July 8, 2019
When we first left home, we intended to have the Dinosaur Museum in Glendive, MT, as our first stop. With nothing else to do, I looked at the hours on the phone only to discover they were closed on Mondays. We would have to wait an additional day. We had briefly stopped by Theodore Roosevelt National Park before but never spent any time in it, so we decided to make this place our first stop instead.
We arrived at the Painted Canyon Rest Stop inside the park just as the sun was setting. The night was beginning to cool off to a more comfortable temperature as the darkness of the layered sedimentary layers became silhouettes against the evening sky. We pulled out the slide only over the grassy side as a precaution since truckers have been known to take off extended slides in parking areas. This scenic stop is inside the actual park, right off the interstate. We stayed the night and received our desired information about the park when the Visitor’s Center opened in the morning.
The next day we set off for the town of Medora, for the south unit of the park. We were impressed at the “cuteness” of the small touristy western town, though we did not stop to take it in. Overall, this park had a restful quietness about it. Though people were around, no one seemed rushed or crowded like in so many other parks. We learned of a couple places where enough space existed to drop our trailer off for the day, especially since part of the scenic driving loop was washed out and would be impossible to later turn around with the large trailer. Later, we also looked around at the campground to discover several places would accommodate a big rig with pull through’s.
Once the trailer was taken care of, we began our series of short hikes. While several long hikes exist within the park, shorter hikes were more appealing as the temperature was in the mid 80’s with no shade. The first hike took us through a prairie dog town. These little varmints were quite entertaining as they barked their warnings out to the others on top of their mounds. Some ran and thrusted their heads backwards as they barked. Others had their tails moving up and down like a pump every time a squeak came out. One dog stood tall with its arms jerking back and forth. All together they were quite noisy. Some prairie dogs reminded me of that “Pop it” game at arcades as their heads popped up and down different holes in the vicinity. I even witnessed one dog rip up grass and pile it in its mouth as it keeps the grass levels down to see predators from afar.
Many other hikes had us walk short distances on the ridge tops for outstanding panoramic views of North Dakota’s version of the Badlands; buttes, gorges, valleys, treeless sides of layered rock for miles surrounded us. Our sights included wind weathered river bluffs with a bald eagle below, a deer nestled down in the shade from the afternoon sun, and a single bison ruminating his past meal in the heat of the day. Our last hike was a self-guided nature hike explaining the geological formations due to an underground coal vein catching fire from a lightning strike. This fascinating hike pointed out that while it burnt for over 20 years, visitors cooked marshmallows over the red hot glowing ground until it finally collapsed. We learned about clinker, cap stone, and chimney rock as well.
On our way out, we stopped by the South Unit Visitor’s Center to cool off and refill water bottles. We were taught why the national park was named after Theodore Roosevelt. He owned two ranches in the area and became the first president to value conserving the natural resources of America. He saw how quickly the resources could be used up if not careful, whether it was grazing land, bison for the fur industry, or, as I could imagine in the upper midwest, even trees for the logging industry. He was instrumental in setting aside some of the most beautiful parts of America for future generations to be able to enjoy. He was accredited to changing the mindset of the people and begin creating national parks that my family has enjoyed throughout our travels.
All in all, Theodore Roosevelt National Park was a peaceful pass through place. We enjoyed the critters, history, and geology of the area. On top of that, our family was able to have plenty of easy hikes to warm-up with before we reach the mountains in the next few days.
Until we meet again,