Sunday, June 1, 2014

Our Lewis & Clark Adventure: Medora, ND and The Theodore Roosevelt National Park

There is hardly anything between Bismarck, ND and Medora, ND. Interstate I-90 and high dessert. But compared to the length of drives we have already made in one day and those that lay ahead, the 135 mile ride was just a skip and a jump. About 10 miles before Medora was the first glimpse of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP). The sign said, Rest Area and Scenic View." We like both of those things, so we stopped. The rest area is actually part of the TRNP. And what a fantastic view it was.

Painted Canyon

This looked like a painting so I made it look like a painting!

We had a few brews in the Badlands Pizza & Saloon. The pizza was quite good. I didn't have to wait long to snap this picture with no people in it. We were just about the only people in town.

Well, lookie here, there are some people near the Post Office. We were at least one week too early. The Medora Musical, The Greatest Show in the West, was still in rehearsals. Opening night was 8 days away.

Rough Riders Hotel
Funny thing is that most of the people we met in town were from far, far away. We met the musical director of the Medora Musical, an Aussie. Our waiter,  at the Badlands Pizza & Saloon, Zoltan, was from Hungary. I knew some little slice of Hungarian history, namely about the 1956 Revolution. We spoke to Zoltan about it, but he was too young to know much about it. In history they only learned the official Russian version. His parents were 6 and 8 years old when it happened. My, I'm I getting old! I started to say something about the situation in the Ukraine, and he put his finger to his lips and motioned for us to be quiet. "There are a lot of Ukrainians here and I don't speak politics to them."

Medora is the gateway to the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Of course, Theodore Roosevelt was responsible for starting the National Parks system. Yellowstone National Park was the first and we will be there in a few short weeks. "Teddy" came frequently to North Dakota, especially to this area. He invested in a cattle ranch and like to hunt here. There were no settlements of American Indians here. They came to hunt and return home afterwards.

From Scoria Point Overlook

The National Park Service actively manages the bison herd in the TRNP.

The NPS tries to keep the bison population to 350-500 in the South Unit of TRNP.

It is easy to imagine large herds of bison roaming in this area.

We don't know the name of this formation but we called it Mount Jake & Elwood, after the Blues Brothers.

Madonna & Child

A whole field of "barking squirrels" as Captain Clark called prairie dogs. French, "petite chien" . Clark wrote

 near the foot of this high Nole we discovered a Village of an annamale the french Call the Prarie Dog  [3] which burrow in the grown & with the rattle Snake and Killed one & Caught one Dog alive    caught in a whole 2 frogs    near the hole Killed a Dark Rattle Snake with a P[rairie] do[g] in him  [4]
  The Village of those little dogs is under the ground a conisiderable distance    we dig under 6 feet thro rich hard clay without getting to their Lodges    Some of their wholes we 〈pu throw〉 put in 5 barrels of water without driveing them out, we caught one by the water forceing him out.    ther mouth resemble the rabit, head longer, legs short, & toe nails long    ther tail like a g[round] Squirel which they Shake and make chattering noise    ther eyes like a dog, their colour is Gray and Skin contains Soft fur

 The TRNP has coyotes, bobcats, beavers, badgers, rattlesnakes, elk, and wild horses in addition to the bison and prairie dogs. We didn't see any wild horses but did see some on a ranch.

This photo and the next are panoramas stitched together on Photoshop. If you double-click on the photo you should get a larger view. I could have taken dozens of panoramas in this park.

So the visit to Medora and TRNP was a deviation from the Lewis & Clark Trail. We had originally planned to make Williston, ND our next stop. We were alerted by a friend about the beauty of Medora and its surrounds, and also alerted by several in the know to avoid Williston. Williston is the epicenter of the recent oil boom in North Dakota and has grown ten-fold in the last 5-10 years. Someone told us it was like the old wild west, and not in the good sense. We were also told that finding a campground spot was almost impossible.

We will pick up the L&C Trail in Great Falls, Montana, our next stop. Until then...

Ciao, Frank

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