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Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora

North and South Units, Quaint but tacky Medora

sunny 39 °C

Sep 3 to Sep 7 Days 104 to 108

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora, ND

Distance traveled 250 km towing, 350 km local travel; trip total 16,600 kilometers

Gas prices $3.699/gal, converts to Can $1.335/l

Sep 3

Once we got our phone situation sorted, we headed south towards Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We obtained a burner phone, for $59 and a data/phone plan for another $35. We now have connection for our time in the US. We also spent $16 and washed the crud off Sully and the TaJ at a wand-wash in Williston. It was sure nice to get the vehicles clean again. We have been killing grasshoppers by the truck load this past week and it was good to get them out of the grill.

There is a very busy oil and gas sector here. Pump-jacks as far as the eye can see, pipelines all over the place, and new ones going in. Lots of drilling taking place as well. We did the 14-mile long Scenic Drive at the North Unit of the Park. We obtained a pass for $20 US. It is supposed to be for senior US citizens, but the guy in the booth told us it would do for our purposes. Huh. Really interesting drive. It took us a full hour to navigate the narrow road, out and back, with TaJ on the back.


We arrived in Medora to absolute chaos on the roads. The town was packed with tourists. Think Jasper, without the high-end restaurants. Motels, hotels, RV parks, all with the same goal: to get you to buy into the Medora myth. The town runs a pitchfork fondue, at $45 per person, and there is the Medora Musical, in an open amphitheatre that seats thousands, again at $45 per person. It is all based on the personality of Theodore Roosevelt, who came here in the 1880’s and started the National Park movement. The town is kitschy, but tacky.

There are no real grocery stores, so we should have stocked up before getting here. We picked up some basic supplies, and gassed up at $3.699/gal. The Medora Campground, another town run site, was virtually full. We’d booked 4 nights in advance, to get through the Labor Day weekend, so we were expecting crowds. Our site is fine, and we get set up and settle down in the heat of the afternoon. We each had a Coors Banquet, a refreshingly light beer. It hit the spot as it continues to be hot, about 35 C.

The washrooms are what you would expect on a crowded weekend; slammed, dirty, unkempt. We hope they will clean up well, but we don’t need a shower today anyway. We settle in for the night.

Sep 4

Once again, it is cool in the mornings, about 11 C, so we slept well and are ready to get at it this morning. Our first stop is the park visitor center, about ½ mile from the campground. We check things out, get a road map of the park and make some plans on what we want to see and do. While we are there, a guide is giving a talk on the cabin that Roosevelt stayed in when he visited the park. We learned about his history here and the history of the cabin itself.

In the Gift Shop, Jenny got a new ball cap, we got post cards to send to the grandkids and a really good National Geographic Map Book, with details of all the national parks in Canada and the US. Sweet. We drove over to the Painted Canyon visitor center, on I-94. We stopped here on September 7, 2006 on our way to Nova Scotia. We got a picture then and got one this time. No changes in us at all!


We hiked down into the canyon on a very steep trail. The heat was tremendous but we took water with us and managed a very nice 45-minute hike. In total about 1.4 km, but it felt like a lot more on the way back up to the canyon rim.

Since there were no grocery stores in Medora we continued along the I-94 to Dickinson, where we stocked up on essentials for our now 5 night stay in Medora. We’ve added one more night to our plans here. It is hot, our site is partially shaded and there is much to do and see at the national park. We will do our stuff morning, and evening and hunker down in the heat of the day.

We got back to Taj mid-afternoon. Our fridge is overheating due to the outdoor temperature and the fact that we have not defrosted for a while. We use the ice packs from the freezer to help hold the temperature down to a safe level.

We both showered, although the shower house was a mess. I partially cleaned one of the shower rooms, then I showered and Jenny followed before anyone else could make a mess again. Yuck, but at least we got clean and refreshed. It is now 40 C outside. Here is the thermometer inside TaJ:

In the evening we drove most of the 35 km loop road into the South Unit of the national park. There were bison wandering about, mostly solitary males and a coyote hunting for supper in one of the prairie dog towns. The highlight of the drive was the wild horses, which tend to convene near the Boicourt Trail. Each stallion has a number of mares and the groups tend to stay just far enough apart that there is no conflict. Very exciting to see. Jenny got some lovely pictures.


By the time we finished with the horses, it was full dark and we drove very carefully out of the park. We did encounter one giant bison on the road.


Sep 5

We had planned for an early start, to do the Petrified Forest Hike before the heat of the day came on. But, for some reason we dawdled, finally decided to put the hike off until tomorrow. We each write a daily journal to keep track of stuff until I get to the blog. Amazing how things just disappear from your brain.

We also defrosted the refrigerator, and got it turned back on in time for it to cool down before today’s heat came on. It has been consistently 15 C in the overnight and early part of the day, before jumping mid-afternoon to the high 30’s and even as high as 40 C. We seem to be handling the heat well enough. We read for a few hours. Around us, the campground was emptying out. By noon less than 1/3 of the sites were filled. The holiday weekend is at an end. The town is deserted.

We learned through the internet that by Sep 10 the musical and the pitchfork fondue are done for the year. This area is filled with hunters through the fall but, by the end of November, just 130 people are living here and everything is shut down but the very basics.

In the heat of the afternoon, we take refuge in Sully’s air-conditioning and do the 35 km loop road into the south unit once again. This time we go all the way to the end and take pictures and climb Buck Hill, the highest point in the park. The scenery is magnificent. We have been in badlands now for much of two weeks, stretching from Waterton National Park, Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Grasslands National Park, in Canada now into this giant piece in North Dakota. There would be more pictures but Jenny forgot the SD card in her camera, so just this one.


We stopped in town for a pizza and beer supper. It was OK, but not great. We did go up to see the outdoor theater for the Medora Musical. The amphitheatre is huge, seating more than 3000. This is a picrture of the stage from above


Sep 6

We got up and got at the Petrified Forest hike. It is a 25 km drive, along gravel and dirt roads to the trail head and we were out there at 8am. It was 11 C at the start of the hike and the cool morning gave us great energy. We hiked about 2.5 km out, up at steep slope to the prairie, then a long stretch of flat before the ground fell away into a valley of petrified wood. We spent a good amount of time wandering and taking photos before returning to the car. By the time we finished the hike it was 24 C. Nice to get the work done early.

Back at the TaJ, Jenny downloaded the cameras and discovered that she did not have the SD card in her camera. About 50 pictures…gone! Luckily, I took some with my point and shoot camera.


We showered in the now pristine shower rooms. Nobody here in the campground makes quite the difference in the conditions of the facilities.

We did take a short drive out into the farming areas to the east of Medora. I'm planning on a blog entry dedicated to the harvest. We were looking for interesting crops to feature and came upon this field of sunflowers. Huge:


We wiled away the hot afternoon, me writing blog entries, and both of us reading on our Kobo’s. Fortunately, today is not too hot, about 28 C, so hanging about was not a bad thing.

Sep 7

This morning we walked the town in the cool of the day. There is a weather alert for today. It is called a Red Flag warning. High temperatures, and wind. The high predicted is 41 C with 30+ kph winds and low humidity. The threat of wildfires exists in these conditions.

We were out and about for almost three hours, and stopped for breakfast in the Cowboy Cafe. It was a good meal.


We walked 6 kilometers on our exploration of the town. The setting is very pretty and the historical significance is not small at all. We learned that the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library is being re-located here to Medora. The lady who served us at the post office says this will make the town much more of a year round destination.


There is a really interesting wind park in town:


Here I am with a life size statue of Teddy;


Near the campground is the remains of an abbatoir, built in the early 1880's. It failed after just 4 years of operation and all that remains are the bones and this chimney.


When we got back to TaJ, I got to some maintenance that has been needed. Our little hot water heater has an anode rod, that protects the equipment from chemicals and elements in the water. It wear down opver time to just a nub. This morning was replacement time. I did just fine, except I forgot to release the pressure on the water system and got soaked when the rod came out. A lesson learned. The replacement rod is installed, the tank refilled and all is well.

As this blog is posted, it is just as the heat of the day comes on. It is already 38C inside TaJ. The fridge is holding out fine. We are hot but determined to keep drinking water and waiting out the end of the heat wave. The forecast for tomorrow is a high of 25 C Finally, a bit of a break.

Tomorrow we head for Bismarck for 2 nights, then we will zig-zag, on back roads from there to Grand Forks, where we will stay for 3 nights. We hope to add many crops to our file for the Harvest Special Blog, which we will post when ready.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 20:48 Archived in USA Tagged theodore_roosevelt_national_par medora_nd

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