Heading west from Ely across Minnesota, the pines and lakes ever so gradually gave way to farms, plains, and prairie. Western Minnesota is indistinguishable from eastern North Dakota. I got to Fargo and stopped at the tourist information center for a free map. When I mentioned that my ultimate North Dakota destination was Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP), the helpful clerk gave me a brochure for the Medora Musical and said it was a "must see." The show kicks off every summer night at 7:30. With 300 miles to drive it was going to be a close call. I purchased a ticket over the phone, gambling on a 75mph speed limit and a free hour courtesy of the Central-to-Mountain time difference. I made it with half an hour to spare.
Teddy Roosevelt came to Medora to try his hand at ranching. His cattle ventures ultimately failed but he returned east with an appreciation for wide open spaces and abundant wildlife. He left a legacy as a staunch conservationist, befriending John Muir, establishing the first National Parks and using his executive authority to create National Monuments in order to protect important sites threatened by development (the Grand Canyon is one). This legacy continues today - President Obama has the chance to designate West Virginia's first National Monument and permanently protect 120,000 acres of federal land in Appalachia from mining and fracking. Please visit birthplaceofrivers.org for more information.
|Teddy Roosevelt's Medora Ranch cabin|
I awoke with sunrise the following morning to make a drive thru Theodore Roosevelt National Park's South Unit before the crowds took over later in the day. As an expected bonus, the animals were also very active.
|"Do you think it's safe out there?" "No dude, just stay here with me and squeak some more."|
|North Dakota traffic jam|
I hitchhiked (try that with a kayak!) from the campground out 9 miles to the end of the North Unit's scenic drive (thanks Jim!). From there it was less than a mile down the crumbly badland canyon into the Little Missouri River basin, where I had a 6 mile straight-shot float back into the campground.
|The famous and intimidating Class 0.5 rapids on the Little Missouri River|
|If this isn't the good life then I'm not sure what is...|
|Sunset over the Little Missouri River, North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt National Park|