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A family weekend in Medora

Last weekend was a rare summer weekend that was open on our calendar and so we packed the bags and tent and headed to Medora for a camping overnight and adventure. This marked the first time my girls have ever camped and they were bursting with excitement. On Saturday morning, the first word that either of them said was “camping.”

Setting up camp with a view of TR National Park

We made a reservation at the Medora campground and had a site near the Little Missouri River with a view of the buttes of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Here we made a little lunch (there is a partial burn ban in place) before heading into the town of Medora for some shopping. A pair of cowboy boots and a cap-gun later we were in swimsuits and heading to the City pool.  At just $3.00 per person for the day this heated pool was a great place to be on a 90-degree day.  From the pool we also ventured to the new Family Fun Center.  $8.00 per person equals two-days of unlimited use of the inflatable water slide, rock climbing wall and bungee-jump-trampoline.  I lost track of the number of items we went down the slide. My daughters are 4 and 5 1/2 and they had no problems making the stairs and no fears heading down the slide. But I will say that my children have a bit of fearlessness in them. Case in point, the rock climbing wall. The website doesn’t say exactly how tall this wall is but in my perspective as their mom – my daughter was hanging 1,900 feet off the ground. The staff were friendly and thorough and safety was never a question for me.

Both girls said that their favorite activity though was the trampoline bungee-jump.

   

Saturday evening was perfectly picturesque – which also describes what a lot of people were doing following the famous Pitchfork Steak Fondue. If you haven’t yet experienced a pitchfork steak fondue, it’s literally hundreds of ribeye steaks, speared on pitchforks and fondued! (I should have warned the cook that I was going to take his picture.)

And what can I say about the Medora Musical?! It is one of the best shows I’ve seen performed at the stunning Burning Hills Amphitheater. The new cast had perfect harmonies, the music was a great blend of modern country, gospel, patriotism and classic themes, the script was fresh and the fiddler is awesome.

Camping was a success.  There was a rain shower that went through and yes, it was a little warm and stuffy. Plus, the sunrise was at 5:30 a.m. and I think my daughters were up shortly after that! But nothing can compare to seeing them wake in that golden light and look out on the Badlands with such joy.

 

 

 

 

Sunday morning we took a drive through the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park where we were very soon greeted by buffalo who had taken over a prairie dog town. Just another mile into the park, more buffalo greeted us – including a pair who walked right along our pickup.

 

We took a hike along the Wind Canyon Trail – which was great for the ages of my daughters. It has a great view of the Little Missouri.

 

 

And finally, off into the distance, we saw a herd of wild horses that made my youngest daughter smile like this.

It was an excellent weekend and even though we go to Medora almost annually there are always new things to try and new experiences to share. (This year we didn’t pack the golf clubs for Bully Pulpit, which my hubby only mentioned once or twice.)

If you have favorite vacation stories and pictures, please share them with us on our Facebook page!

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Celebrate Prairie Dog’s Day!

Black-tailed prairie dog, photo by Greg Forcey

Okay, okay.  So we all know it’s actually a relative of the prairie dog that gets all the fame and glory right about now.  Still we thought the holiday was a good reason to call Theodore Roosevelt National Park and check on the prairie dog colonies there and, more importantly, if they’re paying attention to their shadows.

Rangers at TR National Park say the mild temperatures this winter have meant our prairie dogs have been very active, especially on sunny days.  Unlike the groundhog, prairie dogs do not hibernate.  They go into what’s called a “winter sleep” allowing them to continue to burrow and eat during the winter and also scamper on those sunny days.

In the South Unit, the scenic drive loop passes through three large prairie dog towns.  In the North Unit, no dog towns can be seen from the road but there is a one-mile hike from the Caprock-Coulee parking area toward a town.  There are an abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities in the Park and information about prairie dogs and other watchable wildlife is shared online.

Prairie dog town in TRNP, photo by QT Luong

In addition to not hibernating, prairie dogs differ from their larger cousins in another way: groundhogs prefer to live on their own while prairie dogs connect their burrows to huge colonies.  The colonies in Theodore Roosevelt National Park collectively span 11,000 acres! 

Another great place to see the rare black-tailed prairie dog is at Fort Stevenson State Park, on the north shore of Lake Sakakawea.  There is signage directing visitors to the prairie dog colony and explaining a bit about them.  Sully Creek State Park near Medora, has a colony right outside the park.  Colonies can also be found on private land, mostly in south central and western North Dakota.

So that one question remains – do prairie dogs pay attention to their shadows and predict the length of winter?  We invite you to visit North Dakota and see for yourself!

 

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Exploring Western North Dakota

What do you get when you take a beautifully rugged landscape dotted with oil wells and intersected by scoria roads, an old train-tunnel-turned-walking-path, forts and other interesting attractions and some unique shopping?

I introduce you to the western edge of North Dakota.  Beauty, history and fun combined!

Take for instance, Beach – just a mile from the Montana border – where you’ll find Prairie Fire Pottery offering tours and handmade, unique pottery every day.  If the shop isn’t open – just call the phone number on the door!  Now that’s North Dakota hospitality.

A bit north, west of Cartwright, North Dakota, is the Fairview Bridge – a 1,320 foot structure spanning the Yellowstone River.  It leads to the only tunnel in the state – a 1,458 foot long tunnel built mostly by hand in 1912 and 1913.  It’s very cool to walk through but you won’t find me there on Halloween!

A bit north are the fascinating and well-interpreted stops of Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site and Fort Buford State Historic Site near Williston.  Fort Union was the most important trading post on the upper Missouri from 1828-1867.  Fort Buford is where Sitting Bull surrendered in 1881.  Much more area history is found at the Missouri-Yellowstone Interpretive Confluence Center – a place to explore history, genealogy, art and more.

Just east of that western border is Theodore Roosevelt National Park – a wealth of wildlife viewing, natural beauty, horseback riding and hiking trails and undisturbed campgrounds.  Make this area part of your vacation plans!

 
 

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