Over Labor Day weekend, we camped in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We drove in from the East after leaving Minneapolis. Initially, it was all hills and grassland. Then, suddenly we hit the Badlands and I was totally blown away. The difference was striking. It was likely the strong coffee contributing, but I felt such giddiness in my heart as we drove through the park. Theodore Roosevelt described the badlands as a bizarre beauty and honestly, that’s the best description for them in my opinion.
Um, also I’m going to take a moment to talk about Teddy because he was just a super cool guy. I learned that Theodore Roosevelt spent a few years in those Badlands before he moved back to New York to become President. He was a naturist and conservationist who was able to pass legislation to preserve significant land in the United States. Thanks to him we get to appreciate the national parks today and they are spectacular.
We camped in the south unit of the park, and explored the area. We also did a three mile hike to the petrified forest. Petrified wood occurs when the organic mass of the tree turns to stone. It slowly fossilizes. When I saw it, it was probably the only time where I thought “Wow, it would be cool to be a geologist and study stuff like this.”
After that we continued to Elkhorn Ranch (Theodore Roosevelt’s ranch – or rather what’s left of it which is mostly just the stone foundation of his house). It’s very remote and not much to see so most people do not visit. According to the check-in book, only three people had visited that area earlier in the day besides us. It was surreal to stand in the same area as a former president and to imagine how he lived.
We then continued in our car to the north unit of the park (70 miles from the south unit). I absolutely recommend people check out the north unit because River Bend Overlook was the most beautiful view I ever seen (scroll up and look at the first photo). HOWEVER, I do not recommend going on a hike, then going to Elkhorn Ranch, then going to the north unit, then driving back to the south unit all in the same day. This is how we did it and it was way too much. That being said, the north unit scenic drive was enough to subdue my hangry attitude which developed as the day wore on.
Also, during our stay we saw so many bison. Initially, we were so shocked to see bison that we took an obnoxious amount of photos. Turns out the bison are everywhere and very comfortable around people. One evening a herd of about eight meandered into our campground and just grazed on grass to their hearts content. Everyone just quietly observed them with a mix of awe and fear. It should be noted as well that I saw my first prairie dog towns in the park and now all I want to be is a biologist who literally studies prairie dogs all day because THEY ARE THE CUTEST ANIMALS EVER. Maybe this is a sign I should make a career change…
Anyways, the Badlands should be renamed the Goodlands. Please sign my petition if you agree.