Bison statue at the Archway, Kearney, NE
Recently I took an epic road trip out west from Illinois. You zoom over the flat prairie of Illinois, cross the Father of Waters into the rolling countryside of Iowa and then hit the muddy Missouri River. After that, you begin the gradual climb across the Great Plains to the Rockies. Once you pass the Missouri River, you’re traveling on the Great Platte River Road through the valley of the Platte River that has been so important to the growth of this country.
The Platte River valley is a naturally formed highway across the wide open plains of Nebraska. Its flood plain and valley are wide and broad, indicative of it’s winding channels and fairly shallow streams. The great herds of bison thundered across this land, followed by the Native Americans who used this animal for sustenance and livelihood. Once the white man arrived on the continent, the Platte River Valley was used by fur hunters to move furs from the Rockies to St. Louis on the Mississippi. From there, furs went down to New Orleans and to the great cities of Europe to meet the fashion needs of high society. Once the United States’ independence was won, emigrants started to trickle west. Then a variety of factors made the valley a bustling place. The discovery of gold in California drew people to venture through harsh country and hostile conditions for the chance at wealth. Legislation drew families west to seek out land of their own so they could make their mark on the country. Some groups, such as the Mormons, used the river road to seek their own place to worship. The valley still shows remnants of the trails emigrants used to travel – the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the California Trail and the Bozeman Trail.
Today, US Interstate Highway 80 (I-80) follows the Platte River valley letting truckers, vacationers and residents follow in historic footsteps. Instead of flatboat or oxcart, the asphalt ribbon of I-80 drives commerce and exploration in this modern age. My travel through this historic corridor was to reach further destinations – Colorado, Wyoming and Montana – which seem to be areas that calm my soul and help me re-focus on what’s really important in life. But while I was just passing through, I could still enjoy some of the sights of the valley. During my drive, I stopped at a rest stop and looked out across the broad valley, now filled with productive farms. I skirted through flurries of fluff from the groves of cottonwoods that line the Platte River and its tributaries. I visited the Archway which depicts the history of the Great Platte River Road from the earliest days to today. Finally I ended up at my first day’s destination, Ogallala, Nebraska. After some dinner, I visited Boot Hill the original graveyard for this cattle drive terminus and caught an awesome Great Plains sunset before retiring for the night.
Enjoy the images below. More to follow as I head into Nebraska and visit some friendly places!
July 8, 2016
Landform shot on a flight from San Diego to Chicago
A friend and I were recently chatting about how – in the hurly-burly rush of our daily lives – we miss the beauty around us. Before the conversation was out of my mind, I came across these images I took some years ago while traveling to San Diego on business. Yes, these are random shots of the American West, various sites and places unknown, but I began to wonder how many others noticed the same thing? Did anyone else notice the change from desert, to mountains to plains? I don’t know, but I hope I wasn’t the only one.
Much of what I flew over that trip was “fly-over country” not something particularity interesting or much to take note of as some people think. I challenge this idea. While the scenes passing beneath me 30,000 feet below are forbidding in some ways, potentially boring to others, they were regions where Native Americans lived and thrived while also being obstacles that our fore bearers conquered in making this country. These lands offered opportunity and freedom. Pioneers hoping for more opportunity and better lives for their children crossed these regions – sometime conquering them, sometimes losing all they had and sometimes even giving their lives. These lands helped shape who we are as Americans but I fear many people have forgotten that fact.
You may look at the image above ro of those in the gallery and think that the views are interesting, but it’s just rock, forest, and rivers. Noting interesting – they will be there in 10 year, 100 years probably even 1000 years. But they will never again look as I’ve captured them here. Whether it is the change of the seasons, the angle of the sun, even the flight path of the aircraft makes all the difference. What I’ve captured won’t be captured again – at least not in my lifetime. And I want to share this once in a lifetime opportunity with you to enjoy the images and see the beauty that I saw.
I want you to be open to taking that short amount of time in you crazy busy days to notice the beauty that’s all around us to see.
March 13, 2016
Mt. Blackburn (left), Mt. Drum (forefront) and Mt Wrangell at the head of the Wrangell Range
Driving Highway 1 from Anchorage on the way to Valdez, Alaska is a pretty solitary drive. Stark but beautiful landscapes surround you as you travel along the road. I was motoring along in April yet the temperatures were fairly nice requiring me to only have a hoodie on against a very light chill. As I’m driving along heading into Glenallen looking for a gas station to fill up, I start to see peaks in the distance. Hiding and peeking from time to time, the mountains don’t come into view until you pass a crest in the road and it drops away into the distance. There before you is the start of the Wrangell Range with Mt’s Drum, Wrangell and Blackburn displayed in full glory.
The picture I’ve included at the top doesn’t do the view justice. The three mountains wreathed in white snow and ice sit majestically looking like you could just drive up to them. Along the side of the road, is a sign that shares that these are not just mountains but also volcanoes, with Wrangell being the biggest volcano in Alaska. There are also signs – from time to time – of geothermal activity at Wrangell, none of which I witnessed. I had always thought volcanoes existed in the western part of Alaska and along the Aleutian chain, but the friction of the continental and Pacific plates are at work here as much as they are in Washington State or California, so it makes sense. What is interesting is that unlike the explosive stratovolcanoes elsewhere in Alaska or in the Cascades, the Wrangell volcanoes are more like the ones in Hawaii, being built over time by numerous layers of highly fluid lava.
If you’re ever up in Alaska and find yourself on the road from Anchorage to Valdez, take some time to admire the beauty of the Wrangell range and if time allows, to visit the Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
Panorama image of the Wrangell Range from a turnoff outside of Glenallen, Alaska. Click on image for full size.
All images taken with Samsung Galaxy S5
July 7, 2015