Saturday, August 27, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - North Unit

August 15 - 18, 2016:

We are finally having some hot summer weather and humidity, in other words I’m all sweaty and gritty.  The great thing about this lifestyle, if you don’t care for the locale or the weather, you can just pack up and leave for a new one.  That’s what we’re doing today although the prairie was beautiful and the campground was very nice, but the oil and gas take over around this area is a major turn off.

It’s an easy ride on route 1804, named after the 1804 Lewis and Clark expedition, to route 85 where our GPs totally lost its way.  I guess the oil business has created new roads that aren’t yet updated in the GPS.  Eventually on route 85 is an exit for Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  This is not a heavily used National Park although it has beautiful scenery and much wildlife.  There are two sections, the a north section and a south section which are about 60 miles apart.  We are at the North section in the Juniper campground which is all first come, first served with no hookups.  There are water spigots and a dump station in the campground.  We have a beautiful campsite, one of the nicest all year. We have a private sitting area, great for morning coffee, surrounded by trees on a cliff edge overlooking the Little Missouri River.

Great spot for morning coffee behind the campsite

The Turkeys making the rounds

View from the Little Missouri River flood plain

The Little Missouri River seems to be the boundary line between the Mountain and Central time zones and we are presently in the Central time zone.  The other day while at the Fort Union Trading Post we were on the boundary between Montana and North Dakota, the Trading Post was Mountain time while the parking lot was Central time.  Of course time means little to me these days, I just wake up by the sun and go to bed when it’s dark, simple, no problem !

This is Theodore Roosevelt National Park named for the 26th and one of the most iconic US presidents.  He was a wealthy, frail, sickly city bred young man when he came to North Dakota and left North Dakota a healthy, strong, aggressive, rugged outdoorsman.  Throughout his life, he credited his success in life to the time he spent in North Dakota.  He took over an established ranch first and then latter built his own cattle ranch, but actually didn’t stay on the ranch full time. He was somewhat of a play cowboy as he had managers to take cars of things and shuttled back a forth between New York and North Dakota.  He loved the ranch life and understood that this type of wilderness was fast disappearing. He worked and rode hard which eventually won the respect of the locals. 

We did a hike on the Sparati Point Trail across the prairie covered with wildflowers and great vistas at Sperati Point. Returning on the park road we came upon a number of Bison, they seem to be all over this park.  We then did a  short hike segment on the Caprock Coulee Nature Trail.  It was close to 90 degrees hot and humid, but felt more like 100 in the sun.

Twinkles posing on the trail

This is a beautiful Park, the eroded colorful badlands are spectacular.  Near the campground is a viewpoint for the Cannonball Concretions which are round sandstone balls that are bedded in the canyon walls.  There are side trails all over the area and as I was following one I came upon a huge Bison about 30 feet away.  It’s not recommended to come up behind them and startle them so I quickly turned around and fled.  They seem to wander all around this place and they seem to follow the people trails by the footprints and bison pies that we see on the trails.

View across from the Cannonball Concretions

Erosion is exposing them at all levels

Many are perfectly round

Many odd shapes

Many colors

We did the full 4.2 mile Caprice Coulee Trail on the following day that I will have to say was one of the best trails we have done this year.  The view from the ridge line with it’s various colored and eroded layers of sandstone, coal, clay and caprock far above the Little Missouri River valley was a masterpiece.

The colors are special

The shapes are spectacular

The Little Missouri River below

Hard to stay focused on the trail

All kinds of Hoodoo formations

A ride to the nearest town of Watford which is in the process of oil and gas exploitation and anarchy is enough to swear off petroleum for good.  I love the throaty exhaust of an internal combustion engine way more than most people, but this method of making horse power is obsolete, why do we continue to prolong the inevitable.  It’s a nasty, dirty, ugly, polluting business that just needs to just end. 

We took a ride south on route 85 over the Long X Bridge where we found the CCC Campground that is another good dry camping spot.  Just beyond it you enter the Little Missouri National Grasslands where we found another similar campground, there seems to one every 20 miles or so.  The dry camping opportunities are frequent here although there isn’t a lot to do in these areas except enjoy the quiet and relax.  We then came upon the small town of Grassy Butte which had a very old adobe building with a sod roof (former post office), an old church and a very interesting bar.  This area is still mostly wheat fields, but the oil rigs are ever encroaching.

The Long X Bridge

Old homestead view

The prairie here is not exactly flat

Rodeo fans are welcome in Grassy Butte

Grassy Butte Post Office from 1914 to 1962

I take a short solo hike on a part of the Caprice Coulee Trail where the eroded sandstone is especially beautiful and about everywhere you look is a piece of petrified wood.

A petrified Log

Wild contours

Pieces of petrified wood everywhere

They remind me of Toadstools

Bison footprints

Watch for the wet Bison chips

Wild flowers accentuate the erosion

Multiple rock layers

Next stop is the southern end of Theodore Roosevelt National Park,
Twinkles and Slick

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