2018.06.20 Return to the USA

Good morning, Moose Jaw.  We have enjoyed our time here, but we must be on our way.

During the last few days, we have had a change in the schedule.  The next few days are scheduled to be a Wyoming/South Dakota run including Devils Tower and Mt. Rushmore.  We love these places, but our family has seen them twice, while the rest of the group has not seen them at all. With this in mind, Stephanie, Mallory, Marissa and I opted to take a different route south through North Dakota and visit the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP).  KK liked the idea of seeing some of North Dakota so he joined us for the day.

We started the day at the Mac the Moose larger-than-life statue on the way out of town.  Kudos to Moose Jaw for giving the tourists what they want!

Mac the Moose

We drove southeast out of Moose Jaw until we hit Weyburn, where we turned straight south toward the border.  Weyburn boasted that it is the largest inland grain gathering point in Canada.  To support this, they had several large monuments of wheat stalks along the road.

Wheat stalks in Weyburn, Saskatchewan

As we got closer to the border, we started seeing increasing oil activity.  We had reached the Bakken Oil Fields!  I liked the fact that in southern Saskatchewan, we were driving on the Can-Am Highway. It wasn’t called that once we crossed into North Dakota.

Border Crossing

We had an uneventful trip through the border.  The agent asked if the tailgate was unlocked, and she opened it up to take a look around.

In the other car, when they crossed the border in Montana, they pulled up to the agent and after Erin rolled her window down, Ellery yelled, “I want a sucker!”  Ellery likes drive-thrus!

Welcome to North Dakota!

The oil rigs and all other things oil-related expanded greatly in northern North Dakota.  Just about every pickup truck we met had an oilfield logo on the side.

Four distinct drilling areas on this one hill

During our drive from Moose Jaw all the way to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, I rode with KK.  He is a handy person to be driving with when you have a question about an animal, or a crop, or oil related activity.  He is a wealth of knowledge!

One interesting KK observation was that the land in Saskatchewan and North Dakota is covered with “prairie potholes”.  These depressions in the land are natural collection points for small bodies of water.  About the size of a standard pond, or maybe even smaller.  These indentions were left by the glaciers when they receded.  These potholes are everywhere and are a major habitat for ducks.  We would always see ducks splashing around in every single pothole we saw.

Prairie Pothole in North Dakota

As an Oklahoman, the interesting thing is that there are very few natural farm ponds there.  Every pond will have a dam on one end of it.  It was so unusual to see these natural ponds.

While driving through Williston, we took a wrong turn and took the opportunity to stop at a Pilot Travel Center.  A very American place to stop for gas and food.  The man at the food counter upsold me into buying an entire pizza (I saved a lot of money) and we all agreed he was the friendliest truck stop employee we’d ever seen.

KK also browsed their souvenir selection and got himself a Bakken Oilfield t-shirt.  He will be looking good in that back home.

We took our pizza to the parking lot and had a picnic, while being entertained with seagulls who were very interested in our food.

It’s difficult to see in this picture, but in the background there are at least 3 wells where the natural gas is being burned off.  KK does not believe they have enough gas pipeline servicing the Bakken, so a lot of it is just burned off as a by-product of the oil.

Our other group got to drive through Montana, and they honestly had the road all to themselves.  Very few cars, but loads of wildlife.  Erin estimates they easily saw several hundred deer and pronghorn.

They even got a chance to make a quick side trip over to North Dakota so they can mark that state off their list!

Scott and Ellery reach North Dakota!

Our group made it to the North Unit of TRNP and stopped in at the Visitor Center.  This building was essentially a mobile home.  We made a comment to the park rangers about their building and they said they had a very nice facility, even nicer and newer than the center at the South Unit, but it developed structural problems and they demolished it.

TRNP consists of a North Unit and a South Unit, separated by about 80 miles.  The area in between is made up of a national grassland.  We’ve never visited a national park that was setup quite like this before.

Mallory, Marissa and KK at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Bison spotting!

The Park is dominated by its Badlands and the Little Missouri River

Cottonwood trees are shedding their seeds and the “cotton” was thick.

The North Unit mainly consists of a 14 mile out-and-back drive.  We drove with KK to the end of the drive and walked around a little bit.  The final scenic point is where the Little Missouri River turns back and it is a great view.  The Little Missouri used to run north to the Hudson Bay (CANADA!) until the glaciers cut off its path, so it rerouted to its current path.

We made it to the end of the Scenic Drive at TRNP

The kids like to take turns walking in front of us when taking pictures.

We laugh every time.

At this point, KK went his separate way and drove on to meet the other car in Hulett, Wyoming for the evening. He ultimately arrived at the hotel in Hulett about 10 minutes after the rest of the family.  He made good time!

Stephanie, Mallory, Marissa and I were going to be on our own for about the next 48 hours.  We meandered back through the park and checked out a few of the scenic points.

One of the unique features in the park is the presence of quite a few Cannonball Concretions.  These are collections of minerals that formed within rocks.  They’re found worldwide, but they are certainly a curiosity.  We found one that was around 3 feet tall.

Cannonball Concretion

We spent the night in Watford City, north of the Park.  This was an oilfield town for sure.  The hotel where we stayed had signs at every door advising visitors to slip booties over their muddy boots before entering.

Looking forward to another day in Roosevelt National Park tomorrow, while the rest of the group hits attractions like Devils Tower and Mt Rushmore.  Bring on the fun!

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