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White Butte, Highpoint of North Dakota. Really? More goats?

 White Butte, highpoint of North Dakota.

White Butte, highpoint of North Dakota.

Summit date: August 12, 2016

To get the full context of the title of this blog, first read my post about my climb on Granite Peak and keep in mind I finished that hike only two days before doing this one. The whole thing is quite comical. So yeah, after leaving Granite Peak, I spent the next two nights in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, then swung by White Butte to bag it before heading back to Montana for the highpointer's convention. It's an easy one and can be done in about two hours if you take your time.

The terrain in this area is very weird. It's mostly flat, but then there will be these randomly placed hills, or buttes. While the surrounding land is lush with all kinds of crops, the buttes have an almost badlands feel to them, their slopes eroding to expose the nearly white innards of the butte, leaving their grass covered tops isolated and unusable as farmland. The buttes rise like islands in a vast green sea. 

 Abandoned farm house and windmill

Abandoned farm house and windmill

The trailhead starts right next to the farmer's driveway. This is private property, so every respect should be given. A janky old mailbox is there to collect donations. About two thirds of the route is following a tractor path through farmland. Most of the research I did on White Butte warned of rattlesnakes, so proceed with caution. Luckily I never saw any, but I didn't take any chances. I always hike with my trek poles, only this time I wasn't using them for stability. As I walked through the short grass on the path I waved my poles from side to side in front of me. I figured if there were any snakes my poles would take the hit instead of me. I also tried to walk on grass free sections of the path as much as possible. This was my last big adventure of the week. I didn't want it ruined by a stupid snake bite. I had already had some potentially bad encounters with wildlife at Theodore Roosevelt NP, and I didn't want to add to it. About 50 feet off the trail is an abandoned farm house with a windmill next to it. I would gone over to explore it but I was a little paranoid about the rattlesnakes in the grass so I just checked it out from afar.

About a mile from the trailhead I came to a gate. The butte appears to be fenced off from the surrounding farm land and you have to go through this gate to proceed on the trail to the highpoint. Make sure to close it. It's only a couple hundred yards from this point that you start leaving the farmland and get into the exposed brownish gray rock of the butte. I sort of lost the trail at the base of the butte and had to do some route finding. Once you get past the exposed slopes around the base the vegetation comes back. Some of the shrubs can be thick and ornery, so try not to lose the trail like I did.

 Off trail in the twisted gullies and strange formations at the base of the butte.

Off trail in the twisted gullies and strange formations at the base of the butte.

Eventually I met up with the trail again and finished the short distance to the summit. Total time from trailhead; about 45 minutes. The elevation gain is only about 400 feet, but it's enough for some really nice views. It was a really clear day so the views went for miles and miles. From the summit there is a better sense of what I was describing earlier, how the buttes seem to randomly appear in an otherwise flat-as-a-board landscape.

I played around taking my pictures for a little bit. I didn't spend a lot of time since I wanted to get back to Montana for the convention social that was going on that night. So I packed up and started heading back. This time sticking to the trail. It went through a small grove of trees that I had missed on the way up. I was back down on the flats and through the gate in short order.

I was walking down the tractor path through the fields back to my car when I heard it. It was subtle at first. I couldn't quite place it. I started looking around trying to figure out what I was hearing. I turned around and that's when I saw them. A small herd of domestic dairy goats came up and over a small rise in a field. They came out of nowhere and were coming right for me! I didn't have time to take a video of their approach but I did manage to take enough stills to make a gif, which can be viewed in the gallery below. I think it's actually funnier than a video would've been. 

Just days ago I was living amongst the ever present mountain goats, and now here I was in another state, climbing another highpoint, and interacting with another herd of goats. While the Montana goats didn't shy away from humans (especially if pee was involved), these goats were down right friendly. As a tight group, they came running up to me like I was an old friend. They almost surrounded me. They were curious and checking me out. Maybe they expecting to get fed? I don't know. The whole thing was kind of surreal.

 Some of the locals, with White Butte in the background. 

Some of the locals, with White Butte in the background. 

After mingling with them for a few minutes I wanted to get moving again. So I started slowly walking away from them. They stood there in a group watching me walk away, not moving. Until they did. I got about thirty feet away when they all came running up to me again. They were very cute, but I wanted to get going. I took my trek poles and started banging them together, hoping it would scare them off. It sort of worked. I started moving away again and this time they didn't follow me. They wandered back into the field and disappeared over the same rise they came from. Like that, they were gone. 

A few minutes later I was back at the car. I had to laugh. I seemed to be the goat whisperer that week. At the convention social back in Montana that night I saw some of the guys from the Granite Peak climb and I told them about my second encounter with highpoint goats that week. They thought it was funny as well. Goats; they do make a highpoint more interesting.

Here is a short clip of my encounter with the goats