After surviving an overnight thunderstorm, we woke up early to beat the summer heat as best we could and headed out for a long hike in the wilderness area of Theodore Roosevelt. The access to this hike requires a long drive down a dirt road (Kelly’s favorite). After hiking the day before in shorts, we knew we’d have to wear pants to protect ourselves from insect tag-a-longs.
After a short walk down an old road bed, we climbed across some rocks, with just a little bit of effortful route finding. Then we came across the first of the petrified wood on the hike. This wood is so old that it’s as hard as stone and has the appearance of stone, too. It’s pretty cool! We found pieces of all sizes, as well as a single bison grazing nearby.
Further on, we found ourselves roaming on open hilltops through grass fields. We were thankful for our pants, despite a pretty clear path to follow! We came upon the scene Kelly had been waiting for all summer—an actual herd of wild bison in the wilderness (as opposed to along a roadside). We watched them graze and slowly move down the hills and toward the Little Missouri River. Moving on a little further, we saw some wild pronghorns grazing. Our presence startled them and they took off, sprinting over the hills. They are amazingly fast and graceful!
Since this hike was actually on July 4th, it felt very much like a patriotic song to be hiking 'on the range where the deer and the antelope’ play. Thanks to our early start, we were done with our big hike for the day (10+ miles) by noon. We decided to get a real lunch in Medora, the small tourist town right outside of the park. We scoped out the Farmhouse Cafe and decided it looked tasty. It WAS! We weren’t huge fans of our appetizer (the fried mac & cheese) but our brisket sandwiches were divine. The restaurant was adorable and the surprise of having access to real food was a special treat.
We took a lazy afternoon nap and returned to town for ice cream & the holiday parade. That night, we wandered around the scenic loop in the park, stopping for views at Buck Hill and to hike out to the Old East Entrance. This last trail is one of our prototypic favorites for end-of-day wandering. We actually walked the trail back and forth a few times to get to the old entrance building and then change lenses to capture a wild hare, the plentiful prairie dogs in the towns along the trail, and some blue birds we saw flying around.
After a simple dinner of apples & cheese, we got ready for bed but stayed up late to try to catch the stars. There had not been many clear evenings for us throughout the summer so we thought we should take the opportunity.
Pro Tip: We recommend always wearing pants while hiking in this park due to the high prevalence of deer ticks and tall prairie grass. We sprayed with deet repellant under our pants and over our pants as well. With these measures, we actually ended up with NO ticks throughout the hike.