It was about six years ago that I first heard of the secret pine forest of western North Dakota, and that was one of only two times that anyone would ever speak to me about it. Men in their 60s-80s who had worked and traveled through western North Dakota for their entire lives would pretend that they knew nothing about it.
For those of you not familiar with western North Dakota, there are very few trees. You can pull over to the side of the road on an interstate or highway, stand outside of your vehicle, turn in a full 360 degree circle looking miles away toward the horizon, and count fewer than a dozen shabby trees.
Western North Dakota is mostly tree-less vacant prairie grassland, or desolate barren badlands with wind-eroded buttes, canyons, and desert ravines with a few mesquite trees. It was not surprising to me that North Dakotans wanted to keep the pine forest a secret. I didn’t even know if there actually was one.
Since I bought a more reliable motorcycle in the Fall of 2020, I have been taking motorcycle rides that have no other purpose than to explore western North Dakota. Usually I do either a little or a lot of research before I go somewhere on my motorcycle, because not only is it very easy to get lost, run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, but if I were to become injured or stranded in the sparsely populated areas of western North Dakota, it would be so much more likely for the local people to kill me.
You don’t ever want to stop where anyone is around or a vehicle is approaching out in the middle of nowhere in western North Dakota, because the local people will come over and ask you what you are doing and try to determine if “you’re not from here.” See, if you keep going and don’t slow down, the local people might think that you were invited or are related to someone in that area, but if you come to a stop, they are going to try to find out. Don’t ever, ever get caught trying to take a picture of something on someone’s property!
I accidentally, unintentionally found the secret pine forest of western North Dakota about one month ago, but I was too scared to come to a stop and take pictures of it because I didn’t know my way around that area. I had to wait several weeks before I could travel through that area again on my motorcycle, in order to not draw any attention. Here are some photos, which I had to take very hastily:
Here are some other trees from this same area:
When I was riding my motorcycle to this area traveling north on a red scoria chip road, I saw in my side mirror that there was a pickup truck coming up fast behind me, so I pulled over to the side of the road to let this pickup truck pass. I had to ride another five miles traveling north before I had to make a left turn onto a different, smaller road. After I had ridden another several miles west on this much narrower road, there was an oncoming pickup truck driving fast towards me, that I had to pull over to the side of the road to allow it to pass.
I rode another several miles west on the narrower road, before I turned south onto an even narrower road, which I thought could have been a private road. When I came up to what appeared to be private property consisting of a house and shop building, I turned around in order to try to get back quickly to what was most likely a public road.
When I reached the public road, I stopped to take my motorcycle helmet off because it was very hot, and I wanted to take some photographs of the pine trees. Here came the same pickup truck for the third time. I hadn’t realized that this was the same truck that had come up behind me going fast, had gotten ahead of me and turned around to pass me oncoming, and had now come up from behind me to meet me for a third time.
This time I was stopped and off my motorcycle, which allowed the opportunity for the person driving the pickup truck to stop and find out if “you’re not from here.” The driver of the pickup truck let me know that I was going to have problems if I was there when it got dark. I had a North Dakota license plate on my motorcycle. If I would have been driving a vehicle with a California license plate, or if they would have seen me taking photographs, they probably would have phoned, radioed, or met with their neighbors to make a plan to shoot me, dig a hole, drag my vehicle away, and bury everything.