In 1883 a young Teddy Roosevelt came to the Dakota Territories to hunt Bison. He very quickly fell in love with the area and his life, and the future of our nation was forever changed. He returned to the region later in the year with several men and became parners in a cattle ranch called " The Maltese Cross Ranch". This area is now what is called the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This is where our story begins...or where we were headed this day anyway.
We left Wall, SD early Wednesday morning, eager to get to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP). It was a four and a half hour drive to the visitor center. The ride was beautiful. We opted to take state highways and back roads instead of main roads. Rolling green hills and golden plains for hours. Vast fields of almost past their prime sunflowers (but still beautiful) and horses and cows galore. At one point we were coming down a hill and we saw a big dust up of cows. I told Mark that I thought the cows were being moved across the road, he disagreed but as we got closer he slowed down anyway. Sure enough they were being herded across the road! I grabbed my phone to capture it since we were at a stand still but when I went to watch the video after the crossing was done I realized that I clearly didn't know how to work my phone because I recorded NOTHING. UGH! It was pretty cool to see though.
When Mark and I were planning this trip we talked about all the things we hoped for, what we expected and what we had no idea what to expect. One the the things we hoped for was to see wildlife. We wanted to see bison, elk, burros, prairie dogs, and big horn sheep. As we arrived at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center we rounded the corner and LITERALLY the first thing we saw was this guy:
We hung out at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center for a bit and then moved on to the main visitor center and the main entrance to the park.
We stopped at the South Unit Visitor Center on the way into the park. There they had a small museum that included artifacts from when Theodore Roosevelt's presidency and beyond, including the undershirt President Roosevelt was wearing in 1912 when an assination attempt was made on his life. There was a really wonderful short movie that we viewed that told about the creation of the park, and it's life since its creation. We really learned a lot from that video. Additionally, from sitting in that little room we learned that we were clearly a pretty young couple compared to all the other couples on vacation in TRNP on a Wednesday in mid-September. Niiiiiice.
The cabin that Roosevelt lived in as a young man on the Maltese Cross Ranch was eventually moved and now resides behind the welcome center at the entrance of the South Unit of the park. You will see photos of it in the photo video as well as Teddy's steamer trunk (photo also in video). Most of the objects in the cabin are replicas, the the trunk was HIS actual trunk. That was really neat to see. I think my dad would have been totally jazzed to see that. He was pretty into American history. Anyway, once we left there we took off into the park and it was like stepping into another world. This was one of the "not sure what to expect"category items. I purposedly didn't do a lot of photo recon of the park because I wanted us to go into it with open minds and boy howdie were we in awe. Each turn of the road was better than the last.
We saw more bison, a HUGE amount of prairie dogs and some stunningly majestic feral horses. These horses are direct descendents of horses that Roosevelt brought him when he moved to the area in the late 1880's. Here is an obnoxiously long video of them. I couldn't stop taking it because they were just so cute.
We spent the day hiking, exploring and driving and then when we were exhausted headed to the hotel that was right outside the gate in Medore, ND.
The next morning we headed two hours north to Williston, ND, through Montana, to the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. This fort was the most importart fur trading post on the Upper Missouri River from 1829-1867. It was SUPER cold and a little rainy but we enjoyed the self led tour of the fort. I even got to go into a tipi. We spent a little time there before heading over the the Missouri-Yellowstone Confluence Interpretive Center. I wont lie, This place was BORING. We poked around inside for a bit then went outside to walk along the river for a little while and then bolted. The most interesting thing was the 200+ year old Poplar tree that was there as far back as 1804-1806 when the Lewis & Clark expedition went through North Dakota. There is a photo of it in the video.
Once we left Williston, we drove about an hour south down to the North unit of TRNP. It was much smaller than the South unit but beautiful as well. Just like in the South Unit we were greeted by a bison, although two this time. We were at the visitor center and stood there with the rangers while they had to repeatedly yell at this older man to get away from the bison. He was probably 20 feet way from the animal, with his back to it, trying to take a selfie. I may have mentioned this before but people are MORONS. SMH.
At this point in the day it was really cold and raining on and off but we still went on into the park and made the best of it. We did some hiking when we could. We had on hats, coats and gloves. A far cry from the sunglasses and short sleeves we were sporting the day before!
At one point we were stopping having a car picnic and there was a hill that I tried to tell Mark was only about 12 feet high. He said I was insane and that it was more like 45-50 feet at least. I told him "no way" And that I would prove him wrong by climbing it. So I did. I climbed it I mean. I did not prove him wrong because that sucker was EVERY BIT of 50 feet high once I got to the top of it. HA! I think I put those pics on FB but they are in the video and my view of him from the top is in there too. It was epic.
After a couple hours in the cold and rain we decided we had enough and by dinner time we headed back to the hotel to warm up and get some rest.
It was a fantastic couple days in TRNP. We loved every bit of it even the cold, rainy parts!
Don'r forget to check out the second photo video below!
Please leave a comment on the here, on Facebook, or on the YouTube video and let me know what you think of this format or if you think I should go back to just posting pic after pic here in the blog.
Next up.. Devil's Tower and Spearfish Canyon. Spoiler alert..they are amazing!
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