Saturday, October 17, 2020

Lake Minatare - Something Surprising

Lake Minatare

Built on the edge of Nebraska’s sandhills, Lake Minatare is a secluded oasis of clear water and dense woodland. More than a century old, the remote refuge is an irrigation reservoir supplying water to the North Platte Valley farmers.

The great, blue aqua fir is encircled by a hedge of cottonwood trees that glow dazzling yellow in the fall. A terrible drought has shrunk the shoreline, exposing a wide gap of white sand and a narrow land bridge.

Gazing out on the beach from within an exotic forest, gives the scene a strange, tropical feel. It’s hard to believe such a lush, riparian environment exists in the arid plains of the Great American Desert.

Overlooking the horseshoe-shaped bay, a line of rugged buttes creates an incredible backdrop for the unique landscape. Towering above the point of a narrow peninsula, a full-sized lighthouse seems out of place as it shines over a landlocked prairie paradise.

During a breezy autumn, big clouds are blown across the sky, creating moving shadows that glide silently over the rolling ground. Many miles from the main road, the area is a place of unsurpassed beauty which is something you might find surprising to exist in this - The Land of Corn.

A remote refuge

Full-sized lighthouse

Rugged buttes

A unique landscape

Dense woodland

A prairie paradise

A breezy autumn

Unsurpassed beauty

Great, blue aqua fir

An oasis of clear water

A terrible drought

A lush environment

An exotic forest

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Three Sisters Park - A Marvel to Behold

Three Sisters Park

Settled below the eastern slopes of Elephant Butte, there is a quiet quadrant in Three Sisters Park that features a rocky pathway which loops through a stark woodland. Earlier this summer, during a morning jaunt, the peace and tranquility of this lesser-known locale was readily apparent.

On the move by daybreak, the sun’s deliberate diffusion of clear light gradually transformed the look of the lush landscape. Shadows and luminance flickered through the forest creating an effect that fostered delight.

From the trail’s highest point, an open overlook offered unobstructed views of the landmark trio of rocky spires. Jutting into a powder-blue sky, the changing works of art are continually sculpted by wind, rain and ice.

One of the most interesting aspects of the area was the existence of old structures symbolizing the spirit of the pioneer west. I’m certain the evidence confirms that this wilderness, chock-full of wildlife, history and solitude, has always been and will continue to be a marvel to behold.

A trio of rocky spires

A quiet quadrant

Changing works of art

A rocky pathway

Wilderness solitude

Clear light

A lush landscape

The pioneer west

Settled below Elephant Butte

A marvel to behold

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Arkansas River Canyon - A Cauldron of Fire

Arkansas River Canyon

Conceived in some of Colorado’s highest country, the Arkansas River rushes down through its namesake valley. Upon leaving the state, it continues an incredible journey across the southern plains until its confluence with the Mississippi River.

Near CaƱon City, at one of its most volatile sections, the Arkansas’ whitewater rapids are threaded through a chasm of devastating beauty. The timeless crevice is sliced out of red earth and its jagged, rock walls are defined by eternal shadows of violet-blue.

While wandering up to the rim of this royal gorge, a satanic sun scorches the savage landscape. The devil’s domain is a vicious mixture of greasewood, cactus, yucca and sagebrush brewed in a cauldron of fire.

Upon reaching the cliff edge, the true elevation becomes an awesome reality whose dizzying concept is difficult to comprehend. The tiny ribbon of blue, winding its way through a graveyard of broken spires and collapsed structures, seems so far away.

Descending into this hellish environment from our milder, mountain climate is a stark revelation burned into a thirsty mind. Unfairly denounced as desolate, this mystical habitat is home to extraordinary plants and animals, instilling in me the utmost respect for life at the desert’s fringe.

Devastating beauty

A timeless crevice

The rim of a royal gorge

An awesome reality

Stark revelation

A satanic sun

The Devils's domain

A hellish environment

A cauldron of fire

A savage landscape

Difficult to comprehend

A mystical habitat

Life at the desert's fringe

Denounced as desolate

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Ghost Horse - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Ghost Horse" Colored Pencil

Floating out of an eerie windbreak, a white apparition confronts the viewer face-to-face. It’s a piercing dawn in the Sandhills as the ghost horse haunts a prairie hacienda.

The pale wraith is peaceful and harmless as it drifts through a moat of tall grass. Trying to bridle him in, a rough-hewn stockade is suggested by an irregular grid of interlocking, geometric shapes.

Defined by a steel-blue shadow, the phantom’s head is the portrait of simplicity. His shaggy, winter robe is conveyed by the purest of white with touches of cool gray smudged into the shape.

With the rapid rise of technology, automation and manufacturing, we creep ever closer to becoming the ultimate, urban civilization. It’s heartening to come home to western Nebraska where vast tracts of ranch land scenery can still be found, summoning the resilient spirit of the Old West.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Helms Lake - Into the Abyss

Helms Lake

Ensconced in the granite bowl of a spectacular gorge, Helms Lake is an aqueous repository of visually stunning scenery. The soaring tarn lies tacitly above tree line but still far below a fortress of towering peaks.

The difficult journey to this remarkable, alpine refuge begins in a forest of lodgepole pine and progresses through tremendous groves of radiant aspen. A cascade of icy snowmelt traces the trail and the comforting sound of rushing water placates the soul.

It’s a dim aurora as the morning light yearns to infiltrate the dense interior of the primeval wilderness. The diverse geography is a succession of tiered plateaus creating a grand staircase that culminates in a basin of otherworldly beauty.

While straining upward through different life zones, the tenacious trees gradually become more stunted and twisted before suddenly giving way to a glorious tundra. A maze of willows insulates the remote reservoir, creating a buffer between a rugged world and smooth water.

Piercing the placid surface, a cavalcade of large boulders is strewn haphazardly within the pond’s oval border. The cold water is clear like glass as it perfectly reflects the gathering clouds, painting the picture of an approaching storm.

During the descent, light rain comes down as well - offering some relief from the unusually unbearable heat in the high country. Following a brisk creek out of the big valley, numerous, single-log bridges are perilous crossings bringing us closer to home.

Back in the bottomlands, it’s a paradise for wildlife because of the vast bounty of food, water and shelter. Bighorn sheep graze across the lower meadows, red squirrels dominate the woodland, moose tread through the marsh and marmots scurry near rocky outcrops.

The unforgettable expedition was a strenuous trek that pushed personal stamina to its maximum limit. It was worth the colossal effort as Helm’s Lake sits in an isolated abyss shielded by sawtooth peaks while confirming faith in the healing power of pristine nature.

Moose in the marsh

Yellow-bellied marmot

Paradise for wildlife

Morning light yearns to infiltrate

Cascade of snowmelt

An alpine refuge

Perilous bridge

Rushing water

A big valley

A brisk creek

A rugged world

Primeval wilderness

A strenuous trek

Diverse geography

Glorious tundra

A maze of willows

Ensconced in a granite bowl

A soaring tarn

The cold water is clear

Cavalcade of boulders

Stunning scenery

Gathering clouds

An isolated abyss

Pristine nature