Leaving Bismarck, we continued our journey west along I-94. After a while we left Little Missouri National Grassland. The topography gradually changes to rolling hills covered with crops. Among the extensive farmlands, a few working oil pumps appeared. Then badlands started to take over. Soon we entered the Mountain Time Zone.
We caught a glimpse of the painted valley in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The rock formations have bands of red, grey, tan, and other colors. Exit 27 was closed due to road construction, so we had to take exit 24 instead. There was a small line in front of the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park at Medora. And the parking lot at the visitor center was packed. We couldn’t stop but to drive up the hills towards the campground more than 5 miles away. Roadwork was conducted along the way. When we finally got to the entrance to the campground, there was a traffic jam. Several buffalo were grazing by the road. A man stood outside of his vehicle taking photos of the buffalo that was so close to him. We passed the vehicles and entered the Cottonwood Campground.
We were able to reserve a site for just one night. To our disappointment, our pull through campsite was too small. It was right by the road and very short and narrow. Stephen managed to park the truck and the trailer off the road in a crooked line (Forgot to take a photo of it!). But we couldn’t unhitch the trailer because it would be very difficult to hitch it back. After settling down, we walked to the Little Missouri River by the campground. It was a hot and grey day. The sight of yellow trees by the river and on the hills told us autumn was around the corner. Little Missouri River was shallow and narrow. It might be wider not long ago from the wet flood zone. Red jasper pebbles cover the beach. Small piles of coal scatter on the beach. We scared a ring-necked pheasant away on our way back. President Roosevelt once had a ranch on both sides of the Little Missouri River. His years in North Dakota had a deep impact on his devotion of nature preservation.
The big poop near the restrooms signaled that buffalo were on the campground. It would be cool to see a buffalo right outside of our trailer. We walked to the entrance and saw several buffalo were grazing on the field. We kept our distance and watched them. The rock formations on the badlands resemble the scenery of New Mexico. But the landscape is more scenic with lush grasses, bushes and trees. The talk about nocturnal wildlife given by the ranger was informative. A small herd of buffalo were grazing in the morning sun by the entrance of the campground when we departed. The young buffalo stared at us. Some adult buffalo raised their heads watching us and then lowered their heads grazing again. They probably are used to the presence of human beings. Tons of prairie dogs ran about along the road in the park. Some of them were chubby. Huge machines were working on the road and we followed the pilot vehicle down the road.
Badlands gave way to prairie covered with brown grass and sage brush, and we were in Montana. Green and yellow crops were grown on the extensive farmlands. Rolls of hay scatter on the fields. Then rolling hills took over where cows wandered around. Suddenly, the morning sun shone on a herd of pronghorn on the hill. A beautiful scene on the road! Yellow wild coneflowers blooming on both sides of the highway also made our drive more pleasant. At Glendive, we passed Yellowstone River. Originating from Yellowstone National Park, this river is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states. I love it more because it is a wild river. Yellowstone River traveled with us by the highway. There are red capped hills near Terry. Those are clinkers developed above the burning coal bed. Scientists believe that the coal has been burning in Eastern Montana for at least four million years. After a long drive, we finally arrived at 7th Ranch RV Campground at Garryowen. Wyoming is not very far away.