Friday, September 14, 2018

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - South Side and other things

We woke up at the campground on the north side of the park - weird feeling for two who don't normally do the campground thing - and took a walk to see the river we were camped near.


Before we headed out we took advantage of the trash, water and sewer dump stations that we had 'paid' for - yet another foreign entity x 3.

On our way out of the park there was a traffic jam.

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They were in no hurry and neither were we.

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Eventually they did find their way off of the road and on a different path to their destination.

Between the north and south sides of the park just off of the main highway is an overlook that is actually part of the park.

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When we stopped we discovered we had picked up a hitchhiker at the campground.  He is most likely an underwing moth although he wasn't interested in showing us his under-wings.

The overlook is called painted canyon and is a pretty lookout point.



Felt like you could see for miles.



The south side of the park seems to be more hiking focused with what seemed to us to be less pull-outs and ways to stop and view things.

We were not in a hiking mood so we focused our efforts more on the prairie dogs.

Cute little boogers were fun to watch.

Though they were quite comfortable with all of the people and cars and rarely paid us any mind.

What?  I'm just relaxing here in my hole!

It was a warm day so we zipped through the loop and then headed out to our anticipated boondocking spot by a lake hoping to cool off somewhat.

Our view at the lake.  We parked next to a tree to get some shade on Annie and then put our chairs in Annie's shadow to get some shade on ourselves.

We wandered around and saw a Chickweed Moth,

several Crescent


this Long-horned bee - Melissodes tepaneca

and have you ever wondered why they call them 'Cliff Swallows'?   It was pretty neat to see so many holes.

Well, that concludes our time in North Dakota, our 48th contiguous state.

Onward down the road we roam but before that here's a brief video from Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - North

We were driving right by it and neither of us had been to it.  Not to mention, we had our trusty Volunteer National Parks Pass which covers our entry fee.  Those seemed like good enough reasons to end our time in North Dakota with a visit TRNP. 

Annie sits on the side of the road as we walk around on high looking down toward where we will be going.

Since we approached from the north we started our tour with a drive through the northern part of the park.  The scenes were quite different from those we had been seeing for some time now so we'll just share the photos and not say too much.  By the way, you may notice the persistent 'haze'.  It is smoke from all of the fires burning in Canada and further west.

Enjoy... the North Side.



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And now... The Talking.

We enjoyed our drive through the north side of TRNP and had plans to head to the nearby National Forest for a night or two of boondocking. 

At some point on our drive though Nicole noticed that Annie was pulling super hard to the left and kept wanting to run off of the road.  Then after we returned to her at an overlook stop we noticed that she would no longer drive herself.  Guess we should explain that.  Based on how we have her set it is normal for Annie to drive herself at a few mph without us even touching the gas pedal but she wasn't budging without depression of the gas pedal. 

She was 'drive-able' though.  So, we continued at our typical super slow pace, taking in the views and discussing possible reasons for her behavior.  At some point decided that it would be nice to turn the vent on and bring in some cool outside air.  That is when a 'hot' smell became obvious and we pulled over to discover the right front rim was super-heated.  We had our answer... front caliper was locked. 

Everything was too hot to touch so it only made sense that we make some dinner and enjoy the last light in the park as the sun was setting.  After that, we proceeded to bleed that front caliper.  Although typically when there is air in the brake lines you will get a spongy pedal... Annie is in no way typical and our pedal was still firm. 

It would be hard to tell if it was air in the brake lines (there was some air in it) or the cooling down of all of the metal parts that released that caliper but it did release.  Still, it was dark and we did not think it wise at this point to head off down a dirt road into the forest to find our boondocking spot.  So, we did something that is way outside the box for us... we stayed in the park's campground for the night.  

Goodnight from the north side of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Three Refuge Piece

Following our stay in the experimental forest we toured three more Wildlife Refuges in North Dakota.  It was still a bit warm during the daytime and we were not visiting during a high migration period so sightings were somewhat limited.  However, as usual, we enjoyed the drives as they get us off of the main road, allow stops and permit us to view and take it all in at our own pace.

First up was J Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge.

We hadn't even left the visitor center parking lot when these two crawled up.

Ambystoma mavortium - the Western Tiger Salamander

Not sure we expected to see such a thing in North Dakota.  We were both a bit surprised to have such a neat sighting.

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As we approached the auto tour route we spotted a couple of young Red-tailed Hawks.


J. Clark has two auto tour drives.  One that is twenty two miles long and another that is five.  We opted for the 22 mile long drive.

Right away we started seeing ponds loaded with birds - meaning, we knew they were birds but identifying them at this distance was difficult for us.

Best we could tell we had lots of Coots, Pied-billed and Eared Grebe and various Ducks.


Some of the water was dried up but we spotted a few Killdeer running around feeding in the mud.

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Birds. Birds. Birds!

We managed a slightly closer sighting of a White-faced Ibis

and enjoyed lots of open prairie views.

We had spotted several Red Admiral Butterflies over the last few weeks but until now they eluded our camera.

The Vanessa atalanta is a beautiful butterfly.

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We spotted this little dog who also spotted us.

As we continued to drive we came up on a small body of water that seemed to have a lot of movement in it.

**NOTE of Correction:  We should point out that a couple of posts back we stated that we had seen Beaver at the Audubon NWR.  As one reader pointed out however this was a prairie region and very few trees are in that area.  Therefore, the critters we saw were more likely to be Nutria than Beaver. **

We saw this cute pair (a mama and baby Nutria) and several others swimming

and enjoying some snacks pond-side.

There were so many dark figures with long tails running around and swimming in this area

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that it wasn't until we got these on the computer that we realized this little one was not a Nutria.

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It is a tough ID without better photos but in looking at all of the ones we snapped we are going with American Mink for this little fella.

On the last leg of our drive through J. Clark Salyer NWR we also spotted some Fritillary Butterflies.

It appears that we have a female Aphrodite Fritillary Butterfly here.

This one too is an Aphrodite Fritillary - Speyeria aphrodite.  The differences within the same species can sure make things confusing.


Next up, a drive through Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge.

We are not sure what possessed us to add a drive to and through Des Lacs NWR to the already long day at J. Clark Salyer but we did.

It is also possible that we were very tired by this point and we may or may not have driven the entire nineteen mile route.  We really do not know.  Either way, from what we did see, it was a nice drive and the first one that we have done in the early evening.  So, the temperature was quite pleasant.

Solitary Sandpiper - living up to its name...

It was nice to see the beautiful Cedar Waxwing Bird again and to get a pretty decent photo.

Some of this drive was down more at water level and some of it was quite high above.  So, spotting birds and other critters was not always easy.

A Western Grebe - LIFER!  We spotted him from way up high and for only seconds before he went underwater and did not surface in our view again.


As we said, we are not sure we did the whole drive at Des Lacs.  Later we thought that somehow we might have entered at the wrong point.  So, not too many sightings but an enjoyable evening in a beautiful area none-the-less.


Last up on our wildlife refuge triple play is Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge. 

A nice scenic start.

Before we even reached the visitor center we spotted a male Northern Harrier.  We have seen a lot of females before but this is our first male sighting.  Some have nicknamed them the 'gray ghost'.

The beautiful trend of wide open prairie grasslands and potholes full of water continues!

We were being watched.

Spotted a good sized nest with 'guardian' just above and then headed out of the refuge.

Although we did not see a lot of new things at these three refuges we did enjoy our drives through them.  Time to move on down the road.  Until next time...