North Dakota: The 50th State

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Welcome to North Dakota - We've now visited all 50 states!

Cindy and I have now visited all 50 states.  North Dakota is the last state most people visit making it the “50th state”.

Saturday, October 15 – Time to head south.

Being from the south, we’d say winter has arrived in this part of Montana. For the locals, it’s simply a fall preview of what’s to come. Either way,  it’s time for us to leave. In the past two weeks, it has snowed a few times and the roads in Yellowstone National Park are closing for the season. We come here every fall and usually leave by the first of October. This year, we’ve decided to stay longer but having to monitor forecasts for snow in the mountain passes has us worried. Going due south is not an option. The snow in the Grand Tetons and Jackson WY is worse so we’ve decided to head east where the mountains disappear and the elevation drops.

Yellowstone empties out.

The great thing about being in Yellowstone this late is having the park to ourselves. Most of the lodges, campgrounds and restaurants have closed. The roads are virtually empty save for a few diehards like us.

Cottonwoods along the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park.

Cottonwoods along the Lamar River in Yellowstone National Park. They say summers are short in Yellowstone but I’d say fall is shorter. It seemed like summer when we arrived in early September. Shortly thereafter the aspens and cottonwoods turned bright yellow only to be followed by snow a few weeks later.

We’ve been staying at Yellowstone RV Park, the only RV park in Gardiner MT to remain open during the month of October. A fellow camper told us about grizzly bears along Tom Miner Road, just a few miles north of here. On each trip, we saw the same two grizzlies. They looked to be a year or two old and must be siblings.

Cows grazing along Tom Miner Road just north of Yellowstone National Park.

The view from Tom Miner Road just north of Yellowstone National Park with the snow-covered Absaroka mountain range in the background. We observed grizzly bears foraging in the pasture alongside cows.

While watching the grizzly pair on our last trip, a nearby cow mooed at the grizzlies as if to say, “back off”. It must have worked since the grizzlies took off running.

Grizzly looking out for scary cows along Tom Miner Road.

Grizzly looking out for scary cows along Tom Miner Road.

We spent our mornings driving around Yellowstone National Park. We did see wolves on many of our trips but they were too far away to get good photos. Other animals were much more cooperative.

Great Grey Owl in Yellowstone National Park

This great grey owl was posing for us in Yellowstone National Park.

On to North Dakota.

I don't think we'll go this way...

Passing through eastern Montana on our way to North Dakota – I don’t think we’ll go this way…

We’re headed to Texas for the holidays but instead of taking the shortest route and encountering snow, we decided to detour through North Dakota. It’s the only state we’ve never visited and it will give us an opportunity to see Theodore Roosevelt National Park, bringing our total of national parks visited to 35 leaving only 24 more to go.

Teddy Roosevelt's cabin on display in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Teddy Roosevelt’s cabin on display in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The southern unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park lies in western North Dakota and is conveniently located just off Interstate 94. Instead of staying in the national park campground, we opted to stay at Sully Creek State Park, a few miles from the southern entrance. Both parks have big-rig friendly primitive campgrounds and are opened year round but Sully Creek offers a dump station.

Sully Creek State Park outside the south entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Our campsite at Sully Creek State Park outside the south entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This time of year, the campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. In mid-October, we had the park to ourselves.

We drove the national park’s 36 mile long scenic loop. Along the way, we saw bison, deer, prairie dogs and feral horses. The park also contains elk and bighorn sheep.

Prairie dogs keep a sharp lookout at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Prairie dogs keep a sharp lookout at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. These were Trixie and Eddie’s favorites.

Herds of feral horses graze throughout the park. Their numbers are kept in check through a combination of birth control and adoption of colts.

Wild horses graze within Theodore National Park.

Wild horses graze within Theodore National Park.

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather