W is for Wildlife – #atozchallenge

There are not many better things on a back road trip than running into unexpected wildlife. There is an abundance of birds and animals to be discovered on the road.  For me, my camera is always at the ready for the chance meeting of some interesting animal or bird.

Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT

One such incident happened on a gravel road near Dell, Montana.  I was on the lookout for bison as I drive along Ted Turner’s massive bison ranch.  While stopped to look I heard a strange bird call that I had never heard and shortly thereafter a pair of large birds came zipping by.  I got some shots, but wasn’t sure what I had until I got to the hotel later that night and discovered they were a pair of Sandhill Cranes, my first ever sighting of these glorious birds.

Sandhill Cranes near Cecilia, KY
A pair of Sandhill Cranes at sunset near Cecilia, KY

Just a few years later in my own state of Kentucky I was able to track down a migration of 1000s of these magnificent birds.  I actually came close to walking among their huge flock and they were flying all around me.  Words can’t explain the awe I had.

These birds migrate north back to their homes in Michigan and Wisconsin and fly through Kentucky in late January.  They stop in the bounteous cornfields to eat the leftovers that remained after harvest.

1000s of sandhill cranes converse on a field near Cecilia, KY
Sandhill Cranes take flight
Sandhill Cranes fly over Cecilia, KY

Chance encounters are always a thrill.  On a morning drive in Grand Teton National Park on a snowy morning in March 2013, I caught a fox leaping in the snow out of the corner of my eye.  The lovely animal stopped and stared at me as I sought to nab a shot.

Fox on Snow in Grand Teton National Park
Migrating Snow Geese by the hundreds in Arkansas in February 2017

On another trip earlier this year, we were driving on a backroad in Arkansas when we saw a “field of white” ahead of us.  Turned out to be a massive flock of migrating snow geese.

There could have been 1000s of them here, much the same as the Sandhill Cranes I noted above.  But it was such an unplanned surprise.

Once again, camera was always at the ready, so I was able to get a few shots while still sitting in the van (though we had to go about a mile down the road to turn around and accommodate the photo shoot.

Snow Geese everywhere
A flock of Snow Geese darkens the sky
1000s of snow geese in a small field in central Arkansas

Just like the snow geese, I happened upon a large flock of white pelicans at Andes Lake in South Dakota.  I could see them from a distance and thought they were ducks.

Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight at Andes Lake
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120

Of course, its not always about birds.  There are plenty of opportunities in the high plains to come across America’s fastest animal, the pronghorn antelope.

On trips through Montana and Wyoming I always saw these lovely sleek animals.  Sometimes I got them right on the side of the road.

I did have one lucky trip in 2013 when I was driving through Colorado and saw a mother and her two calves go jaunting through the tall grass.  I was able to get a nice shot with my telephoto lens.

Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Antelope just stared back at me…didn’t run
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.
Antelope on the Run in Wyoming
A big bison poses for me in Yellowstone

The National Parks are always a great place to get some nice wildlife shots.  I have been to Yellowstone three times in the past 5 years and have seen a nice variety of wildlife, but mainly its the bison that roam free that are a thrill.  I was amazed at how huge some of these guys get.  One that walked by my car was at least 7 feet tall.

Bison and calves relax by a lake in Yellowstone
Bison roam freely along the Grand Loop road
Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Buffalo in southern Montana on Ted Turner’s sprawling ranch near Dell, MT
Another Bison in Yellowstone Park
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone

Elk are another great large mammal to look for.  I have seen them in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as well as some of the mountain drives I made.

These are lovely animals.  And, like the bison, are huge.

 

Elk Bull in Sugar City, Idaho
An Elk Bull near Elkton, Oregon
One antlered elk bull on a breeding farm near Archer, ID
An elk was seen roaming the area around Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Deer at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

The great culprit of car accidents and frequent recipient of roadkill awards are deer.  These can be seen along highways everywhere both day and night.

I recently made a trip to Shenandoah National Park and got some very nice shots of deer. I have many more from other places, but these are my best.

Deer jumping away in Shenandoah National Park
Deer looking on
Deer on the road from Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park
Deer grazing in the snow in Lewistown, Montana
Bald Eagle shot taken in mid April 2017 near Cave Run Lake, KY

Sometimes I make trips to find the wildlife myself.  Such was the case recently on a visit to the fish hatchery near Cave Run Lake in Eastern Kentucky.  I was in search of some of the bald eagles that hang around there.  Found one!

There have been more sightings recently of these lovely and regal birds.  I have seen one or two almost every week at Jacobson Park locally and also have been able to see a nest with three adults and two offspring near Taylorsville Lake west of Lexington.

Love these eagles.

Eagle at Jacobson Lake in Lexington
Eagle at Taylorsville Lake, KY
Great Blue Heron

My most favorite wildlife subject is the Great Blue Heron.  These huge birds hang around lakes and rivers in Kentucky and many other places.  I literally have 1000s of photos of them.  Here are a few recent ones from Lexington.

I have photos of these birds in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio and other places as well.

Blue herons in Taylorsville Lake
Blue Heron in Flight over Jacobson Lake in Kentucky
Breakfast time

I could post dozens and dozens of other photos, but I will only add a few other wildlife shots to this post from my travels.

Cormorants in flight over Kentucky
Turkey vulture gathering on a road in central Kentucky
Prairie Dog – Cactus Flats, SD
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flats
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument
Mama Doggie – Cactus Flats, SD
Pelicans in formation over the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, TX
A pelican starts its dive for a meal into the gulf
Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston
Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
A closeup shot of a seagull taken on Bremerton Ferry while crossing the Puget Sound in Washington
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over Lake Superior in Wisconsin
A pair of seagulls glide by in Galveston
Caught some nice seagull shots in Egg Harbor, WI
An osprey in flight
Mountain Goat in the Badlands of South Dakota
A Great Egret relaxes in the swamp near Uncertain, Texas
A red squirrel with a mouthful in Nebraska City, NE
Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
I found a gator in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas
Another Gator in Brazos Bend State Park

(14)

E is for Enjoy the Ride – #atozchallenge

One of my themes in life is to “Enjoy the Ride.” This is how I live my life, but it is especially true when it comes to my wanderlust and desire to travel the back roads of America.

The thrill that I get as I get on the open road with the windows rolled down and the music playing while looking at the trees and fence posts and telephone poles flying by me is amazing. I enjoy the ride every single trip!

A lonely tree decorates US Hwy 2 east of Culbertson, MT
Pine trees along US Route 2 between Floodwood and Grand Rapids, MN
Antelope on the Run in Wyoming

To “Enjoy the Ride” means to look at the trees and the clouds on the horizon, to see the sunsets and the sunrises and to witness animals prancing in the fields. It means to see the birds overhead and sitting on fenceposts along the way.

Looks like a cloud monster ready to fly down and eat someone…
Unique Clouds at 6:30 AM heading east on I-74 in central Indiana

To “Enjoy the Ride” means to witness the grandeur and majesty of the lovely mountains in the west or the rush of the waves in the Atlantic or the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico.

I had to stop and get this shot of the pretty male Mountain Bluebird in Montana
Mountains near the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone
Sagebrush and Mountains in Idaho

Some people get bored driving through the desert and seeing all of the tumbleweeds. What they miss out on is the life that is out there in the desert and the scenery. The giant red rocks or the cactus or even the tumbleweeds. To see these is to Enjoy the Ride.

A Century plant in bloom with the scenic Red Rock country of Sedona, Arizona below. This was taken at the top of Schnebly Hill Road in 1983
Sumoflam at Monument Valley on Utah/Arizona border

To me, the destination is not the reason for the trip. It is all in the trip itself. That is the true defining point of enjoying the ride.

Living the Dream – Enjoying the Ride

(27)

From Cody to Carhenge with a Jackalope in-between

DSC_7698After a marvelous time in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana, it was time to head east through the high deserts of Wyoming and across Nebraska and eventually back home to Kentucky.

Map of trip from Cody to Grand Island, Nebraska
Map of trip from Cody to Grand Island, Nebraska

After a restful evening at the Moose Creek Lodge in Cody, Wyoming, I was ready to hit the road running early the next morning. I had visited Cody in 2013 and so I didn’t spend a lot of time, but I did want to get back over to the Buffalo Bill Center and take some pictures of some of the numerous statues there.

Buffalo Bill Cody statue in Cody, Wyoming
Buffalo Bill Cody statue in Cody, Wyoming
Plaque under Buffalo Bill statue
Plaque under Buffalo Bill statue
Sumoflam with Chief Washakie Statue at buffalo Bill Center
Sumoflam with Chief Washakie Statue at Buffalo Bill Center
Old Cody Theater in downtown Cody, WY
Old Cody Theater in downtown Cody, WY
Courthouse in Cody, WY
Courthouse in Cody, WY

After about 30 minutes in Cody, I was soon heading southeast on Wyoming Highway 120 towards Thermopolis. This is a scenic drive through rolling hills of sage brush.

Wyoming 120 to Meeteetse, WY
Wyoming 120 to Meeteetse, WY
Wyoming 120 heading east
Wyoming 120 heading east
Mountains and Sagebrush as seen from Wyoming 120 - I believe this is Wapiti Ridge
Mountains and Sagebrush as seen from Wyoming 120 – I believe this is Wapiti Ridge and the Absaroka Range
Wyoming 120 a few miles north of Meeteetse, WY
Wyoming 120 a few miles north of Meeteetse, WY

I drove through the town of Meeteetse (Where Chief’s Meet) and then on to Thermopolis.

Welcome to Meeteetse, WY
Welcome to Meeteetse, WY
A cuddly bear on a corner in Meeteetse, WY
A cuddly bear on a corner in Meeteetse, WY
An old Bank building (1901) in Meeteetse
An old Bank building (1901) in Meeteetse

The drive from Meeteetse to Thermopolis is generally through high desert grasslands and hills. This is the vast interior of Wyoming, the open range land of ranchers and of solitude. You’re more likely to encounter more antelope than cars along this route, which was my case (which I did!!)

Hill country in central Wyoming south of Meeteetse
Hill country in central Wyoming south of Meeteetse
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120
Antelope just stared back at me...didn't run
Antelope just stared back at me…didn’t run
One more nice wildlife shot of antelope on WY 120
One more nice wildlife shot of antelope on WY 120

As the drive gets closer to Thermopolis, there are numerous unique rock formations which break the monotony of the seemingly endless sage brush grasslands. These open up to layers of mesas which provide a visual texture for miles. (OK, I lied, there were more cars than antelope – see photos below!)

The Road to Thermopolis
The Road to Thermopolis
Beautiful vista north of Thermopolis, WY on WY 120
Beautiful vista north of Thermopolis, WY on WY 120

Hwy 120 ends in Thermopolis. This town is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. From the south Thermopolis is the gateway to Yellowstone Country, and coming from the north it is the gateway to the Wind River Canyon.

Welcome to Thermopolis, WY
Welcome to Thermopolis, WY
A sign about the Hot Springs of Thermopolis
A sign about the Hot Springs of Thermopolis
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis
Large Sign about the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis
Welcome to the Dinosaur Center
Welcome to the Dinosaur Center
Flags fly in Thermopolis
Flags fly in Thermopolis

Of course, I always keep my eyes peeled for unique things when I drive through a town.  Here are a couple of good ones.

Antler Arch in Thermopolis
Antler Arch in Thermopolis
An old neon sign for the Coachman Inn
An old neon sign for the Coachman Inn

Since I was pushing to get to Carhenge before dusk,I rushed through Thermopolis and proceeded east towards the Wind River Canyon on US Hwy 20.

US Route 20 is actually the longest highway in the US, spanning 3365 miles across the country from Newport, Oregon through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and ending in Massachusetts.

US Route 20 heading to Wind River Canyon and Boysen State Park
US Route 20 heading to Wind River Canyon and Boysen State Park

The Wind River Canyon drive follows US 20 along the Wind River for about 14 miles and into the depths of the canyon, sometimes 2400 deep. It is amazingly scenic as the highway winds it’s way around 34 miles of bends and through Rock carved tunnels, finally opening up near Boysen State Park and ending up in the small town of Shoshoni.

Entering Wind River Canyon on US 20 from Thermopolis
Entering Wind River Canyon on US 20 from Thermopolis
One of many spectacular views of Wind River Canyon
One of many spectacular views of Wind River Canyon

I have been through this canyon twice before and have always been amazed at the engineering genius of gnawing a path through this wild gorge. There are even a number of pullouts that provide unique views up and down the length of the canyon.

One of tunnels tunnels on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon. These tunnels are hewn stone and must have been a massive undertaking.
One of tunnels tunnels on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon. These tunnels are hewn stone and must have been a massive undertaking.
Tunnel #3 on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon
Tunnel #3 on US 20 through the Wind River Canyon
Welcome to Boysen State Park in the midst of the Wind River Canyon
Welcome to Boysen State Park in the midst of the Wind River Canyon
History of the Wind River Canyon
History of the Wind River Canyon

As I left the canyon, the spacious Boysen Reservoir was to my right (looking West) and beyond the lake in the distance were the snow capped peaks of the Wind River Mountain Range. Gannet Peak, Wyoming’s highest mountain at 13,804 feet, is part of this massive range that stretches about 100 miles from north to south. There are more than 40 named peaks over 13,000 feet in this mountain range. US Highway 26 and US Highway 287 skirt this range to the east in Wyoming through Dubois and Lander. I hope to drive those roads sometime in the future.

Boysen Reservoir with the Wind River Mountain Range in the distance.
Boysen Reservoir with the Wind River Mountain Range in the distance.
Another view of the Wind River Mountain Range behind Boysen Reservoir
Another view of the Wind River Mountain Range behind Boysen Reservoir
US Route 20 north of Shoshoni, WY
US Route 20 north of Shoshoni, WY

Just past the south end of Boysen Reservoir, US 20 continues into Shoshoni and the southeast towards Casper. Shoshoni had the appearance of a dying town to me. There were a few old buildings with some nice Native American murals, but the town really appeared dead.

Old Motel Neon sign in Shoshoni, WY
Old Motel Neon sign in Shoshoni, WY
Highway Signs in Shoshoni, WY...part of the sand Creek Massacre Trail
Highway Signs in Shoshoni, WY…part of the sand Creek Massacre Trail

The Sand Creek Massacre Trail in Wyoming is dedicated to the remembrance of the Sand Creek Massacre which took place on November 29, 1864.  The trail follows the paths of the Northern Arapaho and Cheyenne in the years after the massacre. It traces them to their wintering on the Wind River Indian Reservation near Riverton in central Wyoming, where the Arapaho remain today. The trail passes through Cheyenne, Laramie, Casper, Shoshoni and Riverton. The trail was dedicated August 6, 2006

The seemingly run down business section of Shoshoni, WY
The seemingly run down business section of Shoshoni, WY
Detail of Mural on front one of the buildings in Shoshoni
Detail of Mural on front one of the buildings in Shoshoni
Another view of downtown Shoshoni, WY. Note the remnant of another nice mural in the center of the photo
Another view of downtown Shoshoni, WY. Note the remnant of another nice mural in the center of the photo

Heading east on US Routes 20/26, I immediately drove by a number of unique rock formations along the side of the road. The sandstone pillars have been eroded away over centuries of time to create these nice designs.

Rock formations east of Shoshoni, WY on US 20
Rock formations east of Shoshoni, WY on US 20
Another rock formation on US 20 east of Shoshoni, WY
Another rock formation on US 20 east of Shoshoni, WY

US Highway 20 then provides us with a typical long drive through the sagebrush of Wyoming…

US Route 20 in Wyoming
US Route 20 in Wyoming
Another highway scene along US Route 20 in Wyoming
Another highway scene along US Route 20 in Wyoming

It is a bit of drive, but fortunately, there is a rest area east of the small town of Hiland.  A couple of nice history signs as well.

Wyoming's Wildlife?
Wyoming’s Wildlife?
Bridger Road Historical Marker at Rest Area on US 20/26 east of Hiland
Bridger Road Historical Marker at Rest Area on US 20/26 east of Hiland

About 4 miles from the rest area on the south side of the road is a turnoff to Hell’s Half Acre (near Powder River, WY), a large scarp with deep ravines, canyons, caves, rock formations and hoodoos.  I have a love of these types of things.  I was so very disappointed to see a chain link fence keeping visitors from being able to grasp the full extent of this place.

Hell's Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
Hell’s Half Acre Sign in Wyoming off of US Route 20/26
A view of the Hell's Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A view of the Hell’s Half Acre scarp, Wyoming
A massive hoodoo pillar in Hell's Half Acre, Wyoming
A massive hoodoo pillar in Hell’s Half Acre, Wyoming
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell's Half Acre
Rainbow colored landscape of Hell’s Half Acre

It was here that I met a new friend…a fellow traveler, a fellow photographer, a fellow blogger.   A a professional photographer, Derek Ace does some amazing work.  You can see some of his best work HERE. Turns out that Derek is from Middleton, Wisconsin, which had me talking right away since Middleton is also the home the National Mustard Museum, one of my favorite places (see my post about this from my old blog).  You can really get a nice sense of Derek’s work from his Facebook Photo stream.  I am glad to have made his acquaintance on this trip and I am looking forward to what I believe will be an amazing set of photos from HIS visit there.

Powder River, Wyoming
Powder River, Wyoming

Not too far east of Hell’s Half Acre is the little dot on the map known as Powder River, Wyoming.  There are probably less than 40 people here. However, there was one place that took me back…and in the middle of nowhere too.

An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY
An old neon relic of the past, the Tumble Inn Lounge/Cafe, with a vintage neon look in Powder River, WY

Apparently, as late as 2005, this place was being used a strip joint and oil workers, folks from Shoshoni and nearby Casper, would venture their way to this hole in the wall place. It closed in November 2005 and now sits as another ghost on a basically deserted highway in the middle in Nowheresville, welcoming the passersby.

Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Highway US 20 east of Powder River, WY and heading towards Casper
Entering Casper, Wyoming
Entering Casper, Wyoming

I really didn’t have much time to spend in Casper, but I needed gas, so I stopped and filled up.  While at the gas station, a giant Cloud Troll decided to show me the direction I needed to go in as I headed towards my next stop, which was Douglas, WY. (By the way…I LOVE looking at clouds!!)

A giant cloud troll shows me the way to Douglas, WY
A giant cloud troll shows me the way to Douglas, WY

From Casper I jumped on Interstate 25 to head east toward Douglas.  This was one of the few Interstate ventures I took while on the road.

I-25 East out of Casper, WY
I-25 East out of Casper, WY
There's a jackalope in them thar hills!!
There’s a jackalope in them thar hills!!

On the approach to Douglas, which is the “Jackalope Capital of the World”, there is a giant jackalope up on a hill overlooking Interstate 25.  It is the first sign of Jackalope everywhere….

Welcome to Douglas, Wyoming, home of the Jackalope
Welcome to Douglas, Wyoming, home of the Jackalope

This trip was my second one to Douglas, the first with my son Solomon back in 2007.  I also wrote a guest post about the Jacakalope for author/blogger Tui Snider’s Mental Mosaic Blog (see my article HERE).  However, on this trip I wanted to make sure I also got my Jackalope Hunting License.

Giant Jackalope in front of Douglas Chamber of Commerce Visitor's Center
Giant Jackalope in front of Douglas Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center
And a Sumoflamalope was also spotted in Douglas, WY
And a Sumoflamalope was also spotted in Douglas, WY

In the visitor’s center I was kindly greeted by Chamber Assistant Director Patty Morrell who took time to show me around, tell me a bit of history AND get me all set with my OFFICIAL “Limited Non-Resident Jackalope License”.  She also was kind enough to slip me a Jackalope Sticker and a Jackalope pin.

My Official Jackalope License
My Official Jackalope License – I love the Chief Licensor’s name – Adam Lyre

The Visitor’s Center has a number of unique Jackalope goodies…here are a few

New Douglas Chamber of Commerce Logo with a Jackalope
New Douglas Chamber of Commerce Logo with a Jackalope
A cuddly Jackalope
A cuddly Jackalope
Stagbunny "The Movie" Promo
Stagbunny “The Movie” Promo

In 2006 there was a movie called “Stagbunny” about one man’s hunt for the elusive Jackalope.  Here is the trailer (get ready to chuckle)

Posing with some of the collection in Douglas
Posing with some of the collection in Douglas
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Another Jackalope is spotted in Douglas
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye
Kissing the Jackalope goodbye

I should note that the Douglas Visitor’s Center also has some nice trains to look at if you are interested in these.

Old Train Engine on display at the Douglas Visitor's Center
Old Train Engine on display at the Douglas Visitor’s Center

Before heading out of town I came across the White Wolf Saloon in downtown Douglas.  Another great Kitschy place.  Had to take a couple of shots.

White Wolf Saloon in Douglas, WY
White Wolf Saloon in Douglas, WY
A couple of characters in front of the White Wold Saloon
A couple of characters in front of the White Wold Saloon

Of course, I had to move on to get to Carhenge in time so I was back on US 20 heading east towards Lusk, Wyoming. US 20 and US 26 split at Orin Junction south of Douglas and that is where US Route 18 begins and joins with US 20.

US 18/20 to Lusk, WY
US 18/20 to Lusk, WY

This section of highway parallels the railroad tracks from Orin to Lusk and is pretty desolate, but there are a few things to be seen…

US 20 east out of Orin, Wyoming
US 20 east out of Orin, Wyoming
Interesting mesas can be seen on US 20
Interesting mesas can be seen on US 20

But, one of the more unique dots on the map on this stretch of highway is Lost Springs, WY.  In 1976 the town was designated as the smallest incorporated town in America.  At the time, its population was eleven.  In 2007 I drove through and, at the time, it was one of only a handful of towns in the US with a population of 1.  Here is a photo of me from that visit.

Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2007
Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2007

On this visit the town had boomed back to a population of FOUR….

Lost Springs in 2014 - ironically I was wearing the same shirt 7 years later!!!
Sumoflam at Lost Springs in 2014 – ironically I was wearing the same shirt 7 years later!!!

I had hoped to actually drop into their Post Office/Shop, but they were closed.  Nevertheless, here are a couple of shots of Lost Springs today (I took some in 2007 too).

Lost Springs Store and Post Office, Lost Springs, WY
Lost Springs Store and Post Office, Lost Springs, WY
Welcome to Lost Springs
Lost Springs Welcomes You. Well, not quite…nobody was home.
101 Main Street, Lost Springs, WY
101 Main Street, Lost Springs, WY
Lost Springs Public Facilities
Lost Springs Public Facilities (Better than those in Hell, Michigan mind you….)
Another view of the Lost Springs store and post office
Another view of the Lost Springs store and post office
The Lost Springs Chuckwagon??
The Lost Springs Chuckwagon??

Back on US 18/20 I continued east.  Lots of highway and long trains and even an old truck stop in the middle of nowhere.

US 18/20 east of Lost Springs, WY
US 18/20 east of Lost Springs, WY
The road goes on forever and so do the trains
The road goes on forever and so do the trains
3 Sisters Truck Stop sign near Manville, WY
3 Sisters Truck Stop sign near Manville, WY

From Manville it was on to Lusk, Wyoming.  Yet another small town on the road, Lusk boasts a population of about 1500.  Just a stop on the railroad tracks, it does offer one unique site….an old wooden train water tower.

Lusk, Wyoming
Lusk, Wyoming
Old Red Wooden Water Tower
Old Redwood Water Tower
Redwood Water Tank
Redwood Water Tank in Lusk, WY

IMG_6595The old water tower was originally built in 1886 to furnish water for the Fremont, Elkhorn, Missouri Valley Railroad Steam Engines. The town of Lusk was established at the same time. The wooden tower is round, with a diameter of about 25 feet. The tank is about 25 feet high on a 25-foot base. The structure is believed to be composed of Douglas fir, while the tank itself is redwood. It is apparently the only surviving structure of its kind in Wyoming.

US 20 East out of Lusk, WY
US 20 East out of Lusk, WY

After a brief stop  in Lusk it was eastward towards Nebraska, with a flyby past Van Tassell, the last town in Wyoming.

Van Tassell, WY
Van Tassell, WY – Population 15
A scene from Van Tassell, WY
A scene from Van Tassell, WY

And into Nebraska I rolled….

Sumoflam in Nebraska
Sumoflam in Nebraska
On the border, there is a building with a windmill growing out of it....
On the border, there is a building with a windmill growing out of it….

This section of US 20 is also called the “Bridges to Buttes Scenic Highway” and runs for about 200 miles across northern Nebraska. This is Nebraska in its rawest form, as the subtle and rolling sandhills transform into striking and majestic bluffs and buttes.

Bridges to Buttes Byway in western Nebraska on US 20
Bridges to Buttes Byway in western Nebraska on US 20
Rolling hills of US 20 in western Nebraska
Rolling hills of US 20 in western Nebraska

From the rolling hills, the scenery opens up into beautiful buttes on the approach to Crawford, Nebraska.

Buttes of Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford, Nebraska
Legend Buttes of Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford, Nebraska
US 20 approaching Crawford, Nebraska and the Butte Country
US 20 approaching Crawford, Nebraska and the Butte Country

After the long drive from Casper through the prairies of eastern Wyoming, I had to make stop in Crawford, “The Garden Beyond the Sandhills.”

Welcome to Crawford, Nebraska
Welcome to Crawford, Nebraska
Old house in Crawford, NE
Old house in Crawford, NE

From Crawford I headed southeast on Nebraska Highway 2 towards Alliance.  This highway was a nice drive through the small town of Hemingford, Nebraska.

Nebraska Hwy 2/71 heading southeast towards Hemingford
Nebraska Hwy 2/71 heading southeast towards Hemingford
Nebraska Hwy 2/71
Nebraska Hwy 2/71
Old church near Hemingford, Nebraska
Old church near Hemingford, Nebraska
Welcome to Hemingford, Nebraska
Welcome to Hemingford, Nebraska
Hemingford water tower
Hemingford water tower

I loved the little police station in downtown Hemingford.  One of the smaller ones I have seen.

Hemingford Police Station
Hemingford Police Station

From Hemingford it was on to Alliance, one of my main destination goals for this trip….

Alliance, Nebraska
Alliance, Nebraska

My object in Alliance was the famed Car Art spot “Carhenge.

Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska
Wide view of Carhenge
Wide view of Carhenge

Due to the nature of this great roadside attraction, I have actually done a full blog post on Carhenge.  You can see that HERE. So, I’ll just add one last photo below…you can see the rest on my other post.

Glowing sun on Carhenge, in Alliance, NE
Glowing sun on Carhenge, in Alliance, NE
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE
Sumoflam at Carhenge in Alliance, NE

From Alliance I still had a ways to go as I continued on Nebraska Hwy 2 towards my final destination for the day, Grand Island, Nebraska.  This section of Hwy 2 is also known as the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.

Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway on Nebraska Hwy 2
Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway on Nebraska Hwy 2
Nebraska Highway 2 Sandhills Journey
Nebraska Highway 2 Sandhills Journey

The drive from Alliance to Grand Island was still about 272 miles so I was literally driving into the sunset over the beautiful rolling Sandhills of Nebraska. The Sandhills represent the largest remaining grassland ecosystem in the United States that is still virtually intact for both flora and fauna. It is the largest sand-dune area in the Western Hemisphere and one of the largest grass-stabilized dune regions in the world. I wish I could have taken more time to see it, but I did get to enjoy a fabulous sunset as I passed the small town of Hyannis, Nebraska.

Sunset over Beem Lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska...
Sunset over Beem Lake in the Sandhills of Nebraska…

I continued for a couple more hours on Nebraska 2 finally arriving in Grand Island about 1 AM after a drive of about 720 miles and on the road from 7 AM to 1 AM – 18 hours.  Yes, I was tired, but I was certainly happy with the wonder of the day’s journey.

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