Greetings and salutations,
This week I take you along to North Dakota where we celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. The photos and accompanying story aren’t really about Thanksgiving but about my few hour visit to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park located in Western North Dakota near where we were staying. You see, the day of our arrival we had a death in the family so instead of spending a lot of time preparing a meal, we prepared for a funeral and burial. Don’t get me wrong, we had a great Thanksgiving meal with family members that didn’t expect to spend the day together and we honored the person who had passed a few days prior.
Instead of heading out to shop on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving here in the US), five of us jumped in the car and headed 35 miles west from Dickinson to the park entrance where we stopped for a few photos to start our experience.
Adjacent to the park entrance in the Billings County seat, Medora, stands a lone chimney, the most visible landmark left from a slaughterhouse built by the Marquis de Mores in 1883. The Frenchman came to what was then Dakota Territory to build a meat packing plant with the idea of processing beef close to where they were raised, ship them directly to the consumer thus eliminating the middleman and making more money for himself. Although the venture had promise, it failed a few years later in 1886 likely due to the extreme weather recorded in 1886-87. The main slaughterhouse was destroyed by fire in 1907 and site was acquired by the North Dakota State Historical Society in 1936. The WPA worked on the site, preserving the foundations of some of the buildings and shoring up the chimney thus preserving the site for future generations to enjoy and learn from.
We stopped at the visitor center to get stamps in our National Park Passports and chat with the friendly and knowledgeable park rangers. We reported that we saw a large herd of buffalo standing on a bluff on the east side of the Park near the highway. A beautiful site to see, sorry no photos, just a memory burned in my mind forever. The rangers told us to watch for more buffalo, wild horses, the ever present prairie dogs, deer, and eagles, we saw them all!
There are actually three units to this National Park, the North Unit, the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, and the South unit that we are visiting today. I’ve been to them all and highly recommend putting this Park on your bucket list. The TRNP is located in the Badlands of Western North Dakota near I-94. It officially became a National Park in 1978 after years as a Recreation Demonstration Site, a National Wildlife Refuge, a Wilderness Area and the first and only National Memorial Park. It is the only National Park named after a single person. It’s namesake, Teddy Roosevelt, the future 26th President of the United States, came to Dakota Territory in 1883 to hunt buffalo and fell in love with the rugged beauty and lifestyle of the West. He returned the following year to grieve following the deaths of his wife and mother died on the same day, February 14, 1884. He is quoted as saying “I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.” Roosevelt invested in two ranches, the Maltese Cross and Elkhorn, during his time in Dakota Territory. Although they weren’t profitable, his experiences laid the foundation for his interest in land conservation and set the tone during his presidency for the establishment of the US Forest Service, five national parks, and the Antiquities Act that created 18 National Monuments and is still in effect today. During his time in office, nearly 230 million acres of land, most in the Western US, was preserved for future generations to enjoy. So it’s very fitting that a National Park is named for this great man and President.
Since we were short on time, we decided to make the focus of our time in the park, one my favorite places in the South Unit, the Wind Canyon Trail and overlook. The paved and winding road to Wind Canyon takes visitors past a couple of overlooks, a number of huge prairie dog towns, the Peaceful Valley Ranch and the turnoff to the 25 mile Scenic Loop Drive.
From the Wind Canyon Trail parking lot we could see our ultimate destination.
There was still snow on the shadier parts of the trail and in the places where the snow had melted, the trail was a bit on the muddy, slippery side. We were able to pick our path to the lower overlook and here is what we saw. For me, this is one of the most beautiful sites in the world, I can never get enough. And I’ll be back soon!
From this point, the snow covered, sometimes muddy trail continued up the hill to the high overlook. I’ve hiked up this hill a number of times in all seasons of the year, I have to say my favorite time is in the winter because the air is so clean, fresh and I feel on top of the world. And almost always not another person around. Besides that you can almost see Montana from there on a clear day!
I hope you enjoyed part of our Thanksgiving as much as I did bringing it to you. Next up, your guess is good as mine! Join me next week for another episode of Traveling With Tom.
Until then, travel safe.