We had an amazing couple of hours driving slowly through this park
. For some reason it really appealed to all of us and especially Tim, who couldn't stop commenting on how he wished he had a few days to load up the pack and hit the back country. This park is a great blend of weathered sandstone hills, like the Badlands of South Dakota, but the heat and arid extremes were muted and tempered here as evidenced by the rolling grass hills, gullies, canyons and prairies. It simply seemed to speak to us as an amazing park, that was formed in honor of and respect for Theodore Roosevelt. It was to this area that he came as a young man when he had lost his wife and mother in the span of a couple of hours in New York. He healed in the North Dakota hills and it was during his experiences ranching this country that he came to the realization that lands such as this and throughout the USA needed to be set aside and protected. One of the photos with this blog tells the story in much better detail than I can here, but suffice it to say that without his time in the Badlands of North Dakota, that the USA would be a very different place today. After Theodore Roosevelt healed and recovered, he returned to New York and his career in politics, but the experiences and memories always stayed with him and during his time as President he set aside over 230 million acres of land (an area larger than the State of Texas) in the forms of National Parks and Monuments, sanctuaries and reclamation projects as well as setting up legislation that allowed him and all future Presidents to protect land they deemed significant
. It was this work that earned him the title of the "Conservationist President". It was with some awe and humility that we spent our time here and it seemed quite fitting that this was the second to last National Park we will visit on our tour of the USA. It puts into perspective all of the amazing places we have been and all of the amazing vistas, landscapes and wildlife that we have seen and impressed on all of us the monumental legacy that we all enjoy as the result of one man. As well, it seems fitting that the last National Park that we will visit in a few days is the most recently established. We are lucky indeed to have spent this time touring the country, seeing the diversity and range of experiences that it has to offer and, at the same time, learning how it all came to be. Heidmanns on Tour, I hope the kids never forget this journey, we certainly never will!!!!
Well, with that diatribe behind me, what else did we see while we were in the park? We saw several wild horses, a couple of hundred buffalo in the distance and walking down the center of the road and prairie dog after prairie dog. We nicknamed all prairie dogs "fatty-fatty-boom-busters" in acknowledgement of their rounded shapes and commitment to constant eating. The only ones that we saw that were not eating, were stretched out flat on the ground enjoying the sun. After driving the loop through the park we stopped at the Visitor Center and had an opportunity to see the cabin where Theodore Roosevelt lived when he was ranching in the area.
We then struck out east and spent the next four hours driving across North Dakota (it is a sizable state) and on the way we crossed a time zone and we are now only one time zone away from the East coast where we will be settling in a few short weeks time. There was nothing much to report on the drive and we pulled into our campsite around 6:15pm and by 8:00 all were fed and settling into bed. On through Minnesota and into Wisconsin tomorrow.
As we had hoped, it was a cool night with a light breeze that was perfect for sleeping. Tim, as the last one up last night, heard the coyotes talking to each other before he climbed into bed and he slept with dreams and visions of wild North America. This clearly wore him out as he did not arise until after 7:30 this morning. Jess and Eli had eaten and read and hung out by the time Lily and Tim were up and it was yet another slow start to the day as the original plan had called for us to spend the whole day hanging out and exploring this park. However, after looking at the map over breakfast and making plans forward, we decided at 9am to pull down the tent and head for the next campground a day early, in order to try to gain some time to spend in Chicago. By 9:37 we were in Odie and pulling out, prepared to spend the morning driving through the park and then checking out the Visitor Center before hitting the road East towards the eastern end of North Dakota.