Day 4 of our trip began with a truly scenic drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park, complete with MANY wildlife sightings, a stop at White Butte for hiking the highest point in North Dakota, and ending in Deadwood, SD.
Prior trip posts:
Day 1–Getting to Sylvan Lake, South Dakota
Day 3–Road trip! Devils Tower, Ekalaka, and arrival in Medora, North Dakota
I started the day with an early wake-up, and a run through Medora and along the Little Missouri River.
The cold air, a welcome relief from the hot humidity back in NC, chilled my exposed legs and hands while I slowly jogged the paved trail outside of town. I caught up with my friend TM on a quick call, then headed back to the hotel to get started with the day, but not before marveling the vastness and beauty of this area. Stepping back onto the sidewalks of town, I appreciated the “old timey” feel, and wondered how many little towns in the US have survived commercialism the way Medora has?
Our breakfast choice, the Farmhouse Cafe… was closed. We happened to ask a local lady passing by, and she recommended another cafe up the street (who later specifically asked me not to spread the word of their restaurant, as they wanted to stay small–I thought that was ironic/amusing in the age of over-marketing, and every business seemingly wanting to “grow the brand”). This place definitely had locals, who naturally got served first, but we were happy to get a table and get some hot breakfast–waffles with strawberries and whipped cream and bacon (the special), plus a side of eggs for me. Gotta fuel up for a big day ahead!
While we all finished packing, Asher got his wiggles out with Papa:
Thus filled with energy for the day, we piled in the Yukon with our luggage, and set off for Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP) (the only US national park named for a person), a mere two minute drive away.
We planned to drive the southern loop of TRNP, and I was aware of road closures. I said to the family “I REALLY want to see some buffalo on this trip.” I knew they all did too. I felt like we might have missed our opportunity, in South Dakota, by not driving the wildlife loop, or doing the wagon ride.
However, TRNP delivered in a big way, right away. We were no more than 2 minutes into the park, right near Skyline Vista, and there he was: a majestic bull, grazing alone, not 50 yards away. I couldn’t believe it!
We got out, but kept our distance (don’t need to be chased by a buffalo!) Just as at Devils Tower yesterday, the prairie dogs were out in full force too.
We quickly realized this would be a spectacular wildlife-viewing scenic drive: we shortly saw turkeys, mule deer, and still more prairie dogs.
We stopped to check out more gorgeous views, and very different rock formations than what we’re used to.
If you can’t tell, one of my children was very excited (and the other wanted to watch Netflix on his phone in the car)!
We headed down the Southern Loop further, and *surprise* found an entire herd of buffalo! Right next to the road!
I couldn’t believe our good fortune (or how close these guys were to the road, without a care in the world that we were driving by!)
We planned to do a hike on Boicourt Overlook Trail, but it was closed (a recurring theme for this trip!) due to construction. However, I picked a different trail further up the road, and it ended up being great too–mainly because we saw another herd of buffalo on the way there.
I made a 30 second video, posted here:
A few minutes later, we parked to go for our hike on the Coal Vein Trail.
And on this trail, we were basically the only people around, so it felt extra special to be exploring this area on our own. I wondered if Mr. Roosevelt himself had walked (or hunted) in this very spot.
We saw a dead buffalo… still fresh, by the smell (yuck!)
And Mom loved this old juniper tree.
We meandered up and down the trail, and it wound around little hills and dry creek crossings.
Overall, loved this nature walk on Coal Vein Loop and it was very doable, less than one mile, even with a few spur trail diversions:
After this, we made a quick bathroom stop, saw wild horses in the distance, then backtracked out of the park, with a quick stop at the gift shop for a sticker (for me) and a stuffed buffalo (for Asher–so hard to say no to that kid!) I also changed out of my Wrangler jeans and into my hiking clothes.
I thought to order pizza so we could eat lunch in the car, and save a bit of time. This ended up working out well, and the pizza from Badlands Pizza Parlor hit the spot (and shockingly, we didn’t make a mess in the Yukon!)
We had a one hour drive to White Butte, the highest point in North Dakota–trip report in a separate post.
After that, it was (unfortunately) another 2.5 hours to Deadwood, South Dakota, where we’d spend our final evening and partial day of vacation.
Have you been to North Dakota?