August 25, Day 84: Theodore Roosevelt NP in North Dakota is one of the least visited of our National Parks. The area is very isolated, and the land beautiful. We found it surprisingly full of life, especially at dusk.
It was a pretty drive up Highway 79 / 22 to our hotel in Dickinson, ND. We had hiked Bear Gulch near Hill City, SD early that morning in the cool, dewy grass and woods. We scared up several deer, mostly young bucks, as we worked our legs. This was our third day in a row with long hikes. When we climbed into the Jeep for the four-hour drive north, the seat heaters felt pretty good to our sore selves!
The Park at Twilight
Our hotel clerk, who volunteers as at TRNP, suggested we explore that evening for a better chance of seeing wildlife. We did, and we were not disappointed! In the late twilight and evening, the park was bustling with wildlife. Bull buffalo crowded the road. Wild turkeys gobbled up grasshoppers, then flocked to roost for the night. A herd of 13 wild horses sauntered down the road, just a few feet from the Jeep window. And mule deer bounded every which way, blending with dusk in the distance.
We returned to Theodore Roosevelt NP the next day and admired the colorful badlands views, more varied in hue from those in South Dakota. Herds of buffalo peppered the hills, with mountain goats and deer grazing alongside the park roads. Longhorn cattle, wild remnants of early cowboy herds, calmly watched us pass. And for miles and miles, prairie dogs popping up and down from their burrows.
On Theodore Roosevelt
I admire T.R. most of all our presidents. He was far from perfect but had a big personality, adventurous spirit, strong moral code, and accomplished much for both progressives and conservatives to admire.
In 1884, at the age of 26, T.R. lost both his wife and mother within hours of each other. He retreated from public life to this place for a time, to hunt, ranch, and reinvent himself. His experiences here formed the basis for his political career.
For a good, deep read over the winter, I recommend William Morris’s 3-part biography (Theodore Rex, the middle book, is my favorite).