October 4, 2010

Paradise ... Just for a Day - Pine Ridge, NE

Sometimes there are days, just hours really, when everything aligns and you have found paradise. You know it won't last...The weather will change, people will come, mosquitoes will bite; but for this one moment all things have aligned to make the place and moment you are in the best possible place to be on Earth.

That was the experience on the afternoon of October 4th at Fort Robinson State Park, in the uppermost panhandle of Nebraska. Located on the steep and beautiful sandstone cliffs of the Nebraska Pine Ridge, this 22,000 acre state park has a vast history of Indian Wars, Military Forts, as well as, its long geologic history.

The Pine Ridge heading off into the distance
The Pine Ridge is a narrow escarpment that runs some 100 miles across western Nebraska and into South Dakota. It is miles from anywhere of significance; the largest town in the region is Chadron and it only has 5,000 people and is 22 miles away. Yet, this place has so much significance as having some of the most important fossil finds of ancient mammals anywhere on the planet. Our plan is to take a hike onto the ridge in the coming days.

Ancient Rhino of Nebraska
Anyways, on this day, I took Hilina for a stroll around the old military fort, admiring the beautiful sandstone cliffs in the late afternoon sun. The temperatures were in the upper-70's, a light breeze in the air, humidity low, and no insects biting or buzzing me. There was no one around, because the post-summer crowds had vanished after Labor Day. It was the most wonderful, relaxing environment you can imagine.
I know, Western Nebraska is not paradise. Any day now, some arctic cold front will cause temperatures to plummet and snow to fall. In the spring and summer, ticks and mosquitoes will swarm, humidity will rise, and thunderstorms will wreck havoc on afternoon hikes.

But, for this one day at least, it was Paradise on Earth!

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