

Soon after, Jim found a bat hiding under a rock.

Photo by Jim Scharosch

It was now later in the day and there was a storm moving in.

We had all our camping gear including food and had not used any of it so we decided to hit a town and stop at a park to cook before finding another hotel for the night. We got to a park and got things going, but were racing with the approaching storm. We hurried but had fun, Austin had brought his guitar and so he played a little as he, Jim and I sang. Just as we finished and got cleaned up we did get hit with the storm. It didn’t last too long though. We had few choices. The weather in the Dakotas and even further south was going to be more of the same, cool, cloudy and chance of drizzle. We decided to head east as the weather continued to be sunny and warm there.

O give me a home, with the herps on the roam,
And the Buffalo and Prairie Dogs play.
Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy, cool and rainy all day.
Maybe another time….

Happy Herpin and/or whatever mammal people do, pardners’!

Read our disclaimer here...