Sunday, July 22, 2007

North Dakota

Finally, after 2 months back in the US we get to 'stick a new sticker on'! Yes we've reached our first 'new' state in I don't know how long...(September last year I think!) - North Dakota!! This is our 31st state.

We based ourselves in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park for a couple of days. This is just 25 miles east of the state line with Montana. It's a wild place, full of badlands, prairie, herds of bison and dozens of prairie dogs (these little critters are just too cute!!). We went on long hike on our first morning - 12 miles across said landscape, crossing little creeks (more times than I care to remember - why the trail couldn't just keep us on the same bank the whole way I have no idea - I swear we crossed the same darn stream at least a dozen times, and it was getting messy and muddy toward the end!) We started and finished the loop trail in the middle of a prairie dog town (there were even holes dug up right in the middle of the parking lot!) These guys crack me up - think they're 'oh so tough' barking away at you in warning, then as you get closer they dive for cover into their holes, with a wiggle of the tail as a final flourish!!! If you stop and stand still for just a moment the same critter will pop it's head out to case the joint ready to come back out - then you just stare each other out!!

The National Park is in a town called Medora. Hadn't heard of it prior to our visit but it seems it's quite the little tourist destination. It's an 'old wild west' town (dubious age on some of the buildings!) but it sure looks the part with a quaint old post office, ice-cream parlour, wooden sidewalks and saloon. And the guys in this neck of the woods are real, live cowboys. Everywhere else the get-up can look a bit daft - the hat, the boots, the checkered shirt and wrangler jeans. But here - well what other way is there?! And most often they're all so smart (I guess cowboys can be the only guys who can get away with tucking their shirt into their jeans!!!)

Medora is also home of the 'Medora Musical'. This was a kind of variety show meets broadway kind of performance. Set in the fabulous Rolling Hills ampitheatre just out of town it's an outdoor venue with a backdrop of the ND badlands - the setting itself was worth the ticket price. It was 2 hours of great 'family' entertainment - singers, dancers, a band, a yodeller (who was amazing!), an African acrobatic troupe, horses, a stagecoach and a finale of fireworks! Sounds good?! - it was great!!

Driving in ND is a little dull - long straight roads, and the weather has been hot making it pretty uncomfortable. However they sure know how to break up the monotony...introducing 'Salem Sue'!!! This is the worlds largest Holstein cow (presumbably there's a larger one, but of a different breed...surely not!!!!). She's 3 stories high and perches atop a hill overlooking the highway - we could see her from at least 3 miles back!! North Dakotans - they're nutters - they spent $40,000 on Salem Sue back in 1974. Still it was a fun and welcome break in our journey, and I guess that's the whole point!!

Right now we've found another ND gem - the Fort Lincoln state park, near Bismarck. The campsite is great and we're cooling ourselves off here (with some much needed aircon - one of our indulgences - we prefer to live without it usually) during a little mini ND heatwave it seems. We're right next to the Missouri river and the park is home to an old Indian village dating back to the 1500-1700's. There's also an Army fort which was used as one of the major staging posts in the Indian wars in the 1870's.

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