Teddy Roosevelt National Park And Bison In The Wild
When we finally made the excursion to this beautifully untouched section of wilderness it was just before Christmas. We are on our way to Redwood National Park, to see the Giant Sequoia Trees, and this was our first overnight stop. We were aiming at the south entrance of Teddy Roosevelt National Park in Medora North Dakota because it was right off of Route 94 which we were traveling on our way out to Washington State from New Jersey.
In researching a little bit about the park I learned that the south entrance would be a perfect stop off because it offered a campground that was open that we would be able to check in at whenever we got there that night, which was good because it was already dark when we finally arrived.
If you live near the hustle and bustle of a populated area, The Badlands are a whole new level of dark. Headlight swallowing dark. This is the kind of dark that bigfoot could easily avoid human detection in.
When we bought our new RV I upgraded the headlights to brighter LED lights, and having done a trip to Yellowstone and knowing we would encounter this kind of dark, also added ridiculously bright LED spotlights on a switch for when we were in the dark on back country roads.
Teddy Roosevelt Southern Entrance
Another thing I learned when researching the park, is that in the southern area of the park is where the Bison are. My wife has a weird obsession with them. Just seeing one tickles her inner 3 year old. So I figured if we could see one while we were there, that would make her day.
When we found our way to the campground in the park, we filled out the check in envelope, put our payment in and dropped it in the late registration box. This turned out to be how we checked in to 80 percent of the places we stayed on this trip as we couldn’t seem to get anywhere before the sun set on this trip.
We parked our rig in the spot we picked out while driving through the campground loop, slid out the slide and started making dinner. We were the ONLY people in The Badlands that night. You want to talk about quiet? It was so quiet that we could hear a horse fart from 3 canyons away.
After we were done stretching our legs for a bit and letting our dog Lagertha stretch hers and sniff out all the new smells she could handle we headed inside to relax for a bit before heading to bed.
This was our first real stop on this trip. We rested here and there on the way west, but this was the first place we were aiming at, and would slow the trip down to an enjoyable pace after getting here. I have insomnia most nights, and if i sleep 3 or 4 hours its a great night.
Welcome To The Badlands
I slept like a baby that night. 7 plus hours in one shot. Well… 2 shots…
At some point after midnight our son came into the bedroom, “Dad, someone is shaking the door to the camper”. I didn’t hear him. I was sleeping like a baby for the first time in a decade. Loretta heard him. She ended up being the one who woke me up, the way all loving wives wake their husbands, with a slap to the ribs and a “DOUG”.
I spring to action like the super hero all of us dads are at 2 am when you’re completely blind and not sleeping in “your” bed. I fell face first off the foot of the bed as its considerably higher than our bed at home. Still half asleep, still blind and having smacked my face against the closet door on the way to floor, I hop back to my feet with an intensified resolve to neutralize the threat.
After I successfully navigate to the door of camper it hits me, our faithful guard has decided to let dad handle this one on his own, so I yell out to my darling wife, who at this point is laughing at the ruckus I made trying to go 10 feet to the front door, “Where the hell is the dog?!”
“She’s right here still sleeping” (more giggling)
Ok guess I’m on my own for this one. I unlock the door, then fling it open ready to confront whoever dared to disturb my mobile castle. Know what I saw?
Different Kind Of Dark
Its North Dakota dark out. There’s no moon out tonight, and we are in a tree covered camp site in the middle of the badlands. I could have been face to face with an entire herd of bigfoot and wouldn’t have seen them.
(Insert Dad yelling into the darkness to scare off whoever is out there)
Slam the door closed to let them know I’m serious about what I just said and triumphantly march back to the bedroom to have a serious talk with the dog about who’s job this is…
And that’s when my family expressed how happy they were that I just saved them from the monsters in the dark, by erupting in deep belly laughter…
“Dad I think you busted your ass on everything between here and the door!”
“Oh my god honey I wish we were able to see you bouncing off of everything!”
“Fine! If something comes through the door, you two assholes get it! And wake up the damn dog too!” I exclaimed as I huffingly climbed back in to bed and rolled over.
The next morning, still intruderless by the way, so I MUST have scared them off, we ate breakfast and were headed out to check out the badlands. We headed out to unhook our car from the camper to go exploring, and in the tall grass next to the camper noticed a big matted down area.
Waking Up At Teddy Roosevelt National Park
The intruder from last night turned out to be a bison brushing up against our camper as it was bedding down for the night. My Wife was elated that a bison was “Right there! In the flesh!” And hearing the joy in her voice that she got to see one up close, made my face hurt a little less. Still mad at the dog tho.
As we were driving around and exploring the park we came across an entire herd of buffalo ranging in age from the giant old timer that slept next to us to Buff-ski’s that were born just a few months ago. (Buff-ski is a term Loretta coined for baby buffalo, similar to a Pom-Ski, the cross breed of tiny huskies that stay puppy sized forever)
We also saw a pack of wild horses, which has been something Jayden has wanted to see in the wild for as long as we have been taking these road trips. The prairie dogs started to pop up like a game of whack a mole once the Sun started to warm their mounds in prairie dog town. We even saw a Bald Eagle perched on a tree looking across the openness of the valley floor between the mountains.
It was a young eagle, less than 5 years old. How do we know its less than 5? The bald eagles head feathers only turn white after they turn 5. Before that they are black or brown like the rest of their feathers.
It was like being in a National Geographic episode seeing all of the animals just doing what animals do. Spending some time here you can see why Teddy decided to build a cabin here. Its the perfect place to get your mind right, escape the rat race and remind yourself that there is much more to life than the day to day.
Maybe we’ll run in to you here one day, as I’m sure we will be back so Loretta can camp with the Buff-Ski’s again.
Read about our adventure in back country camping at Yellowstone here.
Read about the rest of our west coast trip and The Giant Sequoias here.