2020 Montana Road Trip: Day 2 – Bismarck & Theodore Roosevelt National Park

And so continues our pandemic road trip. It was a pretty cold morning as we packed up and headed out. A lot of this trip is frontloaded with the driving, so it was going to be another long day of driving. Luckily it was broken up by 2 stops we had planned.

First up, the capital of North Dakota – Bismarck. Definitely not as sprawling as Fargo. By all appearances it seemed to be a nice little town, kind of a mix of Ann Arbor and Lansing.

After looking at the slew of restaurants we could eat at, we settled on the Laughing Sun Brewery. Craft beer and BBQ, what more could you ask for? This place was really cool. Great aesthetic, and the BBQ delicious. I admittedly did not have high expectations, but that was a mistake. Definitely some of the better brisket I’ve had. Ben got a Brisket BBQ plate and I just got a chopped brisket sandwich. One thing that stood out to me was how the brisket sandwich was prepared. Normally restaurants basically just chop the brisket until it’s basically shredded; however, here, it was pretty sizable roughly chopped chunks of brisket for the sandwich – I really enjoyed the texture and the flavor.

The beer was also delicious. I got a Sinister which was a Belgian style strong ale. I was impressed enough to buy a 6 pack to take home to try more flavors. It seemed like most of the beers on tap were sours; maybe it was just the season for sours, maybe it was just what they specialized in. Either way, I bought some cans to try them at home.

After we re-energized, we continued on. We didn’t have time to sightsee, we had a lot of ground to cover and one more stop.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a huge park. It is comprised of a North Unit, Elk Ranch, and the South Unit. We only visited the South Unit. I did not know it was primarily a Badlands area. Despite having been to Badlands National Park, I was surprised by how different these two areas were. While the Badlands in South Dakota are mostly an arid landscape, the Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park were teeming with flora and fauna.

Playing around with the panorama function on Ben’s iPhone

There were prairie dog towns everywhere.

Bison wandered in herds, and even blocked the road on one occasion. They all seemed to be tagged, and were pretty chill. There are signs everywhere saying stay 25 feet away from bison at all times, but that didn’t stop others from getting real close. Thankfully, I had a decent zoom lens so I could keep my distance. There was an occasion where we were trying to go to a trail head, and a herd of bison were all over it and on either side of the road to the parking lot. We decided not to go hiking on that trail.

After spending more time than we anticipated at TRNP, we continued on our way to Downstream Campground in Montana. It seems this area was built during the great depression (as ordered by FDR) to dam the Missouri river to better control the water and also use the water for irrigation. Everything about getting there was very remote.

Fort Peck & Downstream Recreation Area
Nearby town for groceries

When we got there we made some noodles using our JetBoils. I was impressed how well it worked. Unfortunately we had to pack it in early, and didn’t get to enjoy the full fire because it started to rain.

As of this writing, it’s still raining. Looks like it’ll clear up the next few days and around Glacier National Park, so I’m not too worried. It was, however, a huge pain to pack up this morning. Here’s to 6 more hours of driving.

I imagine the next couple days will be lumped together, depending on how our backpacking plans work out. I look forward to posting some cool pictures from the hikes though!


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