In Theodore Roosevelt NP

Where the Buffalo Roam – In Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Oh give me a home
Where the buffalo roams…

In Painted Canyon
In Painted Canyon

They’re called bison, here. But that could be the theme song of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (THRO), in Western North Dakota. Bisons are the signature animal of the park.

But where bears in the Smokies are elusive and solitary, bisons are highly visible. They move in packs and just stay around. They’re not spooked by people or vehicles. The visitors are the ones spooked and don’t get out of their vehicles.

Theodore Roosevelt NP is the only designated national park named after a person. You can’t separate  the man from the park. Teddy Roosevelt first came here from New York  to shoot a bison, before they became extinct. He tried his hand at ranching but like most of his (far-away) neighbors had a hard time making a go of it.

Then a double tragedy struck. Roosevelt lost both his wife and his mother on the same day – Valentine’s Day, 1884. To heal and find solitude, he came back to the area to lose himself in solitude. He started another ranch.  It must have worked since he remarried after a couple of years and went back to New York.

The Baldlands
The Badlands

The Badlands, as this landscape is called, is full of high rocky hills, in between valleys. The trails are marked by poles since there are almost no trees. It’s dry here, not as dry as I experienced in New Mexico, but still I have to make sure I drink, drink, drink.

I walked into the Painted Canyon, where the rocks are red, orange or brown. You really have to pay attention to the main trail since so many social trails shoot out in all directions. There are almost no people on the “backcountry” trails but I managed to meet two women from Canada who took my picture.

The main attraction is a 37-mile loop road with views and trails in the South Unit – the most popular section of the park. You can think of it like a two-lane, paved Cades Cove. Hah!

Prairie Dogs
Prairie Dogs

Again, the long-distance trails aren’t well-signed after the first couple of miles. I really felt alone in this vastness, much more than on a Smokies trail between two row of trees. It’s so quiet here except for the chirping of prairie dogs.

And Teddy Roosevelt? He worked his way up to become our biggest conservation president. He conserved and protected more public land than any other president before and since.

Which goes to show you that it doesn’t matter where you grew up. Even a person from New York City can love our public lands.


Visiting my 50th state

Bison in Fargo
Bison in Fargo

There’s beauty in flat land.

This may be a weird thing to say from someone who hikes in the mountains of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee all the time.

But now I’m in the so-called fly-over states with gently rolling hills. In the land of 10,00 lakes, I felt that I passed over a thousand already.

It’s a cool 75 degrees during the day. I took a fleece jacket as an afterthought, but it doesn’t seem so crazy now. It might get down into the 60s in the evening. What a change from the sweltering heat of Asheville.

Emma Krumbee's
Emma Krumbee’s

First stop – Emma Krumbee’s for lunch in Albertville, MN. It’s just a midwestern diner, like Cracker Barrel, which serves fried potatoes instead of grits. It’s a great introduction to the culture of the upper midwest – yes, friendly, open and nice, just like the stereotype.

I learned that when you order iced tea, it comes unsweetened.

But oh those pies!

I’ve already accomplished my first goal of this trip, to get to my 50th state – North Dakota.

Driving from Minnesota to North Dakota, you enter the state through Fargo. You remember the 1996 movie with Frances McDormand? It was set in Brainard, MN but mentioned Fargo.

In Fargo
In Fargo

“You wouldn’t believe how many times I hear this,” a gallery owner on Fargo’s main street tells me.

“That North Dakota is their last state to visit. They figure why would I ever want to come here? But they’re pleasantly surprised when they get here that it’s so nice.” Yes, nice.

Like many mid-size cities, Fargo must have suffered a decline. Its downtown seems to be waking up, with restaurants, clubs, an art gallery and offices.

Hendersonville and Cherokee, NC have sculptured bears all over its downtown streets. Fargo has a bison. So far, I’ve just encountered one. See above.

But you know there’s got to be a park or two involved in this trip. So stay tuned.




NC Waterfalls – Book Review

North Carolina Waterfalls
North Carolina Waterfalls

There are birders, peak baggers and there are waterfallers – people who collect waterfalls. Carolina Mountain Club has a waterfall challenge, the WC100.

But a hundred waterfalls barely scratches the surface.

In the third edition of North Carolina Waterfalls, photographer Kevin Adams describes 1,000 waterfalls in the state. Adams is a nature photographer who exhibits, sells his photographs, and holds photo workshops.

He is considered the waterfall expert in North Carolina.

What makes his waterfall books exceptional is Adams’ attention to details. For each waterfall, he cites the accessibility (trail, bushwhack or even driving, I guess), elevation, landowner (park, forest, or private), hike distance and difficulty, and more facts.

Hanging Rock State Park
Hanging Rock State Park

But my favorite is the beauty rating. Of course it’s his book and his ratings.

So I looked at Window Falls, a beautiful  waterfall in Hanging Rock State Park in the Piedmont on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Adams gives Window Falls a Beauty Rating of 4. I’m surprised that the waterfall is even here. It’s probably the last waterfall on the MST, going east.

Triple Falls
Triple Falls

Then I looked at the waterfalls in Dupont State Recreational Forest, in Transylvania County, the Land of Waterfalls. His highest rating for the waterfalls in the forest is Triple Falls, Beauty Rating – 9.

So I reread his criteria.

These are subjective beauty ratings (1 to 10), independent of where they’re located. So waterfalls in the Western North Carolina mountains are bound to get higher ratings than those in less mountainous regions. But like I said, the ratings are his. I’m sure that he’s always asked what his favorite waterfall is, like I’m asked what my favorite national park unit is. As if you could have one favorite with a thousand waterfalls.

Adams was out to document every single waterfall that he could in the whole state. So he lists waterfalls on private land. He also has “secret falls” even on public land. That’s a different approach from my outdoor writings. In all my writing, I make sure that readers can do everything I write about – given enough time and energy, of course.

Waterfall safety

Adams says correctly, that “waterfalls don’t reach out and grab people and fling them over the top.” People get too careless, climb up when they should stay below, and sometimes slip and fall. As I write this, the headlines in the Asheville Citizen-Times reads:
                     Woman falls 160 feet at Rainbow, dies.
The victim was on top of the waterfall, a waterfall that ironically is rated a 10.

Kevin Adams
Kevin Adams

Here are the details:
Published by John F. Blair Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-89587-653-9
Paperback, $29.95

8” x 10”, 560 pages, 310 color photos

PS Kevin Adams will be the featured speaker at the Carolina Mountain Club annual dinner on November 5. I can’t wait to meet him.

Join CMC and save the date.