The Last Frontier: Exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Garrick Hodge/MDN Pictured is an overview of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Garrick Hodge/MDN Pictured is an overview of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

WATFORD CITY — The Little Missouri River swivels its way around exposed layers of rocks. Visitors from around the country come to Theodore Roosevelt National Park to take in the sight.

A colorful canyon showcasing intricate rock formations with splashes of foliage.

I’d wake up at 7 a.m. every morning if it was to see this view.

A Monday afternoon and the North Unit of the renown national park wasn’t buzzing with tourists. It was peaceful and just how I wanted my one-day trip to be to conclude my summer.

As a sports reporter for the Minot Daily News, this week marks the beginning of fall with high school sports starting up across North Dakota. The slow summer nights are over and will soon be replaced with phone calls of football scores that need to be recorded.

Garrick Hodge/MDN : A bison roams around Monday at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Garrick Hodge/MDN : A bison roams around Monday at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Time speeds up. Meanwhile, in this moment overlooking a natural wonder, time was nonexistent.

Until, the view was interrupted by my vibrating phone. Reality resumed. A message from my younger sister venting about a rough day at work after getting into an argument with a customer.

Somehow, more than 1,000 miles away, I still managed to get pulled into her drama. She works as a campground activities director in Grand Haven, Michigan. A campground I also used to do maintenance for as a summer job in college before moving to Minot.

I could sense her frustration, having been in similar situations before.

“Putt putt (golf),” she said was the problem. “Some grandpa came and took their (membership) card, then they came back for it and we were like ‘Uh, we already gave that back to you.’ Blah, blah, blah… long story. I don’t like people.”

Garrick Hodge/MDN  A set of animal footprints are found near the Buckhorn Trail at Theodore Roosevelt National Park Monday.

Garrick Hodge/MDN A set of animal footprints are found near the Buckhorn Trail at Theodore Roosevelt National Park Monday.

It’s amazing how the smallest things can irrationally make people angry, and when they are on vacation nonetheless.

Not knowing how to respond back to my sister, I just snapped a photo. Rolling hills with jutting overhangs masked by a camouflage of trees in the crevasses, and I added the caption, “On a road trip.”

It worked. The subject of the conversation abruptly changed.

I didn’t plan on documenting my trip with photos because sports editor Garrick Hodge came with me and that was his job. But, for some reason, I just kept sending my sister more photos anyways.

One snapshot of a compelling rock cluster. Another at the River Bend Overlook glancing down on the river. That was followed by a similar photo at a different angle.

Garrick Hodge/MDN   A bison lays around Monday at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Garrick Hodge/MDN A bison lays around Monday at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

“That’s pretty!” she wrote.

At the turnaround point of the scenic drive, I sent what I thought was going to be my last picture to her: The money shot of the Little Missouri River meandering through the wilderness area at Oxbow Overlook.

That, however, was outdone on the drive back through.

At the start of the scenic drive, Hodge and I were greeted by a lone bison with his back turned to the road. When we returned, the bison was still in the same spot.

Determined to get a better picture than the back of the bison, we decided to wait out the majestic creature. From the safety of my car of course.

Ten minutes or so went by and nothing. The lethargic bison wasn’t moving. Another car, which was also taking part in the stakeout, had enough and drove off. A motorcycle did the same.

The engine revs caught the bison’s attention and it slowly rotated its head. A somewhat better angle, but we wanted more and got what we asked for. The bison eventually sat down and Garrick started snapping away.

I got out my phone and sent yet another picture to my sister. A behind the scenes shot of Hodge going trigger happy with his camera when the bison started to roll around in the dirt.

A memorable event captured to be remembered forever. Technology is a wonderful thing.

But, there is nothing like getting away from it all and taking in the world around you as well.

The bison got up and returned to its feet. Then, just like when Hodge and I first saw it, the bison turned away from us. A fitting sign that it was time to go.

Farewell to my summer.

This is the opinion of Alex Eisen. He covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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