Day 2: August 6, 2016
In addition to hiking and exploring the scenery at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, my mom and I also got the chance to do lots of wildlife spotting. TRNP has a lot of critters, big and small! Soon after entering the park, we came across the first of many prairie dogs towns. These guys are so cute! The little sentries watching out for the others! They scurry around and chew on little blades of grass. So much cuteness! I was absolutely enthralled, and we spent a lot of time just watching the little guys from the car.
These were some of the first prairie dogs we saw on the trip, but I never got tired of them! Dear Readers, by the time this trip series is over, you might be tired of prairie dog pictures!
got our fill of managed to tear ourselves away from the prairie dogs, we moved on to our next order of business – large animal spotting. It didn’t take long. Just a few miles into the park we drove right into our first bison jam! And we were right at the beginning of the line, so we got an amazing view! Mamas and babies and big male bison too! They were literally just wandering down the middle of the road, and were entirely unconcerned by the presence of the cars.
My next order of business was wild horses. A whole herd of wild horses! Technically these horses are feral horses; animals that that have returned to an untamed state from domestication. After the Spanish brought modern horses to the new world, some animals escaped or were left and bred and ran wild throughout the West. The horses in the park are descended from those. The Park Service did try to round up and remove horses from the park until 1970, when it was acknowledged that they were a part of the cultural history of the park. Now they manage the herds, but mostly let them be.
We drove down the scenic loop in the park, and at one point considered driving down a gravel road where my mom thought she remembered seeing them on a previous trip to the park, but ultimately we decided to stay on the main road and there they were! Many of the horses in the bands are paints and blue and red roans, adding quite a bit of color! They hung out on a hill together and I was able to get some really awesome photos of them. I have seen wild horses on my travels before, but it has generally just been a solitary horse far away. This was a great experience, being so close to such beautiful creatures!
After finding yet another huge herd of bison, and more wild horses, we made our way back to the exit, and got some photos with the entrance sign. We headed east to stop at the east entrance of the park, for a special assignment. During the summer of 1978, when I was two years old, we had been to Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park and had taken pictures of the entrance sign – I really am my mother’s child! It is a little different now, because it has since become a National Park, but they still had the same sign! You can see the remaining holes where they removed the metal letters for the Memorial Park sign…
So this time we found a nice couple with their kids who helped us pose and create the photos, trying to match them as much as well could to the photos from 1978. My mom stood in for my brother, so they aren’t perfect, but it was the best we could do as my brother couldn’t go on the trip with us. I don’t think we did too badly! Even though I am still really short, I was obviously much shorter when I was two…
After our picture taking extravaganza, we had a two hour drive to Belle Fourche, South Dakota; on the way we stopped in Bowman, North Dakota at Windy’s Bar and Grill. I had a Swiss Mushroom burger and salad, it was very good and very reasonably priced!
Along the drive to Belle Fourche we started seeing the first of many motorcycles that we would encounter on our trip; we were going to be in South Dakota during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally! We also saw quite a few pronghorn and mule deer. And one dead porcupine… It was a gorgeous sunset too!
Gas: $2.35/gal. – $26.02 for the fill up.
Distance for the Day: 253 miles (4 hours)
Hotel for the night: EconoLodge – Belle Fourche, SD