Night 5: Roosevelt Nat'l Park

Trip Start Jun 20, 2012
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Trip End Jul 18, 2012


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Where I stayed
Cottonwood Campground

Flag of United States  , North Dakota
Sunday, June 24, 2012

Night 5: Roosevelt Nat'l Park

Today we drove about 60 miles. Weather was cool, overcast, and very windy until about noon. Then, despite continuing winds, the sun broke and heated up the air to about 85 degrees.

This beautiful, comfortable, and favorite national park gets two nights so we hung out around its environs all day, still managing 60+ miles on the car. I am really surprised it is not more well known in Chicago, but I suppose western North Dakota is a bit too far to travel for most.

We woke up after a long comfortable night. The weather and the extiction of local bears and the fact I got no sleep the night before helped. Our lazy plan for the day also contributed.

Jessica made eggs at camp and we very slowly enjoyed life at camp while the birds sang. We heard chipping sparrows, robins, and magpies. Andrew and I took a walk and ended up at a inter-denominational worship service in the middle of the campground. They left me with no  
excuse and when on a camping trip, one has dozens of good excuses not to do Sabbath.

It was at this campground where I saw what was probably a Newman Center group camping. They were enjoying each other and the beauty of the valley here and had a little service in which they gave God thanks. I wanted to join them because I was feeling the same things. But I was afraid and my conscience dug at me. I made the wrong decision to sing along from a distance.

So when the opportunity presented itself today, I swallowed the real timidness I felt and just went where I was led.

The leaders were young, probably in college. One was a pastor-in-training. The service was simple and familiar. Everytime they would begin a song, the pastor would ask if we knew it before he dove right in. I was glad I knew every song in the book and they were the ones that ring in a Christian's heart when they are surrounded by creation. The pastor explained that he was going fast in fear of rain. It was the three students, a couple from Minneapolis, and Andrew and I. I could go on and on.

After this we ate and then I laid back down to resist the temptation to move our campsite to one of the newly opened heaven-like sites closer to the river or the mountains. We had last choice for sites yesterday at about 6:30 and today a quarter of the best sites remain open. Of course, it was the weekend and nearby Medora was having a car show. We did notice a tin Lizzie while filling up yesterday.

Our site is not my favorite, but it has suited us. It is about 30 feet into the woods via a small rocky path. It us also several feet lower than the other sites which is why I am glad that the rain the pastor promised never came. It is very private and close to bathrooms and since potty training is never really done, that is good.

I presumed incorrectly that animals would be easier to spot in a cool, overcast day so we took a morning drive around the 30 mile long park road. We saw a band of feral horses and a few sleeping bison far away on hills.

What turned out to be the highlight was hiking the short trails around the park. Andrew was unusually enthusiastic about "mountain climbing." this is strange because formerly ge didn't last more than 100 yards on any hike we ever went on. He would beg for us to carry him, whining that his legs were tired. Today he was the one setting the pace for us, bouncing up cliffs and down hills with ease.

He led us to beautiful views on the Wind Canyon Trail, views I have never seen in my many years of coming to TRNP. The wind made descending the steepest hills a challenge so we scooted down on our butts. We also hiked up a hill on the Ridgeline Trail. The trail led through a thicket of junipers and then up the hill to a prairie plain that narrowed into a ridge. As we ascended sunlight could be seen reflecting in distant hills.

All the walking made us hungry so we slipped into town, in this case the creepy burg of Medora, population 70. In the summer, it seems that the corporation who owns over half the businesses in this town, hires foreigners to fill vacancies. I have seen cut-rate tourist towns try this all over the country, but Medora seems like the assignment from he'll for these guys.

The town us only a few square blocks, but somehow is the county seat. It has dozens mire "employees" than it does residents and even visitors. This has got to be boring for the workers. There are so many hands that I saw a couple of guys today out picking up cigarette butts  
off the street. The employees, it seems, are forced to wear golden nametags bearing the name if their hometown. They also mostly seem to be wearing plaid cowboy style shirts. They must muss home. Whoever runs the operation does nit really appreciate his people since they  
are easily replaceable.

For example, did you know employees are not allowed to substitute onion rings for fries at the outdoor cafe, the Maltese Burger. I found this out while listening to a worker trying to negotiate such a transaction in broken English with another worker. I need to cone down here and unionize this town.

We enjoyed our burgers and the dreary situation of our surroundings and then took a walk across half the "town." People who plan trips here are 100 years old and want to see the "thinks it's world famous" Medora Musical, a Branson-style extravaganza. Others come to eat steak  
cooked on a fork for $60. Some come to enjoy an efficiently planned day. I do not efficiently plan for anything so this town 100% rubs me the wrong way.

After some shopping, Andrew and Jessica got ice cream cones from the non-allied cafe and then we let Andrew loose in the elaborate Medora playground. It is built in the shape of a Western town with plenty if nooks and crannies for a really good game of hide'n'seek. Andrew is antisocial at these things and he did not disappoint here.

We visited the TRNP visitor center and then bought some groceries from the C-store. On our return, I whipped around the park road in time to cook burgers at our site before sunset.

After sunset we foregoed the NPS ranger's coyote presentation and, instead, looked for wildlife ourselves. When Jessica took Andrew to the bathroom, I stayed back to do chores and on my way up the hill to the van noticed other campers staring at me from two different directions. I know I'm not that interesting, so my next guess was spot in: a bison bull was near me or my path.

There he was, quiet and within seconds those four legs carried the creature right by me and our campsite. I spoke softly, asked him to leave. He did oblige with a huff. Only after he left did Jessica and Andrew return.

Even though i promised the ranger that i would come to her night program, we opted gor a "safari" as night fell. We drove up to the spot where we saw elks last night, but nothing was there today except for one mule deer. Then I drove around to the Bison hills. With eagle  
eyes we were able to spot a couple lone bulls in the dark. Upon reaching camp, I joked that there was a buffalo in our camp, and there was! He walked off when we approached.

We built a small fire and slowly prepared hamburgers for dinner. As night fell, we drifted to sleep soundly.

Update: I think I forgot to mention the huge snake I may have rolled over. 
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