Our adventures in Theodore Roosevelt National Park!
I’ll be honest with you… when mapping our route, I totally forgot about Theodore Roosevelt National Park. So, in our rough plan I had us leaving the Badlands and driving east across South Dakota. Oops!
I’m not sure when I remembered but we knew we would be able to easily tweak our plan and instead head Northwest from the Badlands and hit the park before driving east on I-94 across basically the entire state of North Dakota. It was a LONG day!
When leaving the Badlands, we stopped in Rapid City for some food and then continued on for an hour or so before finding BLM land on the Belle Fourche Reservoir for the night.
Just as a heads up, this is a great place if you are looking for a free camping spot between the two parks (or in general). It’s not far off the freeway, they have a ton of space for available spots and even had a pit toilet.
The next morning we headed into the tiny town of Belle Fourche and went to a super cute coffee shop – The Green Bean Coffee shop.
At that point we had about three hours left to drive, so we hit the road.
But, two hours into the drive we needed to move our butts, so we pulled into the next town, found their high school and unloaded our weights and bars in the parking lot.
After an hour of lifting and a quick metcon (high intensity workout) we shoved everything back in the van and set off on the final hour of driving.
Shortly after we started driving we noticed some intensely dark clouds ahead of us and we could tell we were driving into some weather.
A few minutes later we had a crazy ten minutes of driving in severe rain and wind! The van was a-rocking, it was intense and I was very happy that Joe was driving, I think I would have pulled over.
We had a quick stop at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center for a sticker purchase and to ask about camping.
At that point we realized we had driven into a National Park on the Saturday of a holiday weekend. When you’re constantly on the road you lose track of things (like the date). Luckily, the ranger was super helpful and gave us a number of options for camping, so we headed into the town of Madera to check it out.
After walking around the town we grabbed a quick bite to eat at The Farmhouse before driving out to a forest service campground.
It was full, very full! Crapola! Now what…
We had looked at some of the other options the ranger had given us and many were full or very pricey.
So, as a last resort, we decided to check out Scoria Pit (sounds dreamy right?), which was recommended by fellow full timer (or friend Will) and was listed on freecamping.com.
Pulling down the dirt road toward Scoria Pit, we realized the land was super close to the Petrified Forest Loop Trail which was recommended to us by the folks at MicroAdventureFamily, and something we really wanted to run.
At Scoria Pit there were only a few camping spots. And one was taken by a large fifth wheel, and the other by a small station wagon.
But, luck was on our side and the station wagon, owned by Norah and her travel buddy Lou the dog, were happy to share their site. Score!
Norah was just passing through on her way home to Portland and was a very interesting person. The people you meet on the road are just fantastic! That’s worth it all by itself.
Despite the name (Scoria Pit), the area was beautiful!
Our camp spot sat a top a hill and overlooked Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the National Grassland.
That night we witnessed a beautiful sunset and an eerie lightning storm off in the distance before settling in with a movie. Creature comforts!
The internet connection here was also spot on and we were able to work for a few hours Sunday morning before heading over to the trailhead.
Petrified Forest Loop
After both of us completely bonking on our run through the Badlands National Park on Friday, we were both apprehensive about how this run would feel, but we geared up and headed out for the 10.4 mile Petrified Forest Loop.
About a mile and a half in we went through the first section of the Petrified Forest, and if you have never seen a petrified tree it is pretty interesting.
They look just like old dead tree stumps and logs, but upon a closer inspection they are rocks and even have crystals! It’s quite amazing!
The next 6 miles or so were prairie running, where we only saw one buffalo and a handful of people, but we had some nice views of the badlands in the park.
At around mile 8 you re-enter another part of the petrified forest. There were more trees in this section so we took our time here making sure we got a good look at everything!
Both of us were pleased that this run felt a million times better than Friday (in Badlands National Park), it must have been the heat that made Friday so rough!
We finished our 10.4 miles and set off for a luxury night in a hotel! GASP! We were proud to realize we had not stayed in a hotel since the end of May!
Our visit to the area ended with a quick overnight in Dickinson, ND which involved working, a Harry Potter marathon on TV, a hot tub, Qdoba, and full size showers!
Next up, we continue East to Moorhead, MN to see our friend Karla for a few days before a quick trip home to Seattle for a long weekend (via airplane).