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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"If you know wilderness in the way that you know love . . . ": Two Retreats to the North Unit

It has been my great fortune to have made two retreats to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park these past few weeks, a place in the Bad Lands that is very dear to my heart.  The North Unit is the heart of wildness in North Dakota and is, right now, awash in autumn glory.

My father considers the view at River Bend Overlook to be equal to the Grand Canyon. Every time I walk out to this overlook, I can hear him say these words. 

My first outing was to attempt to fulfill one of my daughter's wishes (for her birthday), to find her first bighorn sheep. Bighorns are more active in the autumn and I've frequently seen them in the North Unit and surrounding environs over the years. Chelsea and I tented in the Juniper Campground at the North Unit, a place where one is completely off-the-grid. It was a salve for our souls and we sat by the Little Missouri River sharing lifetime memories of happy times spent in these wild places.

This blue racer had been run over by another vehicle. Chelsea moved it off the road for a more peaceful death. 

Just when we'd given up hope of seeing the bighorn sheep, she spotted one, and then another. I've raised Chelsea to love wild places and animals and we thoroughly enjoy when we get a chance to go on explorations.

Bighorn sheep. Photo by Chelsea Sorenson, Wild Dakota Photos
Many of the birds have migrated, but we saw several different species of hawks, wild turkeys, and a belted kingfisher, along with this Northern flicker probing for ants.

Turns out, this campout was the final hurrah for my trusty green Eureka tent, the zipper broken beyond repair. Identical to the tent I used for backpacking in my twenties, I bought it about 18 years ago for $1 at an auction, I could erect it in a flash and have made countless good memories with it. Fortunately, although it will be missed, we have several tents in our stock of camping gear.

Rubber Rabbitbrush

The crescent moon, accompanied by Mars and Venus, were all lovely

Renew your wild spirit with a trip to the Bad Lands before the snow flies. You'll go back again and again.

Little Bluestem & Little Missouri River

"If you know wilderness in the way that you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go. We are talking about the body of the beloved, not real estate."
Terry Tempest Williams