Two weeks ago I shared our adventures in the South Unit
of TRNP. It's time now for the North Unit. We only spent one night there, but still managed to get in two adventures, at least as much as we did in the South Unit (it helped that our time in the North Unit was unhampered by rain--the weather was beautiful). For more about the park in general, see the previous post.
We left the South Unit on a chilly morning, but the day heated up during the 60-mile drive north. On the road into the Park, we had a minor delay, the local version of a traffic jam.
|A herd of 15 or 20 cows and calves and a bull or two (young ones? Not sure why these were with the females) ambled across the road, supremely indifferent to the inferior beings in their metal boxes.|
We found a campsite in the attractive Juniper Campground (in a peaceful cottonwood grove; I don't recall seeing any junipers...). After a trip to town for supplies and a nap (and some serious time spent cleaning our bikes, which had gotten rather nasty what with the rain and dirt roads), we mounted up for a late-afternoon ride.
|Juniper campground is in that grove of cottonwoods.|
The park road offered a perfect 19-mile round trip ride from the campground, and almost no traffic on this weekday in late August. I think we saw about 6 cars the whole time we were out. Of course, for most people it was dinner time. For us, it was the perfect time for riding and photos.
|The little viewing pavilion was a 1930s CCC project.|
Even right along the road the badlands geology was on show.
|Layers with varying degrees of erosion resistance, as well as different mineral make-ups, create striped slopes and platforms.|
|The "Cannonballs" are accretions, but I missed the explanation (if any) of why and how they formed in this cliff.|
Low afternoon light over the river and the bluffs provided the motivation for timing our ride just before sunset.
|The Little Missouri River marks the line between Mountain Time and Central Time right here. South Unit runs on the former, North Unit on the latter. The parts of the North Unit across the river are wilderness, so no one cares what time it is there.|
Next morning we made an early start to get in a 4-mile hike before it got hot. This proved to be a great choice--the trail routed us through a bit of everything, from coulees (canyons) to badlands to the rim. We had wanted to do a much longer hike/bike combo, but with a long drive ahead of us, decided we couldn't afford the time. Another one to come back to some day! Actually, I'd like to do an overnight loop through the wilderness section of the park someday.
Walking up the coulee, with some really interesting layers of mud/mudstone on the walls above us. The dark grey is something that clearly oozes and slides with every rain, or nearly.
The is petrified wood in the badlands as well.
|This was well above the trail, but in any case, however tempting, good people don't steal pieces of petrified wood.|
We had noticed as we hiked that many of the trail markers appeared to be posts with plain metal pieces attached. We finally figured out why the markers were blank and the posts so smooth.
|All that hair gives bison itchy faces. And the post are perfect for scratching those itches... even if it means leaving some of that hair behind.|
We broke out onto the high prairie after a couple of miles.
The road crossing was a popular spot. This reminded me of something... ;)
|Wild turkeys. Not that different from British rock stars?|
On through more badlands. I wouldn't want to do this trail when it was wet (as we learned in the South Unit, the mud turns ice-rink slick).
And then we dropped back down to the car, to clean up and drive 6 or 7 hours to Minnesota and a new kind of terrain.
|This was really a beautifully designed trail, and hiking it in the recommended direction early in the morning was perfect.|
Next stop in a week or two: Lake Superior--my first Great Lake.
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
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