On the Ridgeline

The summer of 2017 went down as another year when we seemed to be dodging Western wildfires. In September we drove east from Joseph, Oregon, through Idaho and across Montana, boondocking a few times along the way, to get to Medora, North Dakota, at the edge of the South Unit of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We’d lost the wildfire smoke about fifty miles west of Medora, but by our fourth day there, the smoke was already closing in.

We took a day off hiking to drive to Dickinson to pick up groceries and poke around, but by the time we headed back, the sun was shrouded in smoke.

We don’t like smoke. Smoke screws up an otherwise nice photo. Most of all we hate what smoke does to our lungs, throat, eyes… But we were also determined to do all the hiking we could.

From the top of the first rise we could see how smokey it was getting. Gone were the blue skies we’d enjoyed for at least a few days 😦

This was another interpretive trail with a brochure that helped us understand something about the vegetation around us. Doesn’t look like much in the open space up here, but if you look closely you can see tiny flowers around my feet. Things grow everywhere!

After climbing some initial steps on this .6 mile trail, we ended up on the trail’s namesake — the ridgeline, where views were remarkable, despite the heavy smoke in the distance.

The out-and-back trail took us to what was, with the smoke, more of a moonscape than landscape view!

And it seemed the more we hiked, the closer the smoke got.

After we left the trail, on the loop road back to Medora, we spotted a herd of feral horses atop another ridge:

We’d seen them around before — usually grazing, never huddled like this. Maybe they didn’t like the encroaching smoke any more than we did.

A little farther along, we saw another, smaller group, this one near a cliffside where they’d found some shelter.

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Wind Canyon

Once upon a time, if someone had said “canyon” and “North Dakota” in the same sentence, I would have told them they were nuts. Everybody knows North Dakota is a vast stretch of flat prairie.

Oops. Everybody knows — that except North Dakotans and smart people.

This past September we spent a week exploring the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora, North Dakota. Because I was able to hike on this visit, we walked everywhere we could.

The trail wound along the high edge of the Little Missouri River…

…leading to gorgeous views of the river:

Those views might be enough, but this trail is also about the amazing effects wind can have when left to its own devices. Huge hollows in these rocks are evidence…

…but this carved-out rock drives home what patience and persistence can accomplish:

In landscapes like this there’s no way to easily show how vast the vista is, how far the eye can see. This viewpoint gave us a chance to pause and take it all in…

…before braving the heavy traffic back to the RV!

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Veins of Coal

Back in September of 2017, we made our second visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in South Dakota — this time to hike (since I couldn’t manage that in 2016). And what a great place to hike!

After the three-mile Petrified Forest trek we opted for something shorter and at least as interesting — the Coal Vein Trail, just shy of a mile and stunning.

Back in 1951 a fire started in an underground coal vein, and it burned until 1977. But just because it was underground didn’t mean it didn’t have an effect above ground: “Some days there was only a wisp of smoke. Other days… red-hot rock glowed at the bottom of deep crevasses. Plants withered on the hot ground. Hillsides crumbled” (from the informational sign at the start of the hike).

Though we both love a rigorous hike, these interpretive trails always give us a chance to learn something new about the area. We paused at each sign and read the explanation in the brochure (which we returned to the kiosk at the end of the trail — re-using is even better than recycling, you know).

The trail took us up and over and around in a .8 mile loop, with occasional steps.

It was a stunning day for a hike, though we worried that the wildfire smoke we’d driven all the way from Oregon to avoid was moving in.

Painted Ladies flew around us…

…and other bugs our trail guide didn’t tell us about:

But sometimes the best things we see are from unexpected encounters, like spotting this coyote on the side of the road as we drove the park’s loop road back to our RV:

Ah! Now that’s what it’s all about, right?

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Petrified!

Back in 2016 we visited the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota for the first time. We wanted to hike a few of the many trails, but I’d fallen coming out of the RV and twisted my ankle pretty badly, so hiking was out of the question.

So in September 2017, chased out of the Hell’s Canyon area by increasing wildfire smoke, we drove back to North Dakota. This time, we were determined to hike.

The Petrified Forest Trail had haunted me the most over the previous year, so we hit that one first. It wound up…

Continue reading

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Dragons — in Oregon!?!?

Some RVers are destination travelers: they know where they want to go, what they want to see. Some jackrabbit from one attraction to another — they want to visit all the oddball tourist attractions or follow their favorite sports team around the country, see national parks or local museums. Others are working, plying a trade, so they move from on job building roads or buildings or pipelines to another.

There’s a middle ground, where an RVer hears about something like the eclipse, then plan a travel route to be in the path of it, or maybe be in Pendleton, Oregon, when the big roundup is going on.

Some of us have favorite spots we’ve found in our journeys and we enjoy returning to them, and if something neat happens while we’re there, well, then… how cool is that?

That happened to us this past August, while we were in Joseph, Oregon. I saw something in the local newspaper about “Dragon Races” and, as it turned out, one of the managers or the RV park where we were staying was on the local racing team. We had to go! Continue reading

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Pea Body Review

Many thanks to Denise Fleischer for her review of Pea Body at her GottaWriteNetwork blog! You can read it here.

More info on Ellen’s novels and short story collection is at ellenbooks.com — where she’s been doing a series of interviews with other RVing novelists.

Back here soon with some final notes on Bob and Ellen’s Great RV Adventure for 2017 (yep… late as usual!)….

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Our Annual BEST EATS Awards — 2017!

Every year about this time we give a shout-out to the best restaurant experiences we’ve had. Bob’s such an awesome cook (see our Best Of the Best post if you want to make yourself REALLY hungry) we’re spoiled, which means if something makes our BEST list, it’s pretty darned good.

We posted our first BEST list back in 2011 (!) and over the years, the list got pretty long, some of the restaurants went out of business and the quality in others dropped…. We haven’t been back to many of the places where a specific meal or menu item caught our palate, so the BEST list now focuses on places we’ve visited over the last year or two.

Let us know if you’ve been to any of these places or add your own BEST EATS to the comments so everyone can check them out! Continue reading

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