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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

I've long known that Theodore Roosevelt, my conservation hero, spent time on a ranch in the Badlands of the Dakotas.  So I was ready for a mini-adventure when Ila and I, on our way west, exited the freeway for a little tour of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

First up we hit the Visitor Center where a lady Ranger gave us the lay out of the Park, and such. Before we left we got a few souvenirs (and you know I got my National Park stamp & cloisonne pin). Then we did a quick tour of the center museum which is dedicated to a former Bully pres.

Rough Rider, President and Frontiersman, yet born in NYC, just like me

Teddy and his mount in Popsicle sticks. Um... maybe not Popsicle sticks, but they are sticks
 Just outside the back of the visitor center is an old, 'Maltese Cross Cabin'.  The cabin was Theodore's first digs when he lived the life of a Dakota cowboy.

The cabin seemed rather small to me, but it not only had separate rooms and a pitched roof  - you may take time to express your astonishment & envy here - but it also had - prepare yourself - wooden floors. Teddy's digs was quite the upscale mini-mansion of its day.

The Maltese cabin was the mini-mansion cabin in its day.

The craziest fact about this little cabin is while Teddy Roosevelt was president, it was put on display in Portland, Oregon and in St. Louis, Missouri & it 'lived' for a while in Bismarck, North Dakota. Wasn't until the 1950s that it was returned to its present site & was renovated. Bully cabin!

Today this preserved cabin contains many items that Teddy once owned and used. I was particularly taken by the tiny desk. Loved its cunning elk antler inkwell.

After a quick sweep through the visitor center & environs, we headed out to see the park. I was in the driver's seat and got us a little lost to start. Yes, you could stuff me in a barrel and I'd not be able to find my own foot, but there you go. Soon we perused the snowy scenery where we spotted the odd herd of bison in the badlands.  It was 1883 when Teddy first hunted bison in these very hills.

The scenic drive through the park wend its way past the Little Missouri River Bottom lands which is still dotted with winter snows.

There were a couple of spots along the road where acres of prairie dogs all poofy in their winter coats, barked and ran around, looking kind of adorable in their snow covered towns.

Prairie Dog Colony spread across the valley floor

Prairie Dog

Doesn't quite look all that 'badlands' to me.

The Little Missouri River runs through these bottomlands

Our first view of the Peaceful Valley Ranch and the only remaining original farmhouse in the valley. The Peaceful Valley complex was empty during our visit, except for tourists like us. In the summer however, trail rides are possible. 

The old farmhouse built around 1887

One of the historic buildings at the ranch, either the stables or the cowshed

Following our tour of the park, we stopped at a little shop in the tiny town of Medora, just outside the park. After a purchasing a few items to contribute to the local economy, we stopped at local pub. We had a tasty lunch of elk burgers and even chatted a bit with a few of the locals.

The little town of Medora
Medora is a small town that is dependent on its summer population of tourists. Aside from the National Park at its doorstep, it also has the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.

The Cowboy Hall of Fame is closed just now, but I could still admire its architecture. Loved the bronze dioramas on the sides of the building. On the left a cowboy urges a herd of wild steer forward. To the right, a mounted Indian brave rides after an evasive bison bull; one of the original rough riders.

So, in review, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is an under sung outpost in the wilds of the badlands. My photos do not do all of its scenery justice. Here's a dawn photo of the park when it's not snowed under; magical & not my photo.

Gorgeous, right? Hope to get back there sometime and see the northern unit of the park. Oh, and although the bison we saw were in the distance, on our way out of the park, we passed two different bison on the highway roadside, but for a few feet would have been rooting in our snack bag in the back seat, they were that big & that close!

And last, but not least, much later in the day, after leaving Teddy behind, we went off highway a bit to checkout Pompey's Pillar, a National Monument hosted by the BLM.  Like many things early in the tourist season, the park was closed, not to hikers, but to lazy drivers who don't want to take the hour or two to hike out to the monument.  Guess what? That is 'moi'.

No bother! We could view the Pompey's Pillar in the distance as seen below. Here's the facts: In 1806 the Lewis & Clark party arrived at the site. William Clark carved his initials & the date on the rock.  In his journals, Clark named the rock after Sacajawea's baby boy,Jean Baptiste, whom he nicknamed 'Pompey'.

So that's the story of how a famous explorer joined the ranks of graffiti artists who get a pass because they are famous.Well, that's how I see it!

Pompey's Pillar reminded me of photos of Ayer's Rock in Australia

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