Theodore Roosevelt National Park | 31/59

Leaving the comfort of family and familiarity in the West was a little intimidating. But, we made it to North Dakota! We were greeted by open, flat land as far as the eye can see, frigid wind, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park!

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When Theodore Roosevelt was a young New Yorker in 1883, he came to the Dakota Territory to hunt bison. He didn’t know at the time that his experiences in this remote and completely unfamiliar land would later alter the course of our nation.

During his adventures in the Dakota Territory, Roosevelt quickly fell in love with the rugged lifestyle and “perfect freedom” of the West. Later during his presidency he was able to preserve 230 million acres of public land and put into place conversationist policies that we still enjoy today. Shout out to Teddy, we love you!

 

The wildlife is one of the main attractions of the park. The Buffalo are so cute, but as you can see are dangerous, so we viewed and pinched their cuteness from a distance.

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Okay, seriously it was absolutely FREEZING. Just watch the vlog at the end of this post for evidence of the ice gales we endured. The whole time Vladimir was like, “gaaah hold me humans!!!”

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We got to see a lot of cool wildlife. Obviously we saw a lot of buffalo.  Another highlight were the prairie dog towns.  At first we didn’t see them because it was too cold and windy, but they all came out our second day in the park.  All of these animals were nice, but my dream was to spot the herd of wild horses!  You’ll have to keep reading to see if that one came true.

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Although, it was super cold and windy, this park is SO beautiful. I’m not trying to sound whiny, this place is a gem, I would just recommend coming in the spring or summer.

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In the North Unit of the park we did the 14-mile Scenic Drive that leads from the entrance station to Oxbow Overlook, with turnouts and interpretive signs along the way. As you travel along the drive, you have the option to explore a few awesome hiking trails. Some are self-guiding nature trails that have interpretive brochures to help you learn more about the park. We did a couple of those and it was pretty fun! The pamphlet shared lots of good info about plants, trees, and rock formations that otherwise we would have walked right by and missed.

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One must stop was a spot called Cannonball Concretions.

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The cannonball looking formations are called concretions, which are formed within rocks (shale, clay, sandstone, etc.) by the deposition of minerals around a core. More “cannonballs” will be exposed here with more erosion over time.

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They reminded me of giant versions of those cool Moki balls that you can find in the desert sometimes. I love those things!

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The kitty actually jumped out of the safety of Cees’ jacket and made a break for it!  I had to run up a cliff to get him back!  What a stinker!

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There were a few buffalo traffic jams along the journey. Are we in Yellowstone or something?!

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We saw long horn cattle too! They have the coolest coats and the gnarliest looking horns. Don’t mess.

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Theodore Roosevelt was pretty much a boss.

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This is the face you make when you can’t escape the cold. Inside the RV was freezing, outside was freezing, it was all just freezing. We boiled water and put it in our nalgenes and slept with them under the covers. It actually worked really well!

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In the evening we wanted to catch the sunset at Wind Canyon, but it was overcast. It was still a great view!

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The next morning we headed to the park’s South unit to travel the 36-mile scenic loop. We stopped at all the overlooks and did as many hikes as we could.

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At one point we came around a turn and Cees spotted the wild horses in the distance! I was SO happy. I have always loved horses ever since I was little, so it was magical to see them in the wild running free. I’m so glad that they have this protected land to roam as they please. National Parks are such special places.

 

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The day before was too windy for the usually chatty prairie dogs. We didn’t see a single one the first day. Luckily, on our second day the prairie dog towns were alive and noisy as ever.

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They are hilarious to watch. The park provides benches on the edge of the “towns” so we sat and watched them for probably an hour. When one starts “yelling” they all perk up on their haunches and start yelling. It’s so funny.

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I didn’t realize they would be so chubby. Maybe they were getting ready for winter hibernation.

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Their facial expressions were cracking me up.They have such funny little personalities.

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The kitty loved watching the prairie dogs (safe on his leash), and was fascinated by all the buffalo. I think the little tough guy thinks he can take them on.

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We really enjoyed Theodore Roosevelt NP, but just wished that we could have stayed a little longer, if only it wasn’t so cold. We went hard for two days and really tried to do and see as much as possible. Sometimes you just do what you can do. I feel like we at least got to experience a little bit of the “strenuous life” that Theodore Roosevelt fondly reminisced about.

RV life can be more strenuous than glamorous a lot of the time. Of course, it’s so whimsical sounding to wake up in new places everyday and take in the wonders of nature. And it is! But, sometimes, (more often then not) we end up sleeping in random parking lots in the middle of nowhere, we have to sleep with hot water bottles and a million layers for warmth, we can never find good wifi when we need it the most (hence, why we are weeks behind on the blog posts), we have to fill up the water tank at gas stations for our tiny house and also dump the dump.  We shower maybe one a week in lukewarm water for maybe 2 minutes, we wait up to 3 weeks to do laundry in random laundry mats and it’s always an ordeal, so most of the time we are dirty, our clothes are dirty, the sheets are dirty, and the RV always feels dirty. When you live life outside, you tend to bring it all inside with you at the end of the day.

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Even though living this way, without modern-day conveniences and luxuries, can be a little more complicated, it’s all SO worth it to us. We wouldn’t trade our freedom, the beauty of living close to nature, and getting to spend 24/7 with each other for a microwave, central heating, or a washing machine. RV life is in a lot of ways more simple than the “traditional” life, we have less stuff weighing us down, we have a free schedule, we work and play at the same time, we value experiences and relationships far greater than money and things. Who knows if we will always live “road life”?  I’m sure we will want to somewhat “settle down” in the future. But, I am grateful that road life has taught us the beauty of simplicity. I love living small. I love doing and seeing more than buying. I love the struggles of inconvenience because it brings us closer together as we laugh and rally through it all. Though of course our life right now is a lot easier than his was back in the day, like Theodore Roosevelt I know we will always remember fondly these times of “strenuous life”.

Here’s the vlog if you want to watch us goobers freeze our buns off:

2 Comments

  1. I was so delighted to see prairie dogs when we were visiting the Dakotas! Their little cries and behaviors are so silly!

    I love what you wrote at the end about everything being dirty. I have done a lot of van living, and I can definitely relate. It feels so overwhelming sometimes, but, obviously, everything is worth the small little inconveniences.

    One time I slept in my van in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot in Virginia. The temperature was well below freezing, and it was probably the worst night of van life I’ve ever experienced. Then, the next morning I went into the donut shop to freshen up…and locked myself out of the van. It seemed like the absolute worst thing in the world, but that night I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life, and it made all those things just disappear and seem so insignificant. I wish everyone had an opportunity to experience life this way. It really does change you for the better.

    • Cees

      Wow. I am glad you know what we are talking about with our life on the road! There are some hard times for sure, but the beautiful things you get to see make it all worth it! We really are so grateful.

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