After leaving Havre We continued driving on US 2 a very pleasant but little used road which is preferred by bicyclers until we reached 1804 in North Dakota. This was a 16 mile gravel road which took us past the Fort Union Trading Post to Fort Buford State Park. Fort Buford once home to the Buffalo Soldiers and an outpost that helped tame the West at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. There wasn't much there except the outlines and several reconstructed buildings. We walked a little, visited the post cemetery (all of the bodies have been removed and interred elsewhere) and continued to the confluence which is not where it was when Lewis and Clark came through, rivers shift. In fact the Fort was no longer on the banks of the Missouri. We were going to camp there but decided to visit The Fort Union Trading Post National Monument a short distance back up the road and then proceed to Willitson to camp and have the truck serviced. The Trading Post is a reconstruction of the post that was built by private trading companies in order to obtain popular beaver pelts from the Indians. Rangers dress in period costume and portray the life of the fort.
After leaving Willitson we drove down and camped in the Juniper Campground in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The park is located in the North Dakota badlands but unlike the South Dakota badlands these are covered in green. These badlands are older then those in South Dakota by about 10 million years. The composition of the soil is different also so that these badlands retain water so that vegetation survives. It is easy to see why our fellow native New Yorkan Theodore Roosevelt loved this wild country. This little visited park could be one of my favorites as well.
There are several Buffalo herds in both the North and South Units and the herds come right into the campground. We are told that when cut grass grows it is fresher and tastier then grass that is uncut.
We went to several ranger programs which told of Roosevelt's life in the Dakotas and we took several hikes before moving to the south unit. One of the hikes was on the Upper Caprock Coulee Trail. An exposed 4.5 mile ridge line overlooking the Little Missouri River.
We walked or hiked it around noon on the hottest day of the year. We were later told that temperature in the park reached 104 that day.
Most people who visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park never see the North Unit in fact most visitors don't get to the South Unit either although it is the more popular of the two. They stop at the Painted Canyon Overlook and visitors center on I 94.
If they are really adventurous they walk the 6 tenths of a mile path, get back into their car and continue to where ever they are going. Then there are those who do visit the park, they continue seven miles west of the painted Canyon Overlook and the Western Town of Medora and the South Entrance to the Park. Behind the visitors center is Teddy Roosevelt's Maltese Cross cabin which was moved here from its original location. Teddy didn't build it but he did design and instruct those that did.
We camped there for several days and went to several ranger programs, drove the scenic loop and walked on many trails including some that traversed prairie dog towns. All the hiking trails are actually animal trails and there is a chance of encountering buffalo or wild horses.
The trail signs throughout the park are real neat with the likeness of TR to guide your way. Visitors are advised to avoid Buffalo especially in rut, if one comes up the trail you get off the road preferably behind a tree.
We camped in the Cottonwood Campground without hookups. There are none here or in most US National Parks. the Buffalo come into this campground as well. In fact they have learned to turn the water on but don;t shut it when they are done.
We also took a side trip in caravan with a ranger and walked through the local petrified forest.
While in the park we also visited Medora just outside the entrance. Medora used to be a prosperous cattle processing town but like many such towns it was abandoned as the country developed. Harold Schafer of Gold Seal fame the makers of Glass Wax rebuilt it as a western town. As a tourist attraction it's real low key some restaurant's, hotels, saloons, gift shops and ice cream parlors. They are just now getting around to adding a golf course and even that is troubling some people. It's really just a place to hang out and visit the National Park and several other area historical attractions.
One of the towns highlights is the Medora Musical a Country and Western Variety show performed in an open amphitheater. It was a pleasant performance although we were disappointed by it's lack of historical story line. We really enjoy the historical musicals performed in outdoor amphitheaters throughout the US. There was some portrayal of TR but it was incidental and not central to the performance. We did have something in common with one of the entertainers which added an interesting touch. A. J. Silver a trick rope western performer is an Italian from the Bronx. He became interested in western skills when his family took him to the rodeo at Madison Square Garden. He learned to ride just like me at the Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay stables. We talked to him after the show and told him we knew a lot of Italians in the Bronx but none named Silver. He of course told us that Silver was his stage name. He is a college graduate in communications but prefers to earn his living by performing.
The actor, Ray Anderson that portrays TR in the Musical also performs a one man play in the afternoon called Bully about TR's life and reminiscence after his Presidency. We attended that show as well and were very impressed with Ray as well as TR. I have added TR to my short list of President's I really admire right now the list includes Jefferson who is a little shaky and Harry Truman.