“We could be on the Moon–or Mars,” Jenine said. “It’s so–alien. But it’s beautiful, too.”
“Look, there!” Will pointed to the bright-red Jeep Cherokee in the little parking area by the roadside. He pulled in beside it. “Yep. That’s hers, all right.”
“I guess she’s here.” Jenine’s voice was less than enthusiastic, but she climbed out and fetched her backpack out from under the tonneau cover.
Will grabbed his backpack, too, hoisted it into position, and slammed the tailgate shut.
They paused for a look at the austere stone shelter house, looking like a toy with the sweeping vista of the Dakota Badlands as a backdrop. The Little Missouri River slashed like a knife wound through the scenery, far below the shelter’s lofty perch. “This is so awesome!” Jenine kept saying.
“Wait’ll you see the view from the shelter house. C’mon on.”
They hiked the rest of the way to the rocky little pavilion, a relic of the 1930s’ CCC make-work program, and found a girl seated on one of the rocks at its base, her waist-length dark hair swirling in the stiff wind. She was staring out at the river, calmly munching on a sandwich. On another rock by her side was a backpack with a Smokey Bear hat partially shoved underneath, so as to keep it from taking off in the wind. The kind of hat worn by park rangers and naturalists. She appeared to be lost in thought, almost as if meditating. With her back turned to the newcomers and the wind whistling in her ears, she did not sense their approach.
“Angie?” Will spoke in the softest voice he could muster, so as not to startle her.
He startled her anyway. She turned sharply, jarred from her reverie, and stood up to face them. “Will!”
From Ranch Park, Chapter 25, “Where Badlands are Good Lands”.
One of North Dakota’s undiscovered gems is Theodore Roosevelt National Park, consisting of two units, the North Unit located near Watford City and the South Unit near Medora. Both are operated as one park–which is said to be America’s least visited National Park. That’s not a bad thing. Lreast visited means least crowded. Least spoiled. A great way to experience the beauty of the famous Dakota Badlands without the mobs of tourists you’d be more likely to see at South Dakota’s more highly publicized Badlands National Park. The location is near where Theodore Roosevelt had a ranch for a few years before he became President, and it left a lasting impression on him, to do all that he could as President to protect the beauty of the West before it was too late. My imaginary characters Will and Jenine enjoy a visit there, as I enjoyed my visit to this great park.
R. L. Anderson, author, Will Nickerson Mysteries