The Turtle Mountains are rapidly becoming my favorite place in North Dakota.
The landscape is a paradise of trees, lakes and plant life. There are sites for tourists (International Peace Garden), vacationers (Lakes Metigoshe and Upsilon) and gravel road hipsters like myself (Pelican and Sand Lakes). I got up there in early August. Now I'm headed back Friday for fall color, at 40 percent as of today, Ranger Bill from Lake Metigoshe State Park told me today.
Here's what's on my agenda.
1. Turtle Mountain State Forest
I didn't explore the forest as much as I would have liked to because it was wet with morning dew, and I only had tennis shoes.
I've found a few hiking trails and will hit the paths Saturday morning at Mystical Horizons.
2. Rural churches
Rural churches are so photogenic and North Dakota has hundreds of them, but I've found just three or so in the Turtle Mountains. I've charted a few and will find them Saturday and Sunday.
This ghost town was once a booming place a century ago. Just a couple buildings and scant remains sit there today. I'll be hitting it up.
4. Fall color
Autumn's colors are the purpose of this trip, and the Turtle Mountains are poppin' right about now. If I can snag the perfect lake-and-fall-foliage shot, that would be prime.
5. International Peace Garden
I don't know when or how much time I'll spend at the International Peace Garden, but as the Peace Towers are due to come down before June 2017, now's the time for some final shots of the monuments. Plus I've never seen the gardens in autumn, so more colors will be available than in summer, I expect.
6. Hiking Lake Metigoshe State Park
I loved the hiking trails in Lake Metigoshe State Park. The Old Oak Trail, the Eagle Trail Loop and others too offered great solitude and some scenic woods. Can't wait.
7. Off the Beaten Track
So many of my trip inevitably include venturing down the road less traveled or lead somewhere unexpected. Labor Day weekend took me and my buddy Herder and his dog down Old U.S. Highway 281, reemerged from flooded Devils Lake. The last weekend in April found me and my gal pal Abby dipping down to Haley, N.D., a tiny town of two or three people near the South Dakota border in southwestern North Dakota.
So we'll see what the autumnal Turtle Mountains have in store this weekend.