North Dakota

May 7

Today we drove to North Dakota, along the way we drove down the Enchanted Highway. The Enchanted Highway is a 32 mile stretch of road in North Dakota with a half-dozen or so huge steel sculptures dotting the roadside. It’s a whole lot of nowhere, but these sculptures make it interesting.

We arrived at our campground and settled in for the night as it started to rain.

May 8

Today we snuggled in and stayed put as it alternately sleeted, rained or snowed. We spent our time reading, doing puzzles, and watched a couple of movies. Alan marveled, more than once, that we didn’t manage to kill each other. We also decided that in this little RV anyway, we could not do full-time RVing.

May 9

After 36+ hours cooped up, and despite the fact it was still snowing, we headed out to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. After checking in at the visitor center we drove the park’s scenic loop. Here we were lucky to see an indigo bunting, some mule deer, mountain bluebirds, about eight wild horses, bison, white crown sparrows, a northern harrier with its catch, western king birds, and spotted towhee. And of course, once the snow stopped, lots of prairie dogs.

We stopped for a very cold outside picnic lunch before heading to the North Unit of the park.

May 10

Early in the morning we went back out to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and drove to the end of Scenic Loop. Along the way we saw a tom turkey on full display with about three jennies. The mule deer and bison were out and crossing the road to slow down the looky loos. After turning around Alan got a wild hair on and drove up an offshoot road where we saw a handsome bay stallion.

Further along we stopped at the Wind Canyon Trail pull-over, I’d noticed the trail the day before and wanted to hike it. I chatted with a surveyor working in the parking area about several young bison nearby and I inquired how he managed to get his work done with the animals so close. He said he was used to it and just kept an awareness of them. The bison seemed to be ignoring him as they munched on the grass growing on the side of the road. 

We finished lacing up our hikers and turned to see that the bison were now slowly crossing the trailhead in front of us. We stopped and backed up a couple of steps to give them room, but the last one seemed unsure about following his buddies’ path and instead crossed about 8 feet in front of us. I kept the trailhead sign between us, just in case. 

With the bison safely on the other side, we hiked the steep trail to the top of a small butte. My equilibrium has gotten pretty poor, so hiking up near the top was an uneasy climb. I stopped, not wanting to have to descend the way we’d come, but Alan went the next ten feet, practically straight up, and told me I’d be fine, so I joined him at the top. What an amazing view! Far down below we saw the Little Missouri River snaking its way through the valley while a herd of bison crossed it.

Going down the butte was trouble-free as the trail continued along a very narrow band of the butte in a slow easy descent. What a great little hike that was!

As the morning progressed we saw a male pronghorn on a hillside. We also saw some towhee, yellow warblers, pigeons, ferruginous hawk, and a coyote. We finished up with prairie dog watching.

After a pleasant lunch back at camp we drove out to Lake Ilo NWR and explored a bit. Walking near the lake we saw some Canada geese, eared grebes, shovelers and some coots, then hiked the 1.33 mile Memorial (grasslands) trail.

Since it was our last night here we went to dinner at Country Kitchen and enjoyed a very good meal at the lowest price we have paid on this whole trip. The food and service were so good that we decided to return in the morning for breakfast. 

Campground: North Park in Dickenson, ND. It is a nice mobile home park and a long-term hook-up RV park, with daily rates as well. It was wonderfully quiet, had good clean restrooms with hot showers, a laundry, and rec room. The wifi was decent but we didn’t need it because our Verizon signal was 5 bars. We had a full hook-up in a back-in spot for just $38/night with our GoodSams card.

May 11

As planned, we had a big breakfast at Country Kitchen then gas up and headed toward Bismark. There we stopped to pick up some delectable donuts at Bearscat Bakery, then visited the beautiful North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum, a state history museum. A friendly docent met us as we came through the doors and recommended we move through the exhibits in this order: Fashion & Function; Adaptation Gallery: Geologic Time; Innovation Gallery: Early Peoples; and Inspiration Gallery: Yesterday & Today. There are also a Native American Hall of Honor, a geode display, rifle display, indigenous birds display, and a gift shop inside the museum. We spent a lot of time at the birds display.

We could have easily have spent more time in this museum, with its fascinating history and unique dioramas, but we wanted to make camp before dark, so on we went.

Next up was Jamestown to visit the National Buffalo Museum. This museum is situated within a small family fun touristy local just outside of the city of Jamestown. You can also see the “World’s Largest Buffalo” there. The museum is small but complete in information about the American Bison. It is definitely worth a visit for kiddos.