Following Theodore Roosevelt

in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt

It all started on Thanksgiving 2012. I was hiking the North Dakota badlands with some buddies when we came to Theodore Roosevelt’s Elk Horn Ranch. TR took refuge at Elk Horn following his departure from politics after both his mother and wife died on the same day. Years later, TR would say his time in North Dakota got him through that difficult period in his life. Had it not been for his time at Elk Horn, he may never have become President of the United States.

My friends and I hiked throughout the North Dakota badlands and in the National Park that bears Theodore Roosevelt’s name. We were able to see for ourselves why the North Dakota Badlands were so important to him.

A month later, my wife and I took our first trip to Grand Canyon National Park. We camped at Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the canyon, and visited the nearby Phantom Ranch. It turns out that Phantom Ranch was once called “Roosevelt’s Ranch” after the ranch’s most famous visitor.

In the summer that followed I saw the Roosevelt Cabins on Lake Crescent where TR stayed when he created Mount Olympus National Monument (which would later become Olympic National Park under TR’s distant cousin, Franklin Roosevelt).

That summer I also visited Mesa Verde and Crater Lake National Parks, both of which were created by Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, following the trip to Mesa Verde, I stayed at the historic Baymont Hotel in Ouray, Colorado that once played host to, you guessed it, Theodore Roosevelt.

By the time I visited Yosemite National Park in the fall I was already aware of this Theodore Roosevelt quote,

There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Over the course of the year I began to feel a connection with this man who, at one time, explored many of the places I was exploring. I never went to a place because of TR, and most often I didn’t even know the connection until I got there. Yet time and time again, I felt as though I just missed him.

For a year I followed in his footsteps. And when I think of all the people who’s footsteps I could have been following, I can think of no one that I’d rather it have been than Theodore Roosevelt.


  1. Wilderness Dave says:

    It’s kinda hard NOT to run into TR out in the western states. His fingerprints and footsteps grace much of the wild west as it was his nature to roam and explore wild country. I believe him to be one of the last great men to serve as president. I think holding office ruined him though…he was a better individual before his presidency than while in office. Politics can ruin even the greatest of men…

  2. I am a great lover of TR and the more I read about him, the more I admire. We Americans have much to thank him for in the preservation of wilderness and instilling within the American consciousness the importance of keeping wild things wild and that seeking adventure is a noble pursuit. When speaking of wilderness, this is one of my favorite quotes: “It was here that the romance of my life began.”
    Nice article, David. I hope to visit the Badlands before my romance with life ends.

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