Week Two: Oil Pump Jacks, the Enchanted Highway and the Land Before Time
Rules are to be broken and today we did just that.
#1. On our traveling days we would not exceed the 400 km, but we drove 557 km instead.
#2. We would drive the scenic routes as much as possible, but today we drove down the I-94.
We had changed our mind about our next campground. Instead of traveling to Hazen, we went to Dickinson, North Dakota. To our advantage, we gained an hour.
At first the landscape was flat, with large farms scattered across endless fields of grain and corn. Past Bismarck, the landscape changed and became more interesting. Rolling hills with here and there outcroppings and peaks, completely changed the scenery and made me think of dinosaur land. Low and behold, Dickinson has a dinosaur museum.
The campground didn't look very appealing, many big units were occupied by oilfield workers and rows and rows of manufactured houses lined the streets just outside the grounds. To our horror, we found an oil pumping Jack, right beside the tenting area. Albert searched the internet and learned that we are on top of the Bakken Oil Fields. This large area stretches from Saskatchewan to Manitoba and includes North Dakota and Montana. There are fracking sites everywhere in this large area.
Bijke: So many rabbits at this campground. I wondered if they live here or if they were here on holiday just like us. They hopped with stiff legs, like kangaroos and I could’ve easily caught them, but A wouldn’t let me and he is too strong.
The next day, we visited the Enchanted Highway; a 50 km stretch of road through fields of grain, corn and potatoes, sprinkled with eight enormous, metal sculptures, created by various artists. The sculptures were incredible and huge. We loved them all, but some of our favourites were, Deer Crossing, The Pheasants, The Big Catch and the Metal Family. It rained and Bijke decided that the red gravel surrounding the sculptures, was perfect for rolling in. He was covered in red mud and so was his car blanket. When we returned to our campsite, we could hardly find our little snail house. We were boxed in by a large motorhome from New Hampshire and an enormous fifth wheel from Kansas.
We decided to stay an extra night, so we could visit The Painted Canyon and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Happy Father’s Day to all Dads, but especially to Sjoerd, Lauchlin and Johny, the three amazing Fathers to our grandchildren.
After breakfast, we packed a lunch and drove west, till we reached the parking lot of the Painted Canyon Lookout. The views were stunning, nothing we had ever seen before. This area is the beginning of the Badlands. For thousands of years layer upon layer of sediments and erosion from wind and water have created this colourful landscape. Red hues show the minerals, the black lines were formed by lignite coal seams.
In the town of Medora, we found the Visitor Centre and bought our park pass. The buildings in Medora had been restored to early 1800’s style. It felt as if we walked into an old western movie with its saloons and bars.
We followed the scenic drive through the South unit of the park, where we stopped at many amazing lookouts. The panoramic views were from another time and world. It was from the Land before Time and every time we turned a corner, I expected to see dinosaurs roaming these Badlands.
But instead of a Tyrannosaur Rex, we came upon a buffalo. It was an enormous bull. He was rubbing against a wooden stake, next to a small Toyota, at the entrance of a trail.
Suddenly, a family with two small children came hiking up towards the parking lot. They were not able to see the massive bull. I called out to them and they detoured quickly to the other side of the parking area. They made it to their truck, just before the bull reached their vehicle as well. As soon as they closed the doors, the buffalo meandered across the road to the grassland on the other side. Later on we watched a herd of Buffalos graze high upon a ridge.
Prairie dog towns were everywhere along the route and we were grateful that Bijke stayed in the car, or he would have gone crazy. We met a few mule deer, but missed seeing Bighorn sheep, Elk and badgers. Pretty wildflowers grew everywhere and Bijke was interested in the Prickly Pear. The Canadian Thistle is one of the invading species and is shown on many signs. At the end of this magical drive, we visited the Maltese Cross Cabin, where Theodore Roosevelt wrote many of his ideas about conservation. The Badlands shaped Roosevelt’s philosophy about conservation. He became alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and its wildlife. During his presidency, he established five national parks, 51 bird reservations, four national game preserves and 150 national forests. 230,000,000 acres of land now had protection. Ironically and sadly, today’s administration is working hard to destroy Roosevelt’s legacy.
Happy Birthday, Sjoerd! How quickly did 43 years slip by.
Today, we followed the secondary road west, instead of the I-94. What we didn't realize was that this road travelled through no-mans land. The small villages along the way were just a cluster of rundown houses and buildings. It was a depressing sight. On either side of the road, we saw the oil pumping jacks and black Angus cattle grazing on the hillsides.
There were no picnic areas and we found a spot beside a dairy farmer, to eat lunch. The smell of cattle and manure was pungent, but we were reminded of our childhood and life on the farm.
As we approached Miles City, Montana, the landscape changed again and the hills became steeper. Abandoned farm equipment, cars and trailers littered the yards of many farms and homes. The tired looking houses had been standing for a long time. Some people lived in trailers and manufactured homes. Again it made us feel privileged and we felt for the people in this city, state, country.
The campground was already busy with motorhomes, trailers and tents. We met a couple from Barrie, who were on their way home from a trip to the West coast. It didn't take long for us to discover that our site was in front of a gravel/sand staging area for the city. The dump trucks drove back and forth till six o’clock.
The long howling train whistles kept us awake and as soon as we left Miles City we noticed the many, many coal trains. They accompanied us on our way to Livingston.
There was hardly any room to park our trailer, when we stopped for lunch at a picnic area. Six large transports, carrying sections of a wind tower, the head and the blades of a wind turbine, filled most of the parking lot. Albert found out that they were waiting for dry weather to go up the mountain. It had been raining so much, that the roads where to soft to carry the heavy loads. Flood warnings are on the radio, daily.
Bijke: I’m not allowed in the grass and have to walk on the sidewalk. M said, there was a sign that read, Rattlesnakes! Stay On The Sidewalk!
After lunch the sky darkened and soon it rained followed by hail. We noticed the mountain range in the distance on either side of the highway. We turned on the road to Yellowstone Park and found the campground just off the highway. We had a great spot with a view of the snow capped mountains.
On Wednesday, we explored Livingston. We noticed casinos at every street corner, just like the Tim Hortons In Ontario. We walked a beautiful trail along the Yellowstone River. The fast rushing water attracted Bijke and Albert had his hands full to prevent him from jumping in.
We walked the country roads outside the campground after supper. The views were stunning. We were excited for our excursion to Yellowstone Park.