Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We've been out of internet range for the past couple of days, but we're back, baby. When last I wrote, we were near the eastern border of Montana, getting ready to replace the tires on the trailer. It took a little longer than we anticipated, but that turned out to be a good thing because the one quilt shop in Glendive, Montana, "The Enchanted Room", had time to open before we left town. I'll have to tell you about that in a separate post, but it was a really good one. Thanks go to Sharon S. for encouraging me to visit this shop.

For now, I have a lot of ground to cover over the past couple of days, not the least of which was our entry into North Dakota.

As you know, the status of the states on the side of the RV is vitally important, and so we wasted no time

adding the Great State of North Dakota to the map.

It was a short trip this day, and we were all set up, camped in Theodore Roosevelt National Park early in the afternoon.

We had a nice secluded spot. In case it isn't obvious to the casual reader, we've been driving, and driving, and driving, and driving for days. We were very glad to have a nice quiet place to spend a couple of nights. And we thought this might be our first realistic opportunity to get the kitties out of the trailer for walks. We were right. Gracie led the way, but I'll let her tell you about that in a separate post.

The next day, we drove the scenic drive in the park. There are three units to the park, the North and South Unit, and then a small area where Theodore Roosevelt lived when he ranched the area. We visited only the South Unit this trip. 

Of course, we took our shadow selves along. My shadow self was keeping her telephoto lens close by because there is known to be quite a bit of wildlife in the park.

We walked several short trails as we made the scenic drive, and the hoof prints on the trails attested to the presence of large animals. Here, you can see a bison hoof print, and hoof prints of wild horses.

I should say a little about the park. It's named in honor of the 26th American president, Theodore Roosevelt. He lived and ranched in the area, and credits the accomplishment of becoming president to the time he spent in this area, known as the North Dakota Badlands. The park is noted for its geological formations. The landscape is vast, and cannot be well represented in a single snapshot. Most of the pictures I have of the scenery are in panoramic view. I wish I could make them a little larger for you. Remember to click on the image to make it easier to see.

It was a beautiful day for hiking. It was quite windy the afternoon we arrived, which made it a little chilly, but the wind died down and it was beautiful the day we explored the park. And look at this beautiful sky!

The park is most notable for the layers of lignite coal that run through the layers of sediment. Grass fires and lightning occasionally ignite the coal which then bakes the clay around it, turning it red and creating this red hue known locally (and inaccurately) as scoria. (The accurate name for it is "clinkers" from what I understand.)

We climbed to the top of a ridge and saw more of the landscape. It didn't take long for all of it to look the same, but we enjoyed the time we spent hiking very much.

This was the Coal Fire Vein trail where one of the lignite coal fires burned from 1951 until 1977. There are areas in North Dakota outside the park where these fires continue to burn, and they are marked on our road map.

Um, watch your step. Bison pies ahead.

And bison! This was a wildlife photographer's dream! 

The herd was straddling both sides of the road, and they seemed utterly unperturbed by the passing cars...except this guy who was keeping a close eye on us as we passed by Mama Bison and her calf. 

Here's Mama,

and here's Baby Bison.

But my favorites were the prairie dogs. There were vast prairie dog cities along the scenic drive. Any place there was a wide flat field, it was alive with prairie dogs. To stand at the edge of the road, one could listen to their barks and calls. They were so cute, it was hard not to go chasing after them, grab one up, and kiss it to death. I didn't though. I save that kind of affection for the kitties.

Just moments before I pressed the shutter for the image below, these two appeared to kiss. So cute.

And wild horses. We knew there were wild horses roaming the park, but we didn't expect to see them. It's always been my impression that wild horses are skittish of humans, but these seemed unafraid of passing cars and people staring from windows.

We saw the next ones just down the road mingling with the bison. We weren't sure if it was the same group or another different one.

Aren't they incredible?

As we rounded the last mile or so of the 35-mile drive, we saw this lone pronghorn antelope...the first we've ever seen. He ran across the road, but then paused for his picture.

It was thrilling.

The last little hike we took just before returning to the trailer for a bit took us out to the bend in the Missouri River. We saw lots of juniper berries all along the way.

They are used as a flavoring in food, but they are also used to flavor gin. If you crush one between your fingers, it gives off the characteristic perfumy fragrance of gin. When we walked out a ways, we could see the river off to the left,

and right. 

It loses something in translation, and so I took another panorama here.

We were staying in the Cottonwood campground, so named for the abundance of Cottonwood trees growing near the water. 

Wildflowers were blooming in abundance. There were these LPJ's (Little Purple Jobs), 

and rose hips from wild roses.

I think these were a type of violet.

And we saw these growing all along the road. I believe they are a wild sunflower.

And these yellow jobs.

We ate some granola bars and drank some water, and then headed back toward the park entrance where the visitor center was. There was an interesting museum about Theodore Roosevelt inside, as well as artifacts from his time there in the North Dakota Badlands. He was noted for being a staunch conservationist, and is largely responsible for setting the stage for the establishment of the National Park Service along with a few notable friends, including John Muir. During his time in office, over 125 million acres in national forests were set aside under public protection. He also established the first national wildlife refuge.

Behind the visitor center is a replica of his first home in the North Dakota Badlands. The actual site is in a different unit of the park, but we didn't visit that area. We did take a look inside the windows of the house, which is decorated as it might have been when Roosevelt was living there.

Here is a little bit of information about it.

After leaving the visitor center, we drove to the little town of Medora, just outside the park entrance. It reminded us of Jackson, Wyoming. It was founded in 1883 by the Marquis de Mores, a wealthy French nobleman who planned to revolutionize the meatpacking industry by slaughtering cattle on the range rather than shipping the live animals to eastern slaugterhouses. The venture failed, but reminders of his short-lived empire remain in this town, named for his wife.

A few of the historic buildings have been restored and the town's past is celebrated with the "Comedy Corner," a vaudeville show presented weekends. In the image below, you see (from left to right) the Medora post office, a bank, and a church. 

We visited a few gift shops, filled the truck with diesel, and picked up a few little things at the grocery store. It was tempting to visit one of the ice cream parlors, but we didn't. (I know we will regret this for the rest of our lives.)

When we returned to the campground, we considered hiking out to the edge of the Missouri River, but found it to be farther across tall grassland than we wanted to go...considering there are rattle snakes in the area. Instead, we enjoyed the sunset over the grassland and called it a day.

Then, in the morning, we were back on the road headed for Minnesota. We drove pretty much border to border directly east across North Dakota on I-94. With an oil and natural gas boom going on in North Dakota, we saw a lot of this:

Probably the most exciting thing we saw all day was "Salem Sue", a fiberglass Holstein cow south of the freeway. She stands 38 feet high and 50 feet long, a symbol of the dairy industry near New Salem, North Dakota.

As we moved east, there was more agriculture and less drilling. We saw a lot of sunflowers being grown for seed,

and lots and lots and lots of corn.

The truck gave us a little bit of a scare when its "check engine" light came on, and we experienced a significant loss of power. Mike did a little reading on the internet, and decided a new air filter was required. We found a Napa Auto Parts in the state capital of Bismarck, switched out the filter, and were back on our way. That cost us a little time, but we were very glad it was such a simple fix. 

We crossed the Red River, which serves as the state line between North Dakota and Minnesota.

That, of course, makes this the Red River Valley, and that got us singing that old tune. Sorry if that reference gives you an ear worm like it did us. We had to look up the words to get rid of it.  There's the Red River right there.

And there it is! Yahoo!

Drum roll, please, while we review the status of the states. Here they are:

And moments later...here they are again!

What a gas. It doesn't get much better than that. (Can you tell we've been driving too long?)

This blog post was written spanning the midnight hour, and so it'll probably be confusing which day is which. I was sleeping soundly when Smitty decided to sing the song of his people. As it turns out, Gracie was on the Catio, and he was beside himself with her intrusion into what has always been his undisputed territory. Sometimes I think she does it just to upset him. In any case, I was awake and writing this post in my head, and so it seemed I might as well get up and write it on the computer. I should be able to get back to sleep now, but I might as well finish up first.

We stayed in a nice campground last night in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. It was the end of a long day of driving. There were no campgrounds at the place we might have liked to stop, and so we drove farther than we wanted to, covering almost 400 miles in a day. It will be a shorter day today as we reach Voyageurs National Park

We bought a load of firewood and sat outside after the sun went down, just relaxing, before heading off to bed. Here's my personal boy scout. He's been starting fires for me since I was 18. (And that is a long time, let me tell you.)

The firewood was $10 for a wheelbarrow load, and it was worth every penny.

Today's trip will be shorter. We've covered a lot of ground in the past week, but we'll be able to slow down now that we've reached the Great Lakes region. Look for slower days ahead. I still owe you a post about the quilt shop, but that will have to wait. Also, I'll turn the blog over to Gracie in the next couple of days so that she can tell you about their venture outside the trailer. For now, I'm going back to bed for what remains of the night.

13 comments from clever and witty friends:

Dasha said...

Very much enjoyed your description of the Theodore Roosevelt NP and the photos, particularly those of the animals. The antelope had stunning markings. The prairie dogs look a bit like the Meercats I have seen, not so much in looks, but in shape and the way they are standing to guard.
Thanks for sharing that.

Dana Gaffney said...

Now I really want to see North Dakota for myself, it's really beautiful.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

What an adventure! As always, you document with such wonderful photos and commentary. Look forward to the post on the quilt shop and Gracie's report.

Needled Mom said...

You HAVE been doing a lot of driving, but enjoying many wonderful sights too. My grandfather homesteaded in the Badlands area MANY years ago. Stay warm with the cold front that is moving into the area. You'll need that firewood.

Diane Wild said...

Welcome to Minnesota. Factoid: Did you know that the Red River flows north? Enjoy. We are having some awesome weather of late. I'm sure it's because the Wakan Tanka knew you were coming.

gpc said...

I loved the badlands when we vacationed there when I was a kid and still remember the prairie dogs with joy. We never saw the wild horses, though, so lucky you! Love seeing how your map is filling in. I've never even heard of Voyageurs National Park -- so many places to see! I wish I had my own boy scout! :)

Sher S. said...

It seems no matter what comes your way, you both have a positive outlook and make it work. Glad it was only an air filter and tires. Love seeing all your photos of where you have been. I feel like I'm getting my own personal tour of the country and absolutely love it. I have family in Minnesota and it's beautiful there. We used to stop at roadside stands for fresh fruit and veggies, so good to eat. Hope the fur kids enjoy their travels, loved Gracie's blog too. Glad to see they had a walk and explored.

quiltzyx said...

I've been meaning to ask - did the state stickers come with the map or what? I think that is such a fun way to keep track. you've almost filled in the whole western half of the U.S.!

My oh my what beautiful blue skies! Great to see all the herds of critters - the wild horses look quite healthy, well-fed & shiny! You took some stunning shots (as usual!)during this part of the trip. :)

Glad the Check Engine light was so easily cured! We used to get a lot of folks coming into the dealership with that. Many of them were an even easier fix - tightening the gas cap! lol

ytsmom said...

So interesting! I love your map, but notice that Nebraska and Kansas are missing! We have lots of wonderful quilt shops here in Nebraska, and Kansas has lots, too. Also lots of wonderful things to see in Nebraska.

Tami C said...

I've enjoyed the countryside photos that you've been sharing. I really enjoyed that pronghorn that posed for you to take that picture! I enjoyed Gracie's blog post too. She loves to tease Smitty!

Brown Family said...

Beautiful country. Love seeing the animals.

Lyndsey said...

Wow fabulous photos Barbara. I'm worn out with the distances you are travelling and I haven't left the comfort of my armchair.

Ruth said...

Great pictures! We visited the same park a few years ago and also got pictures of the bison and prairie dogs. The bison were amazing and the prairie dogs were so cute! BTW, we live in McMinnville now, having moved here from TX. Almost settled in our little home and enjoying living near our oldest son & family.