Crossing the border between Montana and North Dakota is no major event, but what is noticeable are the "badlands". The geologic features of weathered sandstones, hoodoos and canyons is common in the western Dakotas. You may have been to Badlands NP in the Rapid City SD area and if so don't write off TRNP as another badland. This park is a few miles off I-94 near Madera ND. Its easy to roll through the area, absorb the colors of the rock and diverse vegetation, but few ever take the time to wander off the beaten path to investigate what this park is about. About 20 years ago while passing through in the late evening I needed a place to camp and jumped off the interstate to catch some sleep. It was pitch black while setting up camp, but in the morning, what a great treat - such a diverse forest and wildlife. Well fast forward to today, Jeannie and I intentionally focused on spending a couple days here. We were not disappointed. Waking up to a sunny and brisk (38deg) morning we did our ritual coffee and toast. While relaxing in the rig(van) we noticed a horse wandering through our campground. It turned out to be one of the many feral horses in the park. We later saw dozens of them as we toured the back roads.
We were excited to explore the park. On my previous visit, long ago, I vowed to get to know this park better. Sure it falls way down the list of "must see" NPs like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Tetons, Zion etc etc... but TRNP holds features, views and wildlifeunlike anything else around.
As I shared in the previous post, we had some specific "to dos" on this leg of our year long tour. Jeannie and her family had expressed a desire to spread some of her father's ashes at predetermined locations. Dad (Bob) was a gifted ad talented man and had a formal education in geology. Jeannie was certain that her father would have loved to more spend time here in the park and so it was that we would leave some ashes here mixed into the wild, rugged and beautiful landscape. Although it was extremely windy atop Buck Hill (high point in the park) it was clear this should be one of the places her father would return to the earth. It was an emotional and spiritual experience. We felt his presence!
We spent the next couple days exploring the rolling terrain of the park. As we learned Teddy Roosevelt was truly an advocate of conservation and lead the move to establish national parks. We know he was key in bringing Yellowstone to fruition as he was this beautiful area. His love for this area led him to build a ranch and spend much of his free time out here. You may know that as the west was settled, millions of the buffalo that wandered the plains were slaughtered leaving very very few at the turn of the 19th century. Its exciting to know that in recent years, our parks have made a concerted effort to rebuild the herds. Touring through Yellowstone and the Tetons you'll find hundreds of head of wild grazing buffalo. TRNP is right in there with those same efforts. In the few days we were there we saw buffalo, antelope, wild horse, deer and thousands of prairie dogs.
Our last night there we were treated to millions of stars and a crisp cold frosty night. We stayed toasty warm in the Sprinter.
Next day we left TRNP again heading eastbound into NE North Dakota in search of Jeannies relatives some of which she had not seen for 50 years!!