Thursday, August 22, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

As I’m posting this, I’m sitting at the Bentonitic Clay Overlook at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRJP) in western-almost-Montana North Dakota.  We have no cell or internet coverage at our campground, so we've been off line for a bit. But now we have five bars as we look at hills streaked with blue/black clay that flows when wet.

Earlier this morning we took the 4.3 mile Caprock Coulee hike at TRNP.  The hike was recommended to us by the ranger, who happens to be a senior in parks and recreation at Ohio State  

At the beginning of the trail was a sign warning hikers of an “aggressive” bull bison known to charge.  That made me nervous, as we once saw a bison flip someone and it’s not a pretty sight.  Admittedly, the flipped guy walked right in front of the bison and made eye contact.  Our plan if we saw one was to give him wide berth.

The first part of the hike was a very curvy trail with lots of trees and shrubs -- the perfect place for us to round a corner and surprise a relaxing bison.  We also saw some fairly fresh buffalo pies and a few hoof prints in the mud.  

Then the trail opened up to grasslands with views of the park’s bluffs.  I kept scanning the scenery and ... I saw him.  The bull was across a draw and on top of a bluff.  I told Jim that’s just how I like to see big wildlife -- far away.
Our campsite at TRNP.  TRNP has three separate units:  1) The south unit just off Interstate 94 and near Medora, ND, and known for grasslands, coal seams and badlands.  2) Elkhorn, an hour and fifteen minute drive north of the south unit, high-clearance vehicle recommended.  It’s the one-time home and ranch of Teddy Roosevelt.  3) The north unit, 20 miles north of the little town of Grassy Butte, ND, known for its buttes, coulees, and bluffs.  We’re in the north unit.
Sign at the trail head to the Caprock Coulee trail. Click on the photo to better  read it.
Jim on his way up a grassy hill on the TRNP North Unit's Caprock Coulee trail. It's windier today, which keeps the bugs at bay.  And it's a little cooler, so it was a nice day for a hike.
When we first saw the bison he was standing.
Then he decided to relax.  Both these photos were taken with a telephoto lens.  He was not that close to us.

Grasslands and bluffs at TRNP.

Bev at the the River Bend Overlook at TRNP with the Little Missouri River and bluffs behind her.

As for the last couple of days:

Yesterday we drove from Lake Sakakawea State Park in Pick City, ND to TRNP.  We saw cattle, more sunflower fields, and also expanses of purple/blue flowers we think were clover.  We saw hundreds and hundreds of those huge round bales of hay.  We experienced more road construction with flagmen and ten-foot width restrictions on our route (ND 200 and US 85) than we’ve had anywhere else.  And once we headed north of US 85, we saw more big trucks than we’ve seen in the biggest of towns.  The reason?  Per the TRNP park visitors guide, it’s hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a new and controversial oil extraction method that allows oil companies to more than quadruple oil production.  We did see lots of oil wells.

The day before that, we visited Minot, North Dakota, whose  economy depends on a near by air force base, agriculture and fracking for oil.

In Minot we looked for a park to walk Cooper.  First we went to Oak Park which was pretty and green.  A gentleman stopped and told us dogs weren't allowed in Oak Park and he wanted to give us a heads up before animal control gave us a ticket.  He was at the park releasing a squirrel.  He'd caught it live in his yard and told us it was the 29th one he'd caught and let go in the park.  He told us it only had a mile and a half to go to make it back to his home.

Then we went to Roosevelt Park, which has a river walk and allows dogs.  Reviews on Trip Advisor weren't good but, we knew we weren't in San Antonio.  Turned out to be a decent place for Cooper to stretch his legs, but the poor, untidy park needs some loving.
A note about Lake Sakakawea State Park.  Nice, nice park, but we hit it during  its prime bug season.  We picked up a free flyswatter at Lake Bemidgi in Minnesota and put it to good use at Lake Sakakawea.
The joys of mid week camping after summer vacation.   Here's the view from our rig of other camping sites at Lake Sakakawea.  There were  36 spots in our campground; our last night there only five were taken.
Jim and Cooper at Minot's Roosevelt Park in Minot, ND.
Part of the Riverwalk Trail in Minot took us by these propane tanks.  We could smell the propane near a "no smoking" sign. 

Downtown Minot, ND, is called the "Magic City" because in the late 1800s it sprang up as if by magic during construction of the Great Northern Railroad.

After exploring Minot we stopped at the city's Souris River Brewing for lunch.  I had a great sweet potato burger (really) and Jim had walleye and said it was very good.
Jim talking with the locals at the Soulis Brewery in Minot, ND.  Jim says the FFOK Imperial IPA was excellent.

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