We’ve had a pretty good couple of days here in Medora visiting Teddy Roosevelt National Park.
Sunday we had to punt on attending Mass this week as there isn’t a church here with mass in the morning and we missed the one in the community center on Sunday afternoon. So…we got up early and ran our Honda portable generator a couple of hours to charge up our batteries to about 80% then left for our scheduled drive/hike around the South Unit of the park. The South Unit is one of 3 sections of the park and is located here in Medora; the North Unit is about 50 miles north of here and is more isolated and rugged, and the Elk Ranch Unit is west about 30 miles…Elk Ranch was established by Teddy Roosevelt in his attempt to become a rancher but eventually failed as a ranch due to losses of cattle during winters and became just a hunting lodge for him.
First up is a couple of photos from our campground…a view of the ridge line to the east of us, Medora is on the other side of this ridge and also some nice sunset backlit shots of the horses in the campground with us…the horse noises give us some local color that we’re really liking this week.
Our first stop Sunday morning was the visitor center where we watched the 17 minute movie on the park and TR’s involvement with it…he spent time here twice in the late 1800s…he first time was shortly after his wife and mother died and he came here to restore his spirit and rejuvenate his desire for a political career after his stint with the now famous Rough Riders at San Juan Hill.
The Maltese Cross cabin…Roosevelt’s first home in the Dakota Territory. It was moved from it’s original location about 6 miles south of Medora and toured the country during his presidency then spent some time at the State House grounds once North Dakota became a state…and was relocated again to it’s location at the Medora visitor center once the park was named after him.
From there we took the loop road around the South Unit…about 30 miles or so total but it ended up taking the rest of the day by the time we hiked, overlooked, had lunch, and watched the wildlife. Here’s photos of the day…brief descriptions added where needed but mostly they could have just said “epic scenery”: and it woulda been pretty close.
Château de Mores…the home of the Marquis de Mores built in 1883. He came here to establish a cattle round up and shipping facility that persisted for 3 years until it collapsed due to drought and price competition from facilities further eastward.
Prairie dogs standing guard around their town. They make cute little barks…especially when starting to become alarmed…and then eventually the whole group skedaddles down their burrows only to reemerge 100 feet away and resume watching and feeding.
Cattle Corral Flats…home of a prairie dog town and also a bowl where cattle were gathered for transfer to the de Mores cattle facility back in the day.
Pronghorn antelope across the way…even with Neil’s bird lens and cropping way in it’s still a long way over there…must have been 600 or 800 yards over to where this buck was feeding.
Looking down the Wind Canyon towards the Little Missouri River. This is a really strangely wind/rain sculpted canyon in the ridge.
A Bull Snake that slithered across the path between Neil and Connie walking…she was about 20 feet ahead of him and must have walked within 5 feet right before it slithered out. Non poisonous and the largest snake in the park.
Looking back up Wind Canyon from the river overlook.
Oxbow bend in the Little Missouri River…although this is a pano shot it actually really does curve back on itself like it appears in the photo.
Hollowed out rock from erosion.
Wind Canyon again.
Wildflowers by Connie.
Bison patties…they burned these for fuel back in the day…but had to make sure they weren’t fresh before picking them up.
Coyote that ran across the road infant of BAT.
Another wind carved rock.
We decided this was a White Throated Sparrow based on the head coloration even though it isn’t quite sparrow shaped and we thought it was a little bigger than that…but nothing else really matched the coloration except a Meadowlark but there wasn’t any yellow chest that we could see.
A blooming prickly pear cactus…first one of these we’ve ever seen. There’s actually a bee down inside but you can’t see it from this angle.
Wild horses up on the ridge. We spotted these because we came around a corner and encountered a stopped car…which meant they were looking for something so we looked around and spotted them.
Herd of bison looking down from the highest accessible point in the park…mother, calf and some adults.
Another wild horse…very long mane and tail.
Brilliant colored and layered mounds up in the badlands area of the park.
A pair of dung beetles struggling with getting a hunk-o’-dung back to the nest.
With that our day was ended so we headed home…got parked and opened up the house for some ventilation.
Dinner was the last of the venison backstrap that Bryan’s father in law gave us last fall…it was really good. Grilled it on the barby and while it was cooking fried up some ‘taters and set them aside. Sautéd some mushrooms and onions in a skillet on the grill then added red wine, cream and dill to make sauce then added the ‘taters and sliced venison to coat everything. Man…talk about some good eatin’.
After dinner we had the BAT to the rescue excitement for the day. We had finished eating and were sitting around when all of a sudden we noticed some smoke drifting past our windows. We looked up to find a car on fire over by the river next to one of the horse camping sites…and noticed a very anxious young man running over looking for some water. Neil grabbed our grill storage bin and we hoofed it over to the water spigot then carried water and the hose over towards the fire.
The young lady who owned the car (the guy was her fiancé) had parked the car in some tall grass and gotten stuck in a rut. Instead of getting help to push her out of the rut she rocked it back and forth digging herself deeper and deeper until the heat from the muffler or catalytic converter caught the grass…and then the car… on fire. The water wasn’t getting the fire out and the flames were approaching the gas tank…so Neil took over the response at the scene since nobody else was doing so and he learned about that back in his Navy days. He yelled if anybody had a tow strap and it turned out that one of the horse trailer ladies had one that her husband left in their truck. Neil ran and got BAT while they attached the strap…got into 4 wheel drive and low gear and rumbled through the tall grass. The rest of them hooked it up to our trailer hitch and got the car into neutral then BAT yanked that sucker right out of the rut and out into the road…just in time. He unhooked the strap and got BAT out of the way just in case things went from bad to worse and we got the grass fire and part of the car fire extinguished. Someone had already called 911 and the volunteer fire department showed up and finished getting the fire out with their truck. The young lady was burned somewhat on her hands and forearms…first degree so painful but not permanently damaging…and she was hauled off for medical attention.
The worst part of it for her was that the sheriff’s deputy who was investigating found empty beer cans in the car and on the ground nearby and witnesses reported that she was the driver when it all started…so she’s likely going to get charged in addition to having her car totaled and being burned. Here’s a shot of the burned up car and then a wider one showing how close it was to us.
After everybody left we came home and watched TV until bedtime.
We got a few new Alex grand baby pictures this week for his six month birthday…we can’t decide which of these two is our favorite but I’m thinkin’ the second one. Cute li’l bugger, ain’t he?
Monday we got up early and after generator running to charge our batteries and coffee/breakfast we headed off for a trip to and around the North Unit of the park. We had heard that it was more scenic and rugged than the South Unit and reports were that there was more wildlife up that way…so we decided to head on up. We didn’t think it was more rugged…that title clearly goes to the South Unit…but it was more open grassland type terrain rather than the Badlands terrain that the South Unit has. There was some of the latter but more open rolling grasslands than down south. Wildlife…eh, not so much. We didn’t see all that many creatures but what we did see was pretty cool. Hard to beat yesterday though.
We drove east about 15 miles then north 52 to the entrance to the North Unit to the park…from there we had a straight shot (more or less at least except for the windings of the road) 14 miles westward. We stopped at pretty much all of the overlooks and such…taking pictures and seeking nice stuff to see. It was a cool, sunny day…we stopped about 1/3 of the way over at the campground in the North Unit. This was one of our potential spots that we passed on because it was at the North Unit pretty far from anything…but we drove through to scope it out for any future visits to the area. The verdict on this campground is that the trees are fine and we wouldn’t have any issue getting into the campground…but only sites 42, 43, and 44 would get much solar power…and with no hookups that’s pretty much mandatory. So…it would do in a pinch if you were willing to be way, way out in the boonies and could reserve one of the sites that would actually have enough sun for decent power generation…otherwise it would probably be 6-8 hours of generator usage a day for us with our residential fridge.
Ok, on to the pictures…
Painted Canyon Overlook.
Red Winged Blackbird male…Connie got this one out the window as he landed right where we were driving by…she tried to get the female he was courting as well but she flew off. Playing hard to get I guess.
Cannonball concretions…these are formed when minerals coalesce around a buried piece of something (usually organic material of some sort) then after it’s hardened the surrounding softer material erodes away…this one is about 4 feet across.
Badlands section showing the layers…the blue/black stuff is a clay that flows when wet and causes the slumped sections of terrain.
Here’s a picture of what it looks like after it slumps…the foreground piece slid downhill from the ridge behind, above, and to the left.
The end of the road…as far west as you can go and be on the road and looking towards the west.
More cannonball concretions
The Howard Payne Memorial Dead Tree photo…our friend Howard from RV-Dreams frequently takes pictures of dead trees and posts on his blog…so Neil periodically takes one in his stead.
Buffalo…these were about 300 yards away but were the closest we had seen one in the park.
Texas Longhorn cattle grazing in the park…don’t know if they’re wild or belong to a rancher…probably wild as there aren’t any ear tags or brands visible.
And finally…a buffalo closeup. This guy was just sitting there right alongside the road just as we were about to leave the park. We had finished our slow drive out to the end of the road and were basically heading back eastward to the entrance…and had given up hope of seeing one close up. Didn’t even have to get out of BAT for this one…Neil just aimed the camera out the driver’s window. He’s still got some of his winter coat that hasn’t been worn off by rubbing on trees and rocks.
Shortly after the one above we got to the entrance and headed home for the day. For the second day in a row we didn’t get much clear sky down at Medora so our solar output was less than spectacular. Had some pork ribs and corn on the cob on the barby and then watched TV until bedtime. Got up early this morning after overnight rain and it’s supposed to be rainy and cloudy most of today…which again means not much solar…which means we’ll just run the generator a bit this morning and probably again late this afternoon.
Today Connie’s got a little work to do before we head into Canadia tomorrow and have to depend solely on wifi as our Verizon MiFi Internet device won’t work outside the US…at least not without an obscene bill…Canadian data prices are ridiculous. We did have some email with our friends Bill and Linda the past couple of days…they’re crossing the border a bit east of here and will meet us in Saskatoon on Saturday afternoon. We probably won’t have another blog update until Friday or Saturday after we have some Fun Stuff™ to report on from Saskatoon. Will grab photos at targets of opportunity and at our CG in Regina tomorrow night but the post would just say we traveled most likely anyway unless we see something interesting to stop for.
Dinner tonight will be at the Little Missouri Saloon…it’s got those swinging doors and everything. We ate there t’other night and had brews and elk burgers that were pretty outstanding…elk tastes like really lean beef. We’ll sit at the bar again and talk to the locals. Our other option is the Boots Bar and Grill…but it looks a lot more touristy and trendy so most likely we’ll stay out of there and eat at the saloon again…after all, any place with those doors and saloon in the name can’t be all bad. I’ll grab a shot of it tonight and put in later.