Snate's Six-Month Sojourn travel blog

Sam and Sheila in our campsite

Prairie dog town

North Dakota Badlands #1

North Dakota Badlands #2 (scoria)

North Dakota Badlands #3

Bison pretty close to the car

Bison VERY close to the car

Bison head, blurry because Sam thought it was charging

Standoff between Sheila/Blazer and a bison as viewed from Buck Hill

North Dakota Badlands #4

Sam on Buck Hill

Self portrait: North Dakota Badlands


Tuesday morning we got up, grabbed some breakfast and headed to the store to get some food for our visit with Sheila in Teddy Roosevelt National Park. We had gotten a message from Sheila the night before saying she was in Billings, Montana, so we figured she'd be to TR a little later in the morning. We didn't realize that she was going to drive until pretty late at night and get only a few hours of sleep before continuing to the park, so apparently she had been sitting in the visitor center parking lot since 7:30 when we arrived at 11:00! Very hard to coordinate in states that have little to no cell phone towers.

TR National Park is located thirty miles or so from the North Dakotan border with Montana. The area is called the North Dakota Badlands, and it reminded Sam and I quite a bit of the Badlands in South Dakota. These badlands seemed a lot greener though, but that could just be a difference in the amount of precipitation they received this year. When we were in the South Dakota Badlands in 2000 (where we met Jim and Pam who now live in Richmond), the car thermometer said 104 degrees. In contrast, the temperature up here was in the 70's. Teddy Roosevelt had a ranch in the area and loved roaming around the badlands and hunting game. He claimed in his biography that he would never have been president if it weren't for his time in North Dakota.

Sheila, Sam and I picked a campsite right on a little river overlooking some cliffs, had some lunch, played some Scrabble and chatted. Suddenly it was 6:00, and we decided that we should at least go on the scenic drive in the badlands so that we could check the park out a little. We fit the three of us in our car by moving a large chunk of our stuff to Sheila's truck, then headed off.

The drive was absolutely spectacular! First of all, the country is so ruggedly beautiful. I remember reading somewhere that this sort of area was called a "badlands" because it was such a bitch to cross on foot or horseback, and I can easily see why this would be so. Another thing that ruled about the drive was the wildlife: there were two prairie dog towns that we passed, and we sat and watched the little buggers for a while. There was virtually no one on the road, so we could stop and sit wherever we pleased. We also saw multiple bison, many very up close and personal. One was right on the side of the road and didn't seem to mind that we stopped to check him out. He did a little (or actually quite big) roll in the dirt and took off after a few minutes. We also found a bison right near the turnaround at the top of Buck Hill. This guy hung out right next to our car, and eventually we drove to the other side of the turnaround so we could get out and climb to the top of Buck Hill.

It was starting to get dark, and once again, the rain was setting in, so we decided to forego the beans and rice we were planning to eat and drove into Medora for a pizza. We didn't get back to the campground until after 10:00, and, making jokes about how Sheila's dog was probably face to face with a buffalo, we rounded a corner in the campground and came face to face with a buffalo. Scared all of us because he was right by the road and huge and black. This also complicated Sheila's stay in the park, since she didn't want to run into buffalo on the way to the bathroom. Sheila slept in the front of her truck, and Sam and I crashed in the back of ours.

And in the morning, Sheila took off early, and Sam and I whipped up some eggs for breakfast. Afterward, we made our way to the Painted Canyon, another part of the Badlands, and took a rainy, slippery, hike down into the canyon and back up. Once again, gorgeous scenery, though our sandals (and Sam's pants from an amazing fall) were caked with clay when we finally got off the trail. By 12:30, we were on the road west . . .



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