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Head West—August Travel Anthology

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

travel stories with landscape photographic artist

kent j burkhardsmeier

9 more miles

Luscious and peaceful Hidden Lake within Glacier National Park
Inner Peace Lies Below Stormy Layers

Table of Content

The Northern Route - North Dakota to Seattle, Washington

Pine trees standing tall alongside Flathead Lake in Montana
Standing Tall

"Head West" was the calling during the month of August. The goal was to meet up with family in Seattle, WA by the end of August. To arrive here at the expected time, I would have to traverse over 1,100 miles through four states.

The month began by observing bison and mustangs, hiking buttes, and photographing the Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Heading west led into Montana, a geographically diverse state. I visited amazing sites in Glacier National Park and on the Flathead Indian Reservation, as well as enjoyed a small family gathering in Big Sky, MT.

Heading further west, I passed through the mountainous upper region of Idaho enroute to Washington's Daroga State Park. Dense forests blanket upper Idaho—unlike the Idaho of Tater Tots (shared in previous blog).

Bison, Mustangs, & Badlands

(July 30 - August 8)

Medora (ND)

North American Bison during Rut Season at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

One of my favorite national parks sits off of Interstate 94 (I-94) just outside of the rustic, western town of Medora, ND. Of course, growing up in North Dakota probably has biased me on the stature of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP). I encourage you to visit this national park and decide for yourself. Maybe this person's endorsement for the area might encourage a visit:

"I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota."
"It was here that the romance of my life began."

President Theodore Roosevelt

Bison wallowing stirs up dust storm in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Bison Bits: The Rut

June into September marks the annual rut—mating season for bison—with peak activities during July and August. During rut, mature bulls rejoin a herd, seeking females for mating. A female bison will only mate with one bull, whereas a bull courts several females to mate.

Courting a female bison can last only a few minutes or as long as 2 weeks. It depends on the female's readiness to accept the bull for mating.

During courtship, bulls' moods change, tempers flare, bellowing increases, and aggressive wallowing can stir up dust storms. All of these actions are ways the bulls display their intolerance for nearby suitors during rut.

Mustangs—Wild West Horses

Mustang from Theodore Roosevelt National Park in black and white

The modern horse disappeared from North America roughly 10,000 years ago. Their reintroduction to North America in 1500s by Spaniards changed the culture of Native Americans from wayfaring hunter-gathers to mounted hunters.

Stray horses became known as mesteño (mustangs)—wild or feral horses gathered in bands and freely roamed the Plains. Today, Theordore Roosevelt National Park is one of the few national parks where mustangs can be easily viewed.

Several organizations work to help preserve and protect these American icons (Wild Horse Freedom Federation, American Wild Horse Campaign, American Wild Horse Foundation, Love Wild Horses, etc.).

The Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Rugged, Weathered, Undulated Landscape

Big Sky Country—Montana

(August 8 -22)

Big Timber (MT)

Big Sky (MT)

Polson (MT)

Gravel road from the Great Plains to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains under a single cloud
Seeking Shade, a Tree and a Cloud

The Great Plains of North America extend up to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Heading west from North Dakota across Montana provides an opportunity to experience the transition from plains to mountains. I stopped along the western edge of the plains in Big Timber (MT) for few days before venturing further to Big Sky (MT). Big Sky area is famous for fishing, hiking, white water rafting, and skiing. Deep in the northern boundary of Montana sits another stunning National Park—Glacier National Park.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Different vantage point of the Going-to-the-Sun Road within Glacier National Park

In 1919, construction began on a transmountain road through the newly designated national park. Park engineer, George Goodwin laid out the road's route, known as the Going-to-the-Sun Road. By 1921, Congress had appropriated funding for the road construction. The first automobile didn't traverse the 48.7-mile road until late fall of 1932. And, the road wasn't officially opened until July 15, 1933. Construction cost over $2,000,000. The road is one of 6 National Historical Landmarks within the park.

Flathead Indian Reservation

Southwest of Glacier National Park, lies Flathead Indian Reservation, "home to the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d'Oreilles tribes – also known as the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation." Most of Flathead Lake lies within the reservation.

Flathead Lake inside Flathead Indian Reservation

Columbia Peaches

(August 22 - 25)

Orondo (WA)

Stillness of Serenity at Daroga State Park along the Columbia River

Nestled along the Columbia River, Daroga State Park "offers a green oasis amid the dry rolling hills of this central Washington landscape." The park provided a nice peaceful, relaxing stay before crossing through the Cascade Mountain Range into Seattle.

The east bank of the river, where Daroga SP sits, was once an orchard and ranch before the construction of the Rocky Reach Dam in 1950s. Legendary fruit grower Grady Auvil introduced New Haven peaches, Granny Smith apples, and Rainier cherries to the area long before the construction of the dam. Orchards still line the fertile, narrow land alongside the river and the dam's reservoir (Lake Entiat).

Grand Coulee Dam

Puffy clouds hover over Grand Coulee Dam

Did you know that Woody Guthrie's 1941 folk song "Grand Coulee Dam" was one of 26 songs released as part of the Columbia River Ballads?

I didn't!

But I wasn't around in 1941.

The Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) commissioned Guthrie to write propaganda songs as way to gain support for federal regulation of hydroelectric facilities, in particular the Grand Coulee and Bonneville Dams.

Feel free to sing along. . .


Peacefulness descends along Swan Lake River before entering to Flathead Lake

patiently, stumps wade.

overhead, cloud listens softly

morning peace prevails


Feel free to share a story from your journeys. in the comment section.

Or, add a comment on connecting with nature.

highway us-9 shield

how much longer?

are we there yet?

how far to the next rest area?

9 more miles

9 more miles segment is a place where I share random road tidbits along the way during my capturing whispers from nature adventures.


In case you are wondering "are we there yet?"


“just 9 more miles"


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