A date night for my husband and I consists of eating takeout in the living room while we watch a movie after putting kids to bed. We rarely spend time together without one or more of our children. I enjoy the kids, most of the time. We do have a tween who tests my annoyance levels (on purpose). Still, they’re good people. The kids are at ages where we can all go do just about everything I want to do... [Read More]Read more
In honor of National Parks week and because I have a crazy passion for the National Park Service, here’s another flashback vacation memory.
Most vacation destination lists don’t have North Dakota on them. I’m a collector of states. I want to visit as many as possible. We hadn’t visited North Dakota and were looking for a vacation destination there. The answer was Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We could add another state and a national park.
Honestly, I didn’t have high expectations for the park. We had been told by a few people it wasn’t worth a visit. Those people were wrong.
We visited in June 2013. I can’t vouch for what it looks like in the park in dryer months, but in early June, it was vibrant green with wildflowers blooming. Our first stop was the Painted Canyon Visitor Center in the South Unit. We hiked a one-mile nature trail that gave us a great introduction to the park. The hills of the badlands were green mounds stretching as far as we could see. I was a little awestruck. North Dakota was turning out to be an excellent place to visit.
We camped in Medora, ND where the South Unit entrance is located. A 36-mile driving loop takes visitors through the scenic South Unit and offers a variety of wildlife. We spotted deer, elk, wild horses, bison and watched a hawk swoop onto the road and grab a snake in its sharp talons before flying off. We viewed wild horses at several spots on the loop and were mesmerized by prairie dogs. There are a few prairie dog towns in the unit. We parked and watched those rodents run from mound to mound, bob up and down and chatter with each other for more time than I’m prepared to admit. We’ve seen plenty of prairie dogs but never in an environment where their habitat is protected and people actually want them to live there.
I recommend watching the sunset from an overlook in the park. We watched the sunset from both units in the two days we were there. The sky was vibrant and the silhouette of the badlands in the darkening sky begged to be photographed.
My husband is a fan of petrified forests. They combine his love of trees and rocks. We hiked part of the Petrified Forest Loop during our visit. Part of the hike is through exposed grassland. I recommend hats and sunscreen. Chunks of ancient petrified trees dot the landscape on the trail. Some chunks are quite sizable. We enjoyed painting mental pictures of what the area looked like when those trees were green and thriving. While we were hiking the trail, we had the area to ourselves. I advocate for families traveling to national parks to experience this vast country we live in, but I appreciate parks that aren’t overcrowded. I enjoy the leisurely pace I’m allowed to take when there aren’t people walking close behind me or patiently waiting to look at the stump I’m currently inspecting. Theodore Roosevelt offered peace and tranquility with history and scenic views.
My highlight for our visit to the park was spotting the magical, mystical Bighorn sheep in the north unit. I started referring to Bighorn sheep as magical and mystical years ago. We’ve had the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife during our adventures, but Bighorn sheep remained elusive. We’ve left a campground to learn that minutes after our departure, sheep wandered past our campsite. We driven through countless canyons where everyone we know has spotted sheep and seen none. They were our unicorn.
It’s too bad someone wasn’t videotaping the inside of our vehicle the moment we spotted several Bighorn sheep. It was pandemonium. One would have thought we spotted a leprechaun riding a unicorn. It was the last day of our mini vacation, and I couldn’t have scripted it better.
We finished that second day trapped in a traffic jam of bison who weren’t in a hurry to cross the road. They gave us an opportunity to observe several ages of bison and watch the sunset. It’s not often we’ve been in a national park and can claim the road as a peaceful place to be stuck. Most animal-caused traffic jams in parks affect several vehicles, and people will recklessly jump out of vehicles to inch closer to wildlife. Watching people act ridiculously around wild animals makes me anything but peaceful. Our traffic jam in Theodore Roosevelt National Park had only one other vehicle involved, and all occupants remained inside.
If you’re wanting to visit a national park that isn’t as busy as Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain, don’t listen to anyone who tells you not to visit North Dakota. Theodore Roosevelt just might be a perfect fit.
I’ve been sorting through the thousands of photos I’ve taken over the past few years for a photo project and have become nostalgic for past road trips. I’m asked quite often for travel ideas by people who want to add to their adventure list or start down the road of family road trips. We’re heavy users of National Park Service entities and most travel inquiries I receive have to do with whether or not we’ve been to a certain national... [Read More]Read more
I spent spring break last week being easily distracted by my children. They wanted to go to a park multiple times. We went. They wanted to paint. We did. They wanted a movie marathon. We sat for hours watching movies, which is a true indulgence at this house. I soaked in the best part of being able to work from home: being with my children. It wasn’t all roses and butterflies. There were thorns during the week. I have a... [Read More]Read more
It’s spring break, and we’re staying home for the first time in years. We have an epic road trip planned this summer and vacation days are being stockpiled for the adventure. I’m antsy to hit the highways, Interstates and (sometimes) unpaved county roads to discover new places in the USA. Even though we’re months away from our next major family road trip, I’ve already started packing in my head. I have lists tucked away in notebooks for items to pack.... [Read More]Read more
Laundry is one of my least favorite household chores. It’s never-ending, multiplied by six. It turns out, laundry without a functioning dryer is flat-out ridiculous. My dryer decided to quit blowing hot air Sunday in the middle of a giant load of jeans with another large load of clothes in the washing machine. I know there are far worse problems to have, but I was annoyed. A call Monday morning to a repair man ended with an appointment on Wednesday... [Read More]Read more
Last week I noticed our five-year-old’s bottom teeth looked crooked. I assumed molars were making an appearance and crowding the front teeth. A few days ago, she asked me to touch one of her bottom teeth. What I thought was a crooked and firmly planted tooth was actually a wibbly, wobbly tooth trying to vacate its spot. She was excited. I was appalled. How dare our baby girl loose a tooth? While something exciting was happening in her world, a... [Read More]Read more
Recent bright blue skies and sunshine kicked me into spring cleaning and organizing mode. I’ve cleaned closets and drawers while loads of curtains stripped from grimy windows washed. Furniture was moved and vacuumed under. Trim paint was touched up, and that’s just the start of my spring cleaning list. I’m energized by taking care of our home. I’ve learned when I feel motivated to clean, rearrange and clear clutter, it’s best to buckle down and go with the urge. Actually... [Read More]Read more
I’m a sucker for fairy tales, unicorns and magic. The wave of a wand, pixie dust and true love’s kiss were the root of my dreams as a little girl. Daily life can be harsh, unforgiving and difficult to navigate. I try to fill childhood at our house with a little bit of magic and wonder. Our house has hosted a wee mischievous leprechaun for quite a few years. She makes an appearance while we sleep March 16. There’s always... [Read More]Read more
Wyoming is all I know. The things that drove me crazy as a teen and had me dreaming of ways out of the west are the same things that made me stay to raise my own family. As a high school senior, I was set on moving to Michigan, but then an offer from the University of Wyoming had me packing my bags for Laramie. I was not excited, but in hindsight, that choice led me to a pretty darn... [Read More]Read more