The campers keep the luxury theme going with grilled bananas stuffed with chocolate and marshmallows. And they’re willing to work for a cool treat: One afternoon, two campers hold down the blender base while the others crank. The sweet, berry smoothies are worth the sweat and curious stares from the neighbors. "I think smoothies taste better when you have to work for them, " Beth says as she finishes her drink.
As the last night closes in, the campers are comfortable enough to shut off their lanterns and enjoy hundreds—lno, thousands—of stars lacing the wide, black night. The only sounds are the meandering Little Missouri River and tents stirring in the wind.
In the morning, as Beth disassembles her tent, she gasps and yells, "Christopher! " She holds up a rain canopy that had been laying under the tent for two nights.
Before she can get too upset, Chris directs her attention across the river. A Lonely George is taking long, slow sips from the river, his heavy beard dragging across the water’s surface. He raises his head and plods slowly across the river toward the campsite. Reaching the bank, he takes a lengthy look at the campers—probably looking for the impressive kitchen he’d heard about, they later surmised—and veers around the site.
The crew watches in silence as the bison departs. Two days ago, they would have run for protection in the restrooms. Now, with a newfound faith in camping and themselves, they follow the bison across the prairie and head home.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT NATIONAL PARK South Unit information: 701/623-4466. North Unit information: 701/842-2333 (www.nps.gov/thro). MEDORA AREA Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation (800/633-6721; www.medora.com). HORSEBACK RIDES AT PEACEFUL VALLEY RANCH Neil and Laura Tangen, Shadow Country Outfitters (701/623-4568). CAMPING GEAR Thanks to Scheels All Sports in Bismarck for outfitting our campers by special arrangement. To find rental gear near your vacation destination, try these sources:
Ask local Convention & Visitors Bureaus or tourism offices about nearby outfitters.
Check whether your state’s universities have outdoor recreation departments that rent gear to the public.
Search the web for "rental camping gear" to find local outfitters and those who will ship rental gear to either your home or your camping destination.