Monday, December 27, 2021

2021 National Park Road Trip, Part One

And So It begins, our epic 2021 September road trip. Visiting, and traveling thru, six national parks, five national forests, a national memorial parkway, two national monuments, a national memorial, and a national historical site. And it all started simply because Yellowstone was on my bucket list. 
For those visiting my blog that have not traveled west of the great Mississippi River, let me tell you.. The west truly is vast. I know we hear it all the time, but you will never really know the scope of it until you're there. As you're driving it's like time slows down. I live in Northwest Indiana, and driving an hour in any direction usually feels like it wasn't an hour at all. But out west, once you hit North Dakota, an hour easily feels like two. And I realized why. Here, there's civilization. Traffic, businesses, homes, etc.. There, nothing for miles. Literally. Open fields with the occasional herd of cattle, and sometimes a few pronghorn antelope. You may see a home off in the distance, if you're looking. And you realize right away, if you see a gas station, fill up. Because it's gonna be a long while before you see another..  
Funny thing about that is, I thought I'd be taking more "on the road" photos.. But once we passed Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the only reason to stop was for breaks. 
There's so much more to tell but I'll do that among the several blogs that will cover this trip.  I'll also be adding some of our cell phone photos among my camera photos, I'm sure you'll notice the difference in quality. Most of them will be "selfies".. This might be my first blog with photos of myself included.. lol

In my planning, I looked for roadside attractions. We found a few, most on the way out  rather than on the way back.. A website called Roadside America was a big help (I'll provide a link at the bottom of the blog). 
Our first stop was The Worlds Largest Prairie Chicken, in Rothsay MN.. This statue was built in 1976, and is 13 feet high, 18 feet long, and weighs 9,000 pounds..

Next we have The Worlds Largest Buffalo. Located in Jamestown ND, This guy is 26 ft tall and 60 tons! It's made of concrete and at the end of Louis L'Amour Lane. And yes, it's a touristy area.. 
*I know they are actually bison, but literally everywhere out west they are called buffalo. (ugh)*

And our last "roadside attraction" before Theo NP was Sandy, The Worlds Largest Sandhill Crane. And if you know me, you know I was a little excited for this one (I love sandhill cranes). She resides in Steele, ND and is 40 ft high! Made of metal, It was built in 1998-99 by a self taught iron worker named James Miller. There's a nice little park around it with info on birding in the area.

Several of these cuties had made their homes in the area under Sandy. I'm guessing they've been fed by previous tourists, as they were curious about us. I went back to the car and grabbed some nuts I had for them... 

And now.. Theodore Roosevelt Nation Park..  
If my memory is correct, I want to say we were up at 4:30 am. It was about an hour drive to the park from our hotel, and I knew to be there no later than sunrise if we wanted to see ANY wildlife. My goal was to witness and photograph the herd of wild horses that reside in the park. I have to add here, while there were some goals I didn't get to (mainly because of crowds) there were these moments when I I just knew I was where I was supposed to be. This was one of those moments. 
Within moments of entering the south unit of the park, on our left, was a herd of wild horses feeding. Right next to the road. I snapped my first photo at 6:30 am, and we enjoyed their company and photographed them for half an hour. It felt much longer. I was actually pretty surprised when I looked at the time stamps between my first and last photos of them. Sitting there, quietly among them, calmly munching on their morning breakfast, was so peaceful. It made getting up at 4:30 am worth every moment..  As you scroll through the photos, you'll notice in some of them, the hint of orange on the horses from the sun, as it rises while they graze.. 

It was approaching seven am, and now, other cars were entering the park and stopping to look. And of course, making noise. So at this point, the horses decided it was time to leave and I snapped one last photo of them as they headed up and over the ridge.. Saying thank you.. And good bye.. 

This was also my first time seeing wild prairie dogs, so you'll have to forgive me for the abundance of photos.. But they're so darn cute! 

I saw and took photos of many bison on this trip, but I think this is my favorite. I love the way the plants around him look ethereal. 

Every mound in this photo is an entrance to the prairie dog town underneath.. I imagine as calm as it is above, there's a bustling prairie dog metropolis below..

Nosey neighbor.. lol

We drove on to a different prairie dog town, and there was a bench kinda close to the action. Well, this guy didn't appreciate me sitting on that bench..  

This is a panoramic cell phone pic of the prairie dog town at this location.. Not the greatest pic, but it gives you an idea of the size.. I'd guess it to be a couple of football fields, at least.

The next several photos are scenic.. It was about 8:30 am at this point.. 

It's 9 am, we're driving along.. And this happens. Needless to say, they get the right of way.. And I took the photos from inside my car.. 

Not the greatest photo of flowers, but I was just amazed that they are growing basically in rocks. Humans could learn a lot from nature. Nature always finds a way..

Gotta watch where you step out there.. 

Here's a pic of me taking the above photos, thanks to my cousin.. 

And one of me being a little goofy.. 

Moving on..
I finally decided to take some closed ups. I liked the textures and colors...

Nature not only finding a way, but protecting itself as well.. 
Check out the thorns on that plant..

The area behind us is where I got the texture and close ups from..

It's about 10am now, and we get to the area of the park where the old east entrance was. We were going to take the trail to it, but decided not to.. You can see why in the second photo. Yep, that's the trail right next to them.. 

So we hung around a bit and I took a few photos.. 

 Until they started coming our way.. Time to go..

There's a black hole just above the rock in the bottom center of the pic.. A cave, maybe? Would've been cool to be able to explore that a bit.. 

There's me, taking the above photo.. lol

So we ended up at this scenic area called Buck Hill. It's a high point in the park with 360 degree views. Now, we're already at a much higher elevation than home, and we're about to take a steep walk even higher. But it was worth it. At the top, Buck Hill is 2,855 ft (above sea level).. For comparison, My home town of Griffith Indiana is at 630ft.. 

Looking back and down at the Tardis..

It was a little windy up there..

Since it was dark when we got there, we got it when we left.. 

This one's for my hubby.. Sinclair is special to him..

So, we go into town and have a meal and then head to the north unit. We got there about 4:45pm, and unfortunately, the visitor's center is in a different time zone (5:45pm) and was closed, so we didn't get our stamps. Which we're still not happy about. lol
So, we traveled on.. 

Yep, she's on her phone.. lol

I made this one extra large for a reason. Remember when I said its vast out west and you can't really grasp it until you're there? As an example, there's two people in this photo. On the left side of the pic, on top of the "hill", looking out into the valley below.. When you click on the pic to enlarge it, you'll see them.. 

It was sad to see the river dried up..

It's almost 6:30 pm and the sun is starting to set..

And as we were leaving, the wildlife was coming back out.. 


** ALL photos on this blog are property of Christi Bushby, copyrighted and protected as such by law. Please see my copyright page for details and/or permissions of use. 

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