The country owes a lot to Teddy Roosevelt, including the quote that titles this blog entry. His vision around conservation is credited with inspiring much of the national park system–and his appreciation of the country was of course gained when western travel required an incredible commitment.
With that in mind, Souzz and I headed further west yesterday, through Fargo and Bismarck and on to the tiny jump-off town of Medora in western North Dakota. On the way, we stopped in Tower City and picked up a rhubarb pie that we planned to have for last night’s dinner. We arrived at Theodore Roosevelt National Park around 6pm and made a simple camp in Cottonwood Campground.
Since arriving in the park, we’ve learned that Teddy Roosevelt first came here in 1883 to hunt bison. He returned a few years later for extended visits after the tragic loss of his wife and mother, and one can easily see why he might get a lift from this landscape. It is a peaceful study in contrast, brown canyons surrounded by green buttes. There are also meadows with hundreds of buffalo, much like Yellowstone…except hardly anybody else is here.
The park itself was established by President Truman in 1947, and it seems wholly under-appreciated and under-visited. Of course, there are only 740,000 people in the entire state of North Dakota, about 8% of the population of the metro Washington DC area, so crowds are relative. We chatted with a few locals that come here every single year, and it seems that the park is greatly appreciated by the people of North Dakota. Based on our experience, the locals are super-friendly and immensely proud of their state.
During dinner prep in camp, a buffalo ambled by just 50 yards away, and a wild horse came by to say hello, as well. For dinner, we had steak (from North Dakota, of course), local corn, a simple tomato/cucumber dish, and of course the rhubarb pie. Nothing fancy, just grilling over charcoal, but sometimes the simple meals are the best.
The corn, which we soaked in water before grilling, was sweet and crisp, and the rhubarb pie was really good. It was both tart and sweet, lots going on. I hadn’t eaten rhubarb pie since I was a kid, and remember hating it. My memory isn’t what it used to be.