Add North Dakota to Your Bucket List.

Greetings from sunny Southern California! We’ve just finished some major renovations on our camper, where we replaced the fridge (YAY) and added solar power (double YAY). We’ll have upcoming posts about the reno, it turned out awesome. But skipping back in time to where I last left the blog off…

So North Dakota was not on our bucket list whatsoever. But we were craving some open space and boondocking, so what better place to go than North Dakota, probably the most remote state in the lower 48?

After typing that, I decided to look up the population of North Dakota. Approximately 750,000 people in 70,000 square miles. For reference, Massachusetts is approximately 6.8 million people in 10,000 square miles. So yeah, I’m going to stick with my claim that North Dakota is remote.

When we crossed the border into North Dakota and went to the first visitor center we could find, they had a prominently displayed pamphlet of 9 things to do if you were driving across the state. 9 things. For a whole state. This was very funny to me.

So we kicked off our 9-thing list with seeing the world’s largest buffalo.

True to the advertisement, it was very large.

And with that, we high-tailed it to the reason we were in North Dakota in the first place: Teddy Roosevelt National Park (also numbers 8 and 9 on the 9-thing list).

By the time we got close to the park, it was late and well after dark. So we overnighted at the visitor center and woke up to this.

Stunning, right?! This was right alongside the parking lot we overnighted in. Fortunately, the parking lot was very stable.

Lucy wasted no time posing majestically amongst the badlands.

But then when we tried to get her picture with the TRNP sign, she looked like we beat her on a daily basis. Dogs, man.

So with daylight back on our side, we struck out to our chosen boondocking spot. And man, this was a good one. Clay’s favorite to date, in fact. Completely remote, views for days, great cell service, and four miles away from Medora and the entrance to TRNP. Win.

We spent a lot of time here not going anywhere. Lots of good walks, stars were amazing at night, and it was nice to slow down the movement.

Lucy didn’t see a leash for a week.

The sky was so big and the land was so flat, yet we were up on a little hill that allowed us to see for miles in every direction. We spent so much time just watching the weather roll by.

This picture above gives me very Ireland-esque vibes, but North Dakota wasn’t that way at all. In fact, it instantly reminded us of a brushier type of desert. Dry, lots of sage, and grasses were stalky and tough. Not what I pictured the grasslands of the Dakotas to be like.

Once we got caught up on rest, work, and relaxation, we ventured into the national park.

We are total stalkers and love checking out campgrounds and seeing other people’s rigs. So naturally, we started with the campground in the park and it was quite enjoyable. Why, you ask? There was a wild horse wandering through the park who calmly took a dump in someone’s campsite….

….smelled it….

…and then went galloping through a bunch of tents, scaring the pants off of some poor unsuspecting campers who didn’t expect to see a wild horse careening around their ice cooler and picnic table.

It was hilarious.

That being said, TRNP is full of wild horses. They were everywhere, and it was awesome.

The park itself was also a beautiful drive. We saw buffalo from afar, about a bazillion wild horses near and far, and another bazillion prairie dogs that drove Lucy up the wall.

Just left of the center of this photo, super super tiny, is one lone bull. My first buffalo sighting in the wild.

TNRP can be done in a day, maybe a couple if you want to do a bunch of the hikes, so it’s not a major destination park like a few of the others can be. But man, it is worth the visit. The town it’s in, Medora, is a really cute old west town that offers fun activities during the summer – horseback riding, a nightly musical, pitchfork steak dinners, those sorts of kitschy tourist things. We visited during peak season and the park didn’t feel crowded at all. And the weather in August was great – not too hot during the day and cool nights.

Also, there are cows everywhere. Because it’s North Dakota.

We stayed for about 10 days, give or take, and that was long enough. Towards the end, we were starting to get antsy and running out of activities. In a flash of brilliance (not really), I grabbed my 9 things to do in North Dakota pamphlet and sent Clay off on a weird drive down the Enchanted Highway.

I’ll give you the background on this precious roadside gem. So once upon a time, a gentleman was sad watching his beloved hometown deteriorate. He wanted to drive up tourism in an attempt to revive his town, so he developed the Enchanted Highway, where he built a series of gigantic sculptures down a road in an attempt to lure highway traffic to his dying town.

The statues were enchanting, all right.

And in case you were curious, his town is still very much dying. I applaud his ingenuity, though.

We also watched the eclipse from North Dakota. Our area had 85 or 89% coverage, something like that, and we got some sweet commemorative glasses from TNRP. We wanted to avoid the chaos of camping in the line of totality for this year, but we won’t make that mistake again for the next eclipse!

And once our tanks were full, we packed up, Lucy left her guardpost, and we moved on to the other Dakota.

My consensus on North Dakota? If you’re looking for a relaxing, peaceful getaway with a national park to explore, move it to the top of your list. Just don’t stay too long, or you might find yourself looking for something to do on the Enchanted Highway 🙂

On to the next!

One thought on “Add North Dakota to Your Bucket List.

  1. Medora is almost mythological in TR history. I read “Mornings on Horseback,” David McCullough’s biography of TR. Tgis is where he became a serious hunter-which in that time was not the controversy it is today. An arrogant Frenchman named Medora after his wife and founded the time. That was its zenith; it’s been dying ever since. Totally putting it in my list.

    No leash for a week!! Jealous!

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