Our homage roadtrip to explore some of Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation legacy finally brought us to where it all seems to have started – Medora, North Dakota and today’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Again we were graced with good weather for hiking, with some artistic clouds, mild breezes, and a cool (at least in the morning) air temperature. To call this area the “badlands” completely obscures the alluring beauty of its rolling terrain with its scattered trees already changing color as Fall nears, multi-colored grasses and shrubs, incised watercourses, and sweeping horizons. We were absolutely captivated. Had it not been for the failure of my grandparent’s North Dakota farm soon after World War I, I might have been born out here as was my father. Instead the whole family decamped to the easier climes of California sometime in the 1920s (but that’s another story). Still, I felt a subliminal affinity for this land (but then we weren’t visiting in mid-winter either ).
With a good number of trails in the park to chose from, we went with a Jones Creek Trail / Roundup Trail combination mainly because it didn’t involve too much driving or too many creek crossings. It had rained heavily in the days prior to our visit and the creeks, while no longer too deep to cross, were nonetheless pretty muddy in spots. Along Jones Creek we had only two easy mud-free crossings followed by a short climb up the Roundup Trail to some big views. Our plan to continue along that trail to where it intersects the park road was thwarted when a herd of buffalo – with one especially large bull in front – decided to scatter themselves along the trail. These large animals look seductively placid until suddenly they’re not and you’re pulped into the trail and splattered with buffalo poop. 😥 So we decided to retreat gracefully to the trailhead and go watch the prairie dogs gambol about (hikers are almost never trampled by prairie dogs…). We wrapped-up the day with a visit to the banks of the Little Missouri River and Roosevelt’s Maltese Ranch cabin (which is preserved at the visitor center). In all, a very good day for a hike, for family memories, and for enjoyment of TR’s legacy. 😀HOME