This year the summer solstice fell on June 21st. Here in the United States, we call this the first day of summer. When I lived in Sweden, it was celebrated as midsommar. However you recognize it, June 21st was the longest day of 2018. One of my favorite ways to mark the solstices and equinoxes of the year is to travel to Medicine Wheel Park, a spot I discovered a few years back located on a hill over-looking Valley City, ND.
Now, Medicine Wheel Park is actually located on the campus of Valley City State University, and stretches about 30 acres. Construction began in 1992 by students of Professor Joe Stickler, with the wheel being modeled after others constructed by American Indian tribes throughout the prairie and rocky mountain regions in ancient times.
I love the site because it features not only beautiful views and walking paths, but also functions as an actual astronomical calendar from which one can mark the various solstices and equinoxes of the year.
Most recently, I visited the park on the Summer Solstice of 2018. I wasn’t there to see the sun rise, but did take note of the sun circle and the way in which visitors can mark these events by lining up sunrises and sunsets with the boulders placed about the “sun” rock.
In addition to the rising and setting of the sun, boulders are also placed in proportion to represent planets in the solar system, with a boulder marked for Mercury nearest to the “sun”, and one for Pluto lying nearly a third of a mile away.
A large pole also stands nearby which allows one to track the seasons by the length of a shadow cast by the pole at varying times of the year. Boulders have been marked to indicate specific points.
Travel Tip: There are no bathrooms or refreshments to be found at Medicine Wheel Park, so take this into consideration before setting out on the walking paths!
A beautiful walking path lined with honeysuckle and prairie grass will lead one up to a peaceful look-out point where an old sign details the historical buildings and background of Valley City. Sadly, some of the buildings have gone, and new trees have grown since the sign was placed, but it’s still worth taking in.
Lastly, if you continue down the walking path past the look-out, interested hikers will find the lush North Country National Scenic Trail, which stretches from North Dakota to New York!
When fully complete, it will be nearly 5,000 miles of trails and footpaths, including numerous communities and parks such as Medicine Wheel.
Medicine Wheel Park is an incredibly peaceful and beautiful place to take a picnic, read a book, or simply enjoy the prairie flowers and summer air.
If you go, take I-94 west from Fargo or east from Jamestown, and exit at 292 in Valley City. The park is located on Winter Show Road just past the hotels. Be sure to subscribe below at the bottom of the page and never miss a post from Prairie, Party of One!