Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Baby Rattlesnakes in TRNP

I heard a whirring, rattling sound and looked down. Three feet away was a nest of baby rattlesnakes.

One slipped into his hole but the other two posed for me. We were at Oxbow Overlook in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

When Bob and I set of this morning out of Watford City we marveled at the large, red sun coming up over the horizon. Even after starting off on the wrong road, we still arrived nice and early and only saw two other cars on our drive. The road through the park at the North Unit is not a loop like at South Unit, so we got to see the sights twice and in differing morning light.

We were not disappointed. The views were magnificent.

Auggie stayed in the car while we stopped to walk along short trails to the overlooks (and after the snake incident, we were very glad we had not brought him with us!) He waited patiently for us to return, and enjoyed sniffing out bison.

Auggie was such a good rider in the car. Not a single bark at the many bison we passed.

We told him that very few dogs from Philadelphia ever get to see a bison, and he was suitably impressed. Of course, he was probably the only Schnorkle that this buffalo had ever seen, too!

The photo above shows "Cannonball Concretions," unusual geological formations shaped like balls formed within rocks by the deposition of mineral around a core.

The North Unit of TRNP feels wilder and more isolated than the South Unit. I'm glad we got the chance to see them both.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sightseeing in Bismarck, ND

The Bismarck area has some very interesting museums and we were only able to see two of them. On Saturday Bob and I visited the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum, across from the State Capitol.

This photo looks old because of the antique Monte Carlo parked in front. This is the Capitol Building.

The Heritage Center is the largest museum in North Dakota and it is free to visit. It shows the history of the area from prehistoric time to the present. This is the skeleton of a mastodon that was 8 feet high at the shoulders and weighed about 8,000 pounds at 40-45 years of age. The tusks are 7 feet long.

The Indian exhibit features the local tribes: the Mandans, Hidatsas, and the Arikaras. This is a finger-woven sash, which was worn by a male.

Plains Indians believe eagles are supernatural beings. Eagle feathers and claws are sacred items. To trap an eagle, a pit was dug on a ridge top and hidden by brush. A dead jackrabbitwas tied on top for bait while the hunter waited inside the pit for an eagle. Then the hunter reached through the brush and grabbed the bird's legs (note the hands around the eagle's legs.)

Note: we've seen that out west the term "Native American" is not used. It apparently is an eastern, politically correct term, not used by actual Indians.

I loved seeing this chuck wagon, used during cattle drives through the area.

The area was settled by Norwegians, and this doll dressed in Norwegian folk costume was made for a traveling puppet theater group, the Woman's Division of the WPA in the 1930s.

A Norwegian loom, ca 1880-1889, made by Ole Solberg.

Other exhibits included displays about oil production in ND and wind farms.

On Sunday, we visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center & Fort Mandan, to learn more about The expedition to the Pacific ocean. Bismarck was the edge of unknown territory back in 1804, and was the spot for departure into the west. The members built Fort Mandan and wintered here. Above you can see 12 foot tall sculptures of Lewis and Clark, meeting an Indian.

The fort was much smaller than I imagined. It slept about 50 men, women, and children.

Inside the walls of the fort were rooms that served as storage areas, an office for mapping, a smokehouse, a woodshop, and a metal shop. The privy was located about 100 yards away from the fort, per Army regulations. Our guide told us that the way modern archeologists find the site of old forts is to use technology to find the area with the most mercury in the soil. That would be the spot where the privy was located. Since people in the 1700s used mercury for a variety of ailments, their waste was full of it. And mercury contamination in soil never dissipates. The researchers then search in a 100 yard radius to find the fort.

Ranger Juan really knew his history!

In this display we saw how the members of the Expedition made dugouts to navigate the waters of the Columbia River.

How is the name "Sacagawea" pronounced? Apparently, the correct way to say her name was Sa-Cog-A-We-A, and I've been pronouncing it incorrectly my whole life.

We learned a lot about Lewis and Clark, which has inspired me to learn more on my own. Fascinating subject!

Friday, August 25, 2017


Last night I finished my Baltic woven Christmas Band, woven on my Seidel Card Loom and 13 pattern thread Sunna Heddle.

I'm happy with the way it came out, and hope to start another weaving project tomorrow.

Bob and I left Medora, ND this morning and moved east to Bismarck, the capitol of North Dakota, population 72,500. As a state capitol it's pretty small. We will be here fore four nights doing some sightseeing and relaxing. Then we will head over to the North Unit of TRNP for a few days. Bismarck is a little out of the way since we are heading towards Yellowstone but we are OK with that--we make up our own rules! We changed time zones again (to Central Time) and will try not to get too used to that because we'll be back on Mountain Time on Tuesday.

Right now, our prayers are going out for southeast Texas where Hurricane Harvey is about to make landfall. Our insurance agent for the RV actually called us today to make sure we were in a safe place (our mailing address is in Texas.) We've never had an insurance company do that.

Until tomorrow...

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hiking in TRNP, South Unit

Today was our day to do a little hiking. I was grateful to have the knee brace I had gotten from my orthopedic physician this summer. While my right knee still gives me pain, especially on stairs, I found I was able to hike a little as long as I used a walking stick for hills.

We chose a trail called Coal Vein Trail, which was about 0.8 mile round trip. While it offered some stairs and hills, the going was mostly flat. There are veins of coal in these hills which appear as black layers in the rocks. In 1951 a vein of coal caught fire (from a lightening strike, perhaps?) and burned for 26 years. Hikers would bring marshmallows to toast over the burning coal! Plants have regrown and it is now a very pretty area. We had the trail all to ourselves.

After Bob and I returned to our car, we drove on a little farther until we came to the head of another trail, called Boicourt Trail. This one was only 0.3 mile, and the park brochure assured us it was not only easy, but offered spectacular views. Let's go!

The brochure was right. The views were amazing.

If you look carefully in the above picture, you can see a faint trail on the hill in the center. That's where we walked to.

We felt like we were the only people in the park.

As we had on the other two days, we saw horses and bison again today as we drove the loop. It was a glorious finish for our trip to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Tomorrow we head for Bismarck for a few days, North Dakota's capitol.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wild Horses

I slept fitfully last night, disturbed by the clod parked next to us who carried on a conversation with a friend under my bedroom window at 10:30 pm. He then proceeded to pack up his rig for an early morning get-away and I could hear him slamming cabinets over and over as he put things away. The last I heard was the slam of his door before he pulled out of the park at 4:00 am. Honestly, some people have no clue.

Despite that, Bob and I were up bright and early this morning and entered Theodore Roosevelt National Park at 7:15 am in the hopes of glimpsing more animals. It was a perfect morning. We saw many buffalo, both up close by the side of the road as well as from a distance.

And we were very lucky to see several small herds of wild, or feral (as the National Park Service calls them) horses. I was most excited to see a mare with markings typical of the horses bred by the Indians. These horses are dark in color and have a white patch around the belly as well as a white face. This color pattern, called an "apron," may be familiar from the paintings of Frederic Remington and C.M. Russell, but is seldom seen in modern horses. These particular horses are descendents of the original herd from the mid 1800s.

This mare had her foal nearby, who may develop the white roan belly markings upon maturity.

According to Brian, the park ranger who gave a talk at the visitors center about Roosevelt's Maltese Cabin, there are 167 feral horses in this park. They are rounded up every couple of years and some are sold to the public, which helps control the numbers. The bison are also rounded up and the park both sells to and buys from breeders all over the US, in order to avoid too much inbreeding in the herd.

Ranger Brian's talk about TR's cabin was very interesting. Roosevelt was a city boy from NYC when he came to North Dakota on a hunting trip at the age of 25 to shoot a buffalo. Later he became a supporter of preservation of our natural resources. Roosevelt returned to North Dakota after the deaths of his wife (from complications of childbirth) and his mother (from typhoid) in the same house and on the same day. The wilds of the Badlands healed him, and Roosevelt returned to New York ready for a career in politics. He credited his time in ND with preparing him for the rigors of the presidency. As Vice President, he became our 26th President following the assassination of William McKinley in 1901. He was, and remains, our youngest President, entering the office at 42 years of age.

This area is so beautiful. The Little Missouri River, that flows into the Missouri River, runs past the campground and through the national park.

Later today we plan to walk around town, and tomorrow we may take a hike.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Eclipse, and We Move on to North Dakota

In Rapid City, we were about 90 miles north of the swath of the country that saw a total eclipse. As it was, we did see the sun 95% covered by the moon, and at the eclipse's peak we saw this.

My photos didn't come out quite so nicely, looking instead like a tiny fuzzy gold ball on a dark gray fuzzy blanket. Ah well. There are limits on the photographic capabilities of an iPhone camera. Our neighbors in the campground were kind enough to give us viewing glasses, since theirs came in a package of four. I was disappointed that it didn't get darker at the peak of the eclipse, but we did notice that the temperature dropped several degrees.

Bob and I packed up this morning (Tuesday) and turned the rig towards North Dakota, where we passed through some big sky country. North Dakota has rolling hills of amber grain, and lots of it.

And about two miles from the campground the view suddenly changed to this.

Our campground is right outside Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the South Unit (as they call it.) We had hoped to see the movie at the Visitors Center this evening but it was closed, so we decided to take a short drive into the park. We saw some beautiful scenery but only drove for about a half hour before turning around. The drive is about 36 miles long but we only went about five miles into the park. I will leave you with just a couple of photos to whet your appetite.

Yes, we saw a small band of wild horses! What a thrill! We also saw a badger carrying his prey, a hapless prairie dog, back to his den. Those photos were too dark and fuzzy to show, unfortunately.

We'll be here just a couple of days so we'll make the most of our visit and be back early tomorrow.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Journey Museum Learning Center & Custer SP at Dusk

Today was a busy day. I wove a bit more on my band in the morning, and later Bob and I went to the Journey Museum to learn more about the area. This museum features exhibits on local geology, dinosaurs, and Native Americans. I found the Indian exhibit very interesting.

This brave is wearing a fine exmple of a finger woven sash.

There were many examples of beautiful beadwork. Glass beads were introduced to the Great Plains during the 1700s by European traders. These beads were crafted in Italian and Czech glass workshops, and were used by Indian women alongside porcupine quills and animal teeth to decorate clothing.

This shield, Ca. 1870, is made of rawhide covered with painted muslin. It was made and used by Fool Bull, a Sioux warrior who carried it in the battle against Custer.

This evening, Bob and I returned to Custer State Park to see if dusk was a better time to glimpse animals. The waning day cast a golden light across the landscape.

We saw several pronghorn...

...a flock of wild turkeys...

...and more buffalo. We caught a glimpse of the burro herd in the distance, and saw quite a few deer (white tailed and mule deer,) but no elk. But we were alright with that because it was just so pretty with the sun setting.

I told Bob that this park is my happy place. Well, in the summer, anyway. I'm not so sure what winter would be like here. Pretty harsh, I'm thinking.

Tomorrow is our last full day in this area, and we intend to spend it avoiding all the eclipse hoopla. On Tuesday we head farther north to a campground outside Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.