It’s early evening by the time I get to the Painted Canyon Overlook. The sun is slowly setting and soon she’ll say goodnight and the world will turn dark. I’d broken my time schedule for this Friday even before I left my room at the Ever Spring Inn & Suites in Bismarck in the morning. I’m still tired even though I got a good nights sleep and the fact that I know I’ll have to spend a few hours behind the wheels today doesn’t help.
I’m supposed to be at the overlook around 4-5 PM but it’s already past 7 PM. And that’s without having lunch and the planned coffee break at The Brew in Dickinson. I actually planned to go back there another day but completely forgot. I wouldn’t have found the time anyway so it was probably best that way. But if you’re in the area, I’ve only heard good things about that place. It’s where Theodore Roosevelt himself used to spend a lot of time with a coffeecup.
I remember thinking that it’s “only coffee” and I’m not much of a coffee drinker anyway. Well, not when I’m back home anyways. During my roadtrips, and whenever Starbucks is around, I’m known for constantly having a cup of vanilla latte beside me in the car. I can never resist all those drive thru’s that seems to be everywhere.
Painted Canyon is my first look at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I can’t say for sure but I can imaging that the view from there is one of the most photographed views in the park. Why? The overlook is right beside Interstate 94 and it’s so easy to make a quick stop here.
Here you’ll find a Visitor Center, but unfortunately I’ve arrived just a little too late and it’s closed. I walk up to the viewpoints and marvel at the sight before me. It’s incredible. So beautiful and it seems to go on forever and ever. I take a few photographs and then head back to the car. I can’t stay long because I’m on a mission to catch the sunrise at Wind Canyon. Well, that was my plan anyway.
When I arrive in Medora, the gateway to the national park, I realized that I probably won’t make it to Wind Canyon before the sun has set. I’m faced with the decision of either trying to make it, but the fact that I’d be driving in the park where you can’t drive so fast is what makes me change my mind. I decide to go back to Painted Canyon which will only take me about 13 minutes.
For once, I don’t spend an hour trying to weigh the pros and cons and soon I’m standing at the same viewpoint where I was just a little while ago. The sun is low on the horizon and the world is changing colours. Soon everything is a light pastel pink colour and the clouds are magical to look at. I’ve got my tripod ready to do a time lapse and it’s just absolutely gorgeous.
I’m not completely alone, but almost. I don’t speak to anyone but do exchange looks with a few. A knowing look. We’re all here because of the same reason. To watch the sunset. And what a sunset it turns out to be!
There’s a Painted Canyon Nature Trail in the area but I didn’t know that until long after I’d left North Dakota. But if you decide to go on the 1,1 mile long trail you’ll be able to actually go down into the canyon. I’ve read that there’s quite a few steps to get down there, but the trail is also quite short and people say it’s the most beautiful trail in the state. I’ll have to check it out the next time I’m there.
When I’ve gotten all my photographs, my timelapse and even a few videos – I’m ready to go. Well, to be honest, I’m debating whether to stay for the stars but decide against it as I’m supertired. So I leave, once again, and head towards Medora.
After parking my car outside the Rough Riders Hotel in Medora, I grab my stuff and head inside. The world is now pitch dark outside and I get the feeling that I’m out in the wilderness. Even if Medora is anything but wilderness today. But that’s another story.