A Bully Good Time in North Dakota

Some travelers avoid bucket lists, but I love a good challenge! So it’s no surprise I’m trying to make it to all 50 states, and this summer I visited my 48th: North Dakota.

Being nature people, my husband Brian and I decided to base ourselves in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, a place we’d heard offers amazing wildlife experiences. Plus, it’s off the beaten path—always a plus.

An overlook in the national park, which houses some of Roosevelt's former ranchland. The president said the badlands have a "grim beauty."

An overlook in the national park, which houses some of Roosevelt’s former ranchland. The president said the badlands have a “grim beauty.”

We hiked and drove through the gorgeous badlands of the 70,000+-acre park, and the wildlife did not disappoint—we saw pronghorn, elk, a prairie rattlesnake, prairie dogs, feral horses, mule deer, turkeys, and of course plenty of the star attraction, bison. (One old male even decided to hang out near a visitor center, causing quite the stir!) The only wildlife species I wasn’t so crazy about was the deer fly, which left some seriously itchy sores on my legs. (I’m a bug magnet of epic proportions.)

We took a ride on this authentic stagecoach—it was pretty bumpy.

We took a ride on this authentic stagecoach—it was pretty bumpy.

Overall though, we relished being out of doors for four days straight, a sensation that unfortunately is all too rare in our lives. We also learned a ton about the incredible history of the area, much of which is rooted in Theodore Roosevelt and his affinity for the remote landscape.

The town of Medora, near the national park, is famous for its country-western variety show called the Medora Musical. This was its 50th year.

The town of Medora, near the national park, is famous for its country-western variety show called the Medora Musical. This was its 50th year.

We met some beautiful domestic horses while we were staying at a cabin in the Little Missouri National Grasslands.

We met some beautiful domestic horses while we were staying at a cabin in the Little Missouri National Grasslands.

I was lucky to write about our North Dakota adventures for the Washington Post—the story published this weekend in the Travel section.

In case you’re wondering, states 49 and 50 are Iowa and Hawaii—I hope to visit both in 2016! I’ll keep you posted.

Christine

Texas and New Mexico, From High to Low

The response I usually get when I tell people I’m going to hike in Texas is, “There are mountains in Texas?” Yes, and they’re quite the lookers—imagine the deserts of Utah mashed with the Rocky Mountains and you get the idea.

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McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe National Park

 

In May I spent a week camping in far western Texas, mostly in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, one of the lesser known national parks and the only one in Texas other than Big Bend NP (which I visited in 2012). Guadalupe is nice and remote—nearest town, 30 miles or so—with lots of hiking and no easy way to just “drive through.” So if you go, you gotta be committed to walking. And walk we did—all the way to the top of Texas, in fact, 3,000 feet of elevation gain to 8,751 feet. The trek was long—nine hours—but beautiful, with lots of Indian paintbrush and pretty mountain views to keep us going.

We also went underground to Carlsbad Caverns NP in nearby New Mexico, which has an incredible network of caves, including the biggest cave room in the world. Walking through the Hall of Giants pretty much dwarfed any other cave I’ve ever been in. I admit though, after a few hours down there you’re itching to be back in the desert sun.

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We also saw some good critters (my definition of a successful trip) including a western diamondback rattlesnake, horned lizards (mating, no less!), a Texas giant centipede, lots of beetles, ground squirrels, and Maggie the famous painting bear (the latter at a zoo in New Mexico). 🙂

Another highlight was exploring the rock art of Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site, where native peoples have left their artistic mark over the millennia. Here I’m in the middle of rock scrambling in search of ancient masks!

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Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site

I’m heading for the other end of the travel spectrum this week when I go to Copenhagen for the Euroscience Open Forum; I’ll write again when I get back.

Here are some more photos from my Texas and New Mexico trip:

Queen's Chamber