As I write these blogs, I am amazed at how many memories we packed into a 5 day trip 🙂 Kinda wish we would have stayed an extra day or 2.
Next time I know better!
And as I reflect on this trip, I do think there will be a next time–I loved every bit of what I saw in North and South Dakota.
Prior trip posts:
Day 1–Getting to Sylvan Lake, South Dakota
Day 3, we were on the road. I woke up early to go for a one mile run around Sylvan Lake, but Asher woke up early too… so we walked up the hill instead (next time I’ll do the lake loop!)
We met up early, before 7, to depart for our first of two “road trip” days–today would be a stop in Wyoming, at Devils Tower National Monument, then a drive north to have lunch in Montana, and ending the day in Medora, North Dakota.
But first, a stop in Custer for breakfast at Calamity Jane’s Coffee. We chose Custer since it was on the way. Thank you to our waitress at the Buglin’ Bull Restaurant the day prior for recommending it. Delicious bagel sandwiches!
About 1.5 hours later, we made a pitstop in Sundance, WY for gas and bathroom.
Then we switched drivers, and I drove us to Devils Tower National Monument, about 30 minutes northwest of Sundance.
The line to get into the park moved super slow, but when we finally got in, we had a treat of seeing dozens of prairie dogs close to the road.
Like any public spot, if you don’t go early, it’s crowded. Devils Tower was no different. We easily found parking, but the lot teemed with people. I told the family the trail was an easy 1.5 mile loop, but still Gabe opted to stay behind with Javi. The 5 of us had a great little walk though!
Then it was nearly two hours to Ekalaka, Montana, where we stopped for lunch at the Wagon Wheel Cafe. I chose Ekalaka because it was about halfway between Devils Tower and Medora, and I chose that cafe because it was open and their menu had something for everyone in the family 🙂 It did not disappoint! I had a very delish BLT sandwich with sweet potato fries (so hungry I didn’t take a pic??) 😛
Afterwards, we decided to walk just down the street to the Carter County Museum. Similar to the little outpost shop the day prior, this museum contained a surprising amount of fascinating finds!
We headed to Baker to refuel, then over to North Dakota. Here’s our route for the whole day:
It wasn’t too bad to be in the car that long–we had enough space, switched drivers, and made frequent stops (Custer, Sundance, Devils Tower, Ekalaka, Baker, Medora).
We marveled at the beauty of North Dakota as we approached Medora–bright yellow cottonwood trees, multi-layered (and multi-colored) buttes, and clear skies. This was Theodore Roosevelt’s old stompin’ grounds, after his first wife Alice died suddenly (and his mother the same day!) and it was obvious why this gorgeous environment appealed to Teddy.
Here’s how Roosevelt himself described this area around Medora, North Dakota in a letter to his sister Bamie, 12 August 1884:
“…I grow very fond of this place, and it certainly has a desolate, grim beauty of its own, that has a curious fascination for me. The grassy, scantily wooded bottoms through which the winding river flows are bounded by bare, jagged buttes; their fantastic shapes and sharp, steep edges throw the most curious shadows, under the cloudless, glaring sky; and at evening I love to sit out in front of the hut and see their hard, gray outlines gradually growing soft and purple as the flaming sunset by degrees softens and dies away; while my days I spend generally alone, riding through the lonely rolling prairie and broken lands.” (from The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris–a book I purchased in Medora later that evening).
I wanted to ask my dad to pull over so I could take pictures, but I knew we needed to get out of the car, so I didn’t prolong the trip any further (hence the photo from Getty Images above!)
We checked in at the Rough Riders Hotel, where we had the Tower Suite (one bedroom, small kitchen and living room areas, fold-out couch). The hotel immediately got 2 thumbs up from my boys, who wanted Wifi (Gabe) and ESPN (Javi). It got my seal of approval because it was clean, fast check-in, and gorgeous views from the balcony of the little town of Medora, and the surrounding hillsides.
We decided to walk around before dinner, so we saw a good majority of the town in our short walk. We stopped at the bookstore where I bought the above-mentioned book (admittedly, I don’t know/remember much presidential history), and Asher went to play on the playground across the street.
We ended up at Boots Bar & Grill, since the restaurant at our hotel was closed due to labor shortages. Boots didn’t disappoint–great service and yummy food! I took a break from steaks/buffalo and had quesadillas… with steak and avocado added 🙂 We also got some desserts to share.
After dinner, I wanted to sit on the hotel patio, but everyone was ready to wind down for the day. My mom ended up texting me to see if I wanted to meet up in the lobby–we had a nice chat there just the two of us.
Day 3 was a whirlwind of travel, starting in South Dakota, driving through Wyoming and Montana (with stops at Devils Tower and Ekalaka/Carter County), and ending in Medora, North Dakota. I loved seeing all these new sights for the first time with my family!
Tomorrow: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, climbing White Butte, and driving to Deadwood, SD.
Have you been to the upper midwest?