Archive | January 2017

West 2016: Theodore Roosevelt NP Wildlife

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.

A Prairie Dog running!

A Prairie Dog running!

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!

Prairie Dogs with their Sentry

Prairie Dogs with their Sentry

When we 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.

A bison baby trying to bully "Daddy"

A bison baby trying to bully “Daddy”

 

A brand new baby!

A brand new baby!

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.

Wild horses on the hill

Wild horses on the hill

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!

I loved the color variations of the horses at the park

I loved the color variations of the horses at the park

 

Bison wandering

Bison wandering

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…

It looks like I dressed myself - dress shoes with that getup?!

It looks like I dressed myself – dress shoes with that getup?!

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…

Mom got the easier challenge. My dorky pose in 1978 was a hard act to master...

Mom got the easier challenge. My dorky pose in 1978 was a hard act to master…

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!

We passed fields of sunflowers on our evening drive

We passed fields of sunflowers on our evening drive

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

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The White Dove

In the past I have blogged about the grave of Sergeant Tuttle at Andersonville National Cemetery, site of the Civil War Confederate POW camp. I was reminded of it a few weeks ago in a conversation with a friend, and want to share it again here.

 

Tuttle’s grave is significant at Andersonville, for his gravestone is adorned with a white stone dove. It is the only grave in the cemetery that contains more than the simple, uniform marble markers that are placed at each burial. It is a mystery who placed the dove there, and nobody knows when, but it is clear that someone dearly loved this man.

 

Since I learned about it several years ago, it has always struck me as a timeless story of deep and enduring love. Someone so devoted to a kind and generous man; the kind of love that we all aspire to achieve. I know nothing of the man Tuttle was, but I imagine him to be selfless and kind, generous in heart and spirit, humble and loving. In my mind, he was a man who was deserving of someone’s undying love.

 

I hope you all, dear readers, give and receive that kind of love. The world would be a better place if we all lived with that in mind.

 

West 2016: Theodore Roosevelt NP

Day 2: August 6, 2016

I have been itching to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park for awhile; ever since I found out about the park’s history and all the wildlife that live within its borders.  And I was almost there!

We woke up in Glendive, Montana, with the park as the destination on our agenda for the day.  We got on our way and stopped at the grocery store to get a picnic lunch, and then the drive to Theodore Roosevelt National Park took about an hour.  The awesome thing about the highways out there is that they are wide open, so we made great time!

We didn’t check out Medora, North Dakota while we were there, but it looked like a fun little tourist town with lots to do for families.  The town has an Old West theme, and lots of entertainment for all ages.  It seemed like a great place to hang out for a few days on a vacation in the area.

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

Once we got into the park, we stopped in at the Visitor’s Center – we got our stamps and postcards, and we watched the park’s movie.  I love watching the park movies.  We also saw Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin, which has been moved to its current location right behind the Visitor’s Center.  Theodore Roosevelt spent $14,000 to establish his cattle ranch in North Dakota in 1883 and the cabin was built during that winter.  He came back out after his wife and mother both died on Valentine’s Day, 1884 and spent time recovering from the loss.

We listened to the Ranger Talk about Roosevelt and his time in North Dakota – the cattle ranch was basically a disaster.  The winter of 1886-1887 was a devastating one and most of the cattle starved to death when they couldn’t get to the grass beneath the snow.  Roosevelt wasn’t there at the time though, having already returned East.  Although Roosevelt didn’t last long in North Dakota, his legacy remains.  The cabin is open for people to poke around in, and there are a couple of pieces of furniture that are believed to have belonged to Roosevelt -his rocking chair and his trunk.

Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin - Built 1883

Theodore Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin – Built 1883

I found a couple of hikes I wanted to do at the park – although I decided not to do anything too long or strenuous because of time restraints, and the fact that the temperature was in the high 80s that day.  My hikes were an opportunity to see some of my first Badlands views of the trip!  Rather than hiking, Mom opted to stay at the car and do some journaling and sketching while I went off.

The first hike that I did was the Ridgeline Trail – a 0.6 mile (roundtrip) hike that offered great views of the badlands along the ridge.  At this point, as the badlands is just beginning, they are much greener and lush than they are further east.  There was a marked difference in the views here and the badlands that were visible further east when we went to Badlands National Park later in the trip.  The views were gorgeous and it was well worth the climb.  It was very windy here, so my selfies were a bit challenging!

The view of the badlands from the Ridgeline Trail

The view of the badlands from the Ridgeline Trail

 

Me with the badlands in the background - Ridgeline Trail

Me with the badlands in the background – Ridgeline Trail

 

Piddles posing with the badlands

Piddles posing with the badlands

The second hike that I did was to the Buck Hill Viewpoint – it is a 0.2 mile (round trip) climb to the highest point in the park. The view was amazing – there were similarities to the Ridgeline Trail, yet there were subtle differences too.  I could have looked at that view for awhile…

The view from the top of Buck Hill - the highest point in the park

The view from the top of Buck Hill – the highest point in the park

 

A lone tree at the Buck Hill viewpoint

A lone tree at the Buck Hill viewpoint

The last hike that I did was the Wind Canyon Trail.  It is a 0.4 mile (round trip) out and back hike with wonderful views of the Little Missouri River, and its oxbow bend (where the river bends in a U shape).  This viewpoint is well known for its fabulous sunsets; I would have liked to have checked out the sunset from there, but since it was the middle of summer, we needed to be on our way before the sun was due to set.  The views of the river and of a large herd of bison grazing in the distance were both spectacular!  I even found a kind man to take my photo at the viewpoint.

The Little Missouri River, from the Wind Canyon Trail. There is a large herd of bison in the far upper left corner of the photo.

The Little Missouri River, from the Wind Canyon Trail. There is a large herd of bison in the far upper left corner of the photo.

 

Me at the Wind Canyon viewpoint, overlooking the Little Missouri River

Me at the Wind Canyon viewpoint, overlooking the Little Missouri River

We saw a lot of wildlife while we were in the park too, but I am saving the wildlife for my next post though!

 

2013 Liberated Pinot Noir

I don’t typically pick a wine by the label, but sometimes I pick one by the screw cap!  I was traveling, and needed a bottle that could be opened without a corkscrew, because I didn’t happen to have one in my suitcase, and who wants to buy another cheap corkscrew to add to the collection at home?

So, anywhoo, the 2013 Liberated Pinot Noir from Monterey, California comes with three different choices of cool labels.  The store I purchased it at had two of the options, but I liked the Urban Dweller girl label better.  It’s so cool!

The wine itself is decent, with a medium body and flavors of ripe cherry, blackberry and a hint of tobacco.  The Liberated Wine Company clearly puts more stock in the curb appeal of the bottle, rather than the wine itself though, as their website merely has a whimsical description rather than information about the wine.

URBAN DWELLER – I’ve rarely met the company of a nook whose cranny wasn’t just as welcome! It’s the beauty of being a tourist in your own town, where there are hundreds of sights you’ve crossed a thousand times, and yet somehow, never seen before. Take nothing away from travel, but no one needs to leave the city limits to broaden their horizons. All it takes is a curious mind and a set of eyes—so open yours to the wonders of everyday life. Isn’t it about time we liberated our idea of what “local” means?”

2013 Liberated Pinot Noir - Monterey, CA

2013 Liberated Pinot Noir – Monterey, CA

At $13.50 for the bottle, when Pinot can often be much more expensive, it is certainly a bottle worth trying out!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park History

In 1883, Theodore Roosevelt headed out to North Dakota to hunt bison, who were at that point close to extinction. He fell in love with the bison, hunting, and the rugged extremes of the area.  While there, he decided to purchase the Maltese Cross Ranch – a cattle ranch already being managed by two men, and he left it in their hands. He returned for the rugged solitude after his wife and mother both died on Valentine’s Day, 1884, and purchased and developed another ranch a bit further north. He credits his time in North Dakota as helping to get over the loss and his gut wrenching grief.

Both ranches operated for a couple of years, until a particularly harsh winter in 1886-1887 wiped out most of his cattle, who were unable to get down to the grasses beneath the snow. Although his ranches ultimately failed, his time in North Dakota and his experiences on his ranches guided his later conservation attitudes and policies during and after his Presidency.

After Roosevelt died in 1919, the government began exploring the Little Missouri Badlands to see if there were options for park sites. The CCC had camps in the park between 1934 and 1941, and they made roads and built some of the buildings still in use today. It was designated the Roosevelt Recreation Demonstration Area in 1935, although I have no idea what they were demonstrating.

In 1946 the designation was changed to the Theodore Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge and the land was transferred to the US Department of Fish and Wildlife. But then President Truman stepped in and established the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park on April 25, 1947. It was the only National Memorial Park ever established – somehow I guess the concept didn’t really take off. In 1978, more land was added to the park and the boundaries were changed, and it finally became Theodore Roosevelt National Park on November 10, 1978. Talk about a roundabout way to get to National Park status!

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

The park today consists of three units that are geographically separate from each other. The South Unit, near Medora, North Dakota is the most visited unit, and contains a wide variety of wildlife, including bison, prairie dogs, feral horses, coyotes, badgers, elk, bighorn sheep, cougars, white-tailed deer and mule deer, and more than 100 species of birds including golden eagles, sharp-tailed grouse, and wild turkeys. The North Unit is about 80 miles north of the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, which contains the site of Roosevelt’s second ranch, is in between the two.

The climate is one of extremes; the prairie grasslands get very hot in the summer, and winter temperatures are very cold with lots of snow. The Little Missouri River flows through all three units of the park. Wildlife spotting is a popular activity, due to the abundance of large animals in the park.  There are over 100 miles of hiking trails, and visitors can also do back country horseback trips. They just need to be prepared for hot summer weather and little protection from the sun. There are three developed campgrounds in the park; two in the South Unit and one in the North Unit. The sky is known for its dark night skies, and the northern lights are even sometimes visible.

In total, there are 70,446 acres under the protection of the park, and in 2011, it received 563,407 visitors. It is certainly one of the lesser visited parks, due to its more remote location.  I was excited to visit again, because I had visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park in 1978, shortly before it gained National Park status.  I have the pictures to prove it!  More in my upcoming posts!

Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

With our cold snap continuing here, I went for a walk with a girlfriend this morning, stopped by the grocery store and then spent the rest of the bright, sunny, below-freezing day doing some early spring cleaning.  Rearranging, purging the old, deep cleaning, tossing old paperwork to be recycled or shredded, and hanging artwork that hasn’t seen the light of day in awhile.  It felt good to be motivated to get some more meaningful housework done.

I had some crockpot chili that I cooked up the other day, and felt like splurging a bit on a nice bottle of wine tonight.  I opened up the Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir.  It has a nose and flavors of light smoke and earth, with dark cherries and overripe blackberries.  With heavier tannins than many Pinot Noirs, it held up to the strong flavors in the chili.  I loved this wonderfully robust Willamette Valley Pinot!

Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

Stoller Family Estate 2015 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir

I got mine during Safeway’s 30% off all wines over $20 sale, that they run in November (and December?).  You get an extra 10% off if you buy 6 wines too (mix and match is fine).  Fortunately for me, my brother lives in Oregon, so I stopped by their local Safeway to see what they had before heading out to drive home last time I was there.  Unfortunately for me, this is the only bottle I got of this one…

Stoller doesn’t have it on their website, although they do have the 2014 vintage.  I assume that means that they already sold out.  If you can find it, grab it!  It is delicious!

Stay warm!

Hasta La Vista 2016!

While I can’t say that 2016 has been the best year, it has become a tradition to do the annual year in review.  Although in some ways, I won’t be sorry to see 2016 go, I still have to remember that even with its ups and downs, I do live a truly blessed life.  So without further ado…

  1. My beloved grandmother passed away in February at the age of 98.  She lived a long, blessed life, filled with God, family and good friends, and she was ready to go be with my grandfather again.  I was lucky to have her for the first 40 years of my life, but I will miss her always.
  2. I took a wonderful girls trip to San Diego in April, full of bonding with friends and relaxing in the California sunshine.  We celebrated Allysa’s 50th birthday and saw the sights.  I tried SUP-ping for the first time too!
  3. I did quite a bit of local hiking this year.  I hiked Fragrance Lake twice, the Ozette Triangle at Olympic National Park, and the Chain Lakes loop at Mount Baker.  There is a peace found on the trail that is unmatched elsewhere.
  4. I took a long weekend to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins in Oregon and Southern Washington.  We went to a small town rodeo and went white water rafting on the stunning White Salmon River.
  5. My mom and I took a 10 day road trip through Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming in August.  It was wonderful to spend so much time with my amazing mother, seeing the sights and laughing throughout our adventure.  More posts coming soon!
  6. I completed my 8th half marathon, the Woodinville Wine Country Half Marathon, in September with my dear friend Katie, with our friend Shelley providing support.  Even though the weather sucked, my 13.1 mile slog through rain and wind ended with a new personal record and a definite feeling of accomplishment!  And wine!
  7. My horse and the kitties are all happy and healthy.  Biz is down to just three old man teeth, and gave me a scare recently when he suddenly lost a ton of weight, but he is now on the mend and making me feel more comfortable about him weathering the winter.  At the ripe old age of 29, I am keenly aware that time with him is getting short, but the memories I have with him will last a lifetime.
  8. In November I took a long weekend trip to revisit Astoria, Oregon.  I went to see some old sights and some new, and relaxed over a beer at some of the town’s best breweries.  Even though the forecast called for a weekend of rain, I walked everywhere and stayed completely dry!  The rain began as I got into the car to head home.
  9. I am close to the two year anniversary at my job, and continue to enjoy the challenges and successes.  My staff are second to none.  And the vacation accrual is wonderful, as is the summer schedule!

I didn’t post as much in 2016 as I had hoped to, but still have many posts coming about my West trip, the half-marathon and Astoria.  I am hopeful that 2017 will have me back on a more regular posting schedule, as well as experiencing many new adventures.

Know that I am eternally grateful for all of you that I count as readers, family and friends.  Here’s to peace and happiness in the New Year.  Cheers!