Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt National Park- Part 2

Posted from Corum, MT  (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

To see additional pics not included in this blog: 
                Petrified Forest Hike
                Buck Hill Hike

Let me begin by saying that there are many more things to see and do in Theodore Roosevelt NP, but maybe just writing these two blogs will make you want to come and visit.

One very interesting hike we took was to the Petrified Forest.  The only way to get to the trailhead for this hike is to initally leave TRNP and take a graveled road of approximately 7 miles to the west of the park. The road is easily navigated by any vehicle, even our Honda Fit, but always check with the NP folks for road conditions first.

The complete hike is 10.3 miles, but the trail splits a few miles out and visitors can choose to go either left or right.  After doing some research we chose the trail to the left because it allows you to see a greater number of petrified specimens and the distance back to the trailhead is only a bit over 3 miles. The trail climbs for the first 1/2 mile or so.

It was a beautiful day when we made the hike and the initial climb rewarded us with a great view.

The next portion of the trail leads thru a flat prairie land covered with beautiful yellow flowers everywhere.

After stopping to eat lunch along the trail, we made it to an area with a large number of petrified specimens.  This NP contains the third largest collection of petrified trees in the US (according to their literature).

Some trees stumps and logs are easier to identify than others as the soil beneath many have eroded away and only stumps laying sideways are visible.

Notice the minerals which have displaced the wood many years ago to petrify this piece.

Many more pictures of this area are contained in the picture link at the top of this blog.  It was time to hike out, but you always need to be on the lookout for wild animals as this is their land out here. When it comes to bison, there are two sure signs to watch for.  The first is a "bison wallow" where they roll in the grass to create a cleared dirt area.

The second is pretty obvious. (This bison "remains" is older, however.)

Sometimes, you might get lucky and spot one of these great animals, although we saw none on the Petrified Forest Hike.

Another interesting area is again outside of the TRNP "proper".  It's called the Painted Canyon Visitor's Center.  This is actual a "rest area" off of Interstate 94 located at Exit #32 (5 miles east of the exit for Medora).

There is a NPS limited visitor's center, a regular parking lot, some picnic areas for travelers, an overlook into the painted canyon, and a trailhead for a hike down into the canyon.

A bit of a strange rest area as tractor trailers and cars share the area with folks starting out on hikes and others horseback riding.

We were here for the hike.  The Painted Canyon Trail is .9 miles in length and takes about 45-60 minutes to complete (depending on stops for pictures).

Sure, it's easy going down into the canyon, but you still have to climb back out again.

It really is a beautiful park and the panoramas of more beauty is everywhere.

We finally arrived at our last day in the Medora area to explore as we were leaving on Monday, so we decided to take one more drive around the 36-mile scenic drive inside the park.  Took it in reverse this time to see things that we hadn't previously.

A very short hike up Buck Hill takes you to the highest point in the park. It's only .2 miles so this one was a necessity for us. Quite a view from up here!

I wish that we had planned to spend more days in this area.  Who would have known there was so much to see and do in Medora and in TRNP.

I didn't include these attractions in our last few blogs, but a trip to the old Billings County Courthouse (now a museum) was very informative and they present a live narrative between characters of the era which was enjoyable.  I also didn't blog about the Chateau de Mores.  This is a very nicely done exhibit which contains the house belonging to the Marquis de Mores (founder of Madora), a museum, an live narratives as well. Both of these attractions are administered by the North Dakota State Historic Society.

If you would at least like to see some of the pictures for the Chateau de Mores and the Interpretive Center Museum click here.
For more pictures on the inside of the Billings County Courthouse Museum click here.

If you've managed to stay with me this far in the blog, thanks for taking a look!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Written from Medora, ND   (Click on Pics to Enlarge)

NEW: Beginning with this blog, I am including a link to the relevant Google+ Photo Album. There are usually MANY pictures in the album which are never used in the daily blog.

I might be doing multiple blog posts on Theodore Roosevelt National Park as there are just too many things to do and to describe in a single post.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) is divided into three main areas. These include the North Unit, South Unit, and Elkhorn Ranch and Petrified Forest. To be honest we only explored the South Unit and the Petrified Forest during this visit.  The main reason is that the South Unit Visitor's Center is entered from Medora (only about 1 mile from our CG), but the North Unit is approximately 70 miles away.

It was also time to renew our annual National Park's "America the Beautiful" pass (can't wait for age 62) so a stop at the Visitor Center enabled us to take care of this. A NP Visitor's Center is always a great place to pick up a visitor guide and become oriented to the park.  This visitor's center had a small museum detailing TR's involvement with the Medora area.

TR first came to the Medora area (actually known as Little Missouri at that time) as a young 24 year old in September of 1883 to hunt bison.  He loved this area of the Dakota Territory and invested in a cattle business by purchasing the Chimney Butte Ranch, approximately 7 miles south of Medora.  During the first winter, TR's ranch hands built a cabin later named the Maltese Cross Cabin along the Little Missouri River.

The cabin has actually been moved several times since it was built.  Its' finally home in the TRNP came in 1959.  This is the original cabin built for TR, but there are only a couple of items inside the cabin which are original.  The rest are period pieces. Most of the history surrounding this cabin and TR were learned while attending an excellent ranger-guided talk.  Several different programs of this nature are given daily.

We left the visitor's center and began the 36-mile Scenic Drive Loop of the South Unit.  There are ample pullouts along the route to view the beautiful landscape and wildlife within the park. This view is from the Skyline Vista pullout, one of the first.

The Little Missouri River winds its' way thru the park.  It's usually muddy and was sometimes known as "Little Misery" because of the hard times in the Badlands of the area. This area can be accessed from the Wind Canyon Trail.

Here were a couple of interesting looking rock formations we encountered along Wind Canyon Trail.

We honestly did not see many bisons in our multi-day exploring into the park, but this guy was certainly "up close and personal" as we came around a curve in the road.

There are many, many prairie dog towns in TRNP.  We saw the ones in Custer State Park, SD, but the areas are much larger and spread out here in TRNP.  They are never too shy for passing motorists.

TRNP also has a good number of wild horses in the park.  Best sightings are usually in the southeast portion of the South Unit.  This looked like a "family".

There are so many beautiful vistas to be found in TRNP.  Rather than become too wordy, I'll just post a few pictures.  Don't forget to take a look at today's Google+ Web Albums for many more pictures.

That's enough for this installment of TRNP.   Stay tuned for Part II.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Our First Ever Visit to North Dakota

Written from Medora, ND   (Click on pics to Enlarge)

We've been in South Dakota since July 1st and have really enjoyed our "home" state.  It was time to move on, however, and we've decided to eventually visit Glacier NP in Montana.  After checking routes on the map, we decided to head north into North Dakota.  This is our first ever visit to the state, so we had no preconceptions around where to visit or things to see.

We left Rapid City and after a short distance on I-90 we turned north on Route 85.  Most of Rt. 85 is two-lane and there is VERY LITTLE traffic.

We were doing well until four hours into the trip and a large storm began pushing west to east across our path.  Fortunately, we just caught the trailing edge.

Our destination for the next week is Medora, ND.  The only thing we knew about Medora was that the south unit of the Theodore Roosevelt NP led out of Medora.  Honestly, we were wondering what we'd do for an entire week in what looked like a small town.  Let me say that we have been very pleasantly surprised. After all, Medora's borders encompass only .37 square miles and the estimated population in 2013 was 129 people.

A bit of history on Medora.

  • In 1880, the railroad arrived in the area. The area at that time was known as Little Missouri (for the river which flowed nearby).  The railroad opened the area to tourists, naturalists, and hunters.
  • In 1883 a French nobleman, the Marquis de Mores, founds the town and names it after his wife Medora. 
  • On September 8, 1883 a 24 year old Theodore Roosevelt arrives in the area on a buffalo hunting trip.  He loves what he finds here and invests in a local cattle ranch and becomes a part-time resident.
  • Billings County is organized and Medora becomes the county seat in 1886. 
  • North Dakota is granted statehood in 1889.
  • In 1903 Theodore Roosevelt makes his only stop in Medora as President of the United States.
  • In 1947 the area is designated as Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park, but it is not until 1978 that it becomes a National Park.
Okay, enough with the facts and figures.  Let me move on to some pictures and sights we've visited thus far.

Post Office and Bank
Medora is physically very small and is a nice place to visit by either walking or bicycling.  The downtown stores have been renovated and most are very cute.  

This hotel is now called the Rough Riders Hotel, but originally opened in 1885 as the Metropolitan Hotel.

Because the Marquis de Mores was the founding father of the town and played a very important role in the initial years, a statute is dedicated to him in a small park in the center of town. 

We haven't visited the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame yet, but will before we leave.  

As stated earlier, the Marquis de Mores began several businesses in the early years of Medora.  One of those businesses was a cattle slaughterhouse operation which involved using refrigerated train cars to ship meat back to cities in the east.  It was built in 1883, but a terrible winter in 1887 which transformed the cattle industry as a whole caused the business to cease operations in late 1886.  The structure was destroyed by fire in 1907.

St. Mary's Catholic Church has been in continuous use since construction in 1884.

The Von Hoffman House was built by Peter Book in 1884 (same builder of the St. Mary's Catholic Church) for the Baron Louis and Athenais Von Hoffman.  These folks were the parents of Medora De Mores, wife of the Marquis de Mores. 

Here's a few more "around town" pictures of Medora.

Joe Ferris General Store

Bronze beside Joe Farris General Store

We also attended the Pitchfork Fondue and Cowboy Cookout.  I don't know about you, but I was familiar with the term "fondue" (from the 1970's), but I had no idea how that applied to pitchforks and cookouts.  As it turns out, the Pitchfork Fondue and Cowboy Cookout occurs nightly just southwest of Medora way up on a ridge overlooking the Little Missouri River.  Let's say that it involves cooking steaks after placing them on pitchforks and dipping them into boiling oil for a short time.

The price for adults is $28 (15% discount for those over 55 on Tuesdays and Thursdays) is a bit steep, but the experience was worth it. Aside from the meat entree, the side items are served buffet style.  Portions are large and all were very tasty. A return trip to the buffet bar is allowed (if you're stomach will allow it). Aside from the Pitchfork Fondue (which was steak), you could also choose to have the Cowboy Cookout which instead of steak consisted of herb roasted chicken, bison roast, and ribs.

 I was surprised how many folks were there on a Thursday night. 

They even have a small live band playing western-themed music during the dinner.  They are part of the Medora Musical which performs nightly throughout the summer and is located next door to the dinner area.

One of the real draws of the cookout is the spectacular view below. The complex in the picture above is located very close to the edge of the ridge which overlooks Medora and the Little Missouri river and a portion of The Badlands.

Of course, one of the star attractions for this area is the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Because this post is getting too long, we'll save that area for another day.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!