May 10, 2018 North Platte, Nebraska

Abandoned Kansas Farm
Abandoned Kansas Farm

Poking Around Kansas and Nebraska

Old Kansas Barns

Over the past few weeks I have racked up a lot of miles in the Prius traveling the dusty back roads of Kansas and Nebraska searching for picturesque old barns and farmsteads.

Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse

Unfortunately, what I have discovered is that most of the old wooden barns have long since gone the way of the dodo bird. Most are just piles of rubble and all of them have been replaced with modern metal buildings, very functional, but surely lacking the aesthetics of the old wooden structures.

Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse

Abandoned farmhouses dot the landscape out here and I always wonder exactly what caused the owners to leave these these buildings to the elements.

Nebraska Barn
Nebraska Barn
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse

I have not taken any images of the main streets of the many tiny towns you encounter along the back roads here for it is indeed a sad sight to see. The old brick or stone buildings are all vacant and most are crumbling, but the small towns probably lack the resources to demolish them. Needless to say, the general stores and small restaurants and hotels that supported these farming communities have all fallen victim to “progress”.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

Wildlife Along the Backroads

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

Unfortunately, I have encountered very little in the way of wildlife in my recent travels …

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

… a Red-tailed Hawk or two, a few wild Turkeys and Ring-necked Pheasants strolling the remains of the harvested cornfields ( of which there are  a few acres devoted to that crop in Nebraska ) …

Nebraska Does
Nebraska Does

… and here and there I have encountered a few White-tailed deer, does only, no fawns seen yet.

Nebraska Sandhills
Nebraska Sandhills

I have driven to check out the Nebraska Sandhills, a vast expanse of sand dunes, disguised with a thin covering of grasses.

Endless Nebraska Sandhills
Endless Nebraska Sandhills

These dunes seem to go on forever and must have been something for the early westbound settlers to traverse in their wagons. You can right click on this image to get a larger version to get a better sense of the vast expanse  of the these sandhills.

Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal

One day, while traveling between North Platte and McCook, Nebraska, I saw a beautiful herd of horses grazing in a pasture along the highway. When I noticed a large number of mares with fairly new foals amongst them, I had to stop for shots.

Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal

A youngster enjoying a roll around on a gorgeous spring afternoon.

Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal

The differences in coloring of the moms and the colts was kind of interesting.

Mares and Foals
Mares and Foals

Unfortunately, the majority of the mares with young walked away when I approached the fence to take my pictures, probably to protect the youngsters from any possible threat an unknown presence such as myself might cause. Or it could have been Pearl’s few barks of alarm from the Prius when she noticed these huge beasts just outside the windows of the car.

Mares and Foals
Mares and Foals

This were absolutely gorgeous animals, as if they were brushed and carefully groomed just for these photos. If you right click on the image above ( or any image in these blog posts for that matter ), it will open a larger image in a new window, and you will see what I mean.

Nebraska Horses
Nebraska Horses

I wish I could have gotten this lone white horse to position itself right next to one of the black ones, would have been a neat shot, but I waited and waited and this was the best I could get.

I am probably headed to the badlands of southwest South Dakota next, while I await the release of winter’s grip on Yellowstone NP. Snow is still falling there as of this post and some of the roads are still closed by snow. Hoping I can get there to see some early season bear activity, assuming I can get a spot in the campground at Mammoth Hot Springs, something I have not had any luck doing the last two times I have attempted to visit Yellowstone.

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August 27, 2013 From Ennis to Bozeman, Montana

A side trip to Bozeman via Route 84

Headed north up 287 to Norris, then east on 84 for a quick day trip into Bozeman for supplies and just because I always like visiting Bozeman. I kind of hate all cities, but little city Bozeman is the exception. Another gorgeous day with blue skies and white puffy clouds.

Montana Whitetails
Montana Whitetails

 

 

Spotted a couple of deer in a field on the way and got a long range shot of a buck and his companions.

 

I stopped and explored the Red Mountain BLM campground on the Madison River about 8 miles east of Norris. A sort of developed campground with a camphost on the 287 side of the river and then another undeveloped set of 8 campsites stretched along the opposite side of the river. Either would make a good choice to stay, though the sites on the opposite side were all occupied today, so they are apparently quite popular.

White pelicans over the Madison River
White pelicans over the Madison River

As I was driving along the river, I spotted a flock of white pelicans taking off, spooked by one of the many fishing dories plying the river. I found a pullout and watched them float in circles, riding the wind currents to gain lift. While I still find it odd to see these birds I continue to associate with the ocean, here 1000 miles from the sea, it really strikes me as odd to see them feeding in fast moving river waters.

Montana horses
Montana horses

The 30 or so miles from Norris to Bozeman is a very scenic road, following the Madison River about half way, and then going through open range and then vast farmland. Then, bang, you are in the city. A nice, small city, where 5 miles from the city center, you can be in open country, probably not a bad place to live.

 

August 26, 2013 Ennis,Montana

Whitetail fawn
Whitetail fawn

Got out before sunrise again this morning and went north on 287 out of Ennis to explore the area around Ennis Lake, a lake formed by the damming of the Madison River.

1941 Plymouth
1941 Plymouth

 

Next to a ramshackled dwelling, near a small fishing access recreation area just a mile off 287, I stumbled on a great old 41 Plymouth, a great watercolor possibility.

 

 

Mule deer Doe and fawn
Mule deer Doe and fawn

A little further north on 287 was the road that looked like it would go around the east side of the lake. There was another boat access recreation area on the east side of the lake with several nice looking sites right on the waters edge, but when I got out to take some photos of them, and the mule deer feeding in the willows along the lake, I was engulfed in a cloud of mosquitos and had to quickly retreat to the car. The campsites look quite nice, but I’m not sure about staying here if the bugs are always this bad. Incidentally, this is the first place I have encountered bugs of any sort in my week long stay around Ennis, not too surprising I suppose, with the constant 20 mph breezes.

 

The road around the lake soon crossed a concrete bridge and split left to the dam, and right to continue around the lake and eventually reconnect with 287 south of Ennis. I took the road to the left and went about three miles down to the dam and then a little beyond until you are not allowed to go any further. The road runs down through a narrow canyon reminiscent of a miniature Grand Canyon of the Gunnison, steep black rock walls towering above both sides of the water, where it looked like bighorn sheep should pop up at any moment, though none did. I could see a bald eagle floating way up above the opposite cliffs, and all kinds of small fish breaking the surface of the water. A sign along the banks of the river below the dam said the river here contains arctic grayling, along with the west slope trout, brookies and browns.

I had to be back at my campsite for the mobile tech by 9 AM, so I wasn’t able to wait for some sunlight to make it’s way down into this canyon and be able to get some shots, so no images, but if you are in the area, it is a definite must see.

The tech replaced two burnt out solenoids that were the root of my front jacks problems and it was determined that the springs that retract the jacks were not fully retracting them and that is what most likely caused the solenoids to burn up. I decided to bite the bullet and replace all four sets of springs as a preventative maintenance measure. The solenoids were a couple of hundred dollars each ( ouch! ) and the springs $30 a pair. Add in 4 hours of labor at $100/hr and I have pretty much blown my motorhome maintenance budget for this year, sure hope nothing else major goes wrong.

Pronghorn buck and harem
Pronghorn buck and harem
Pronghorn mom and fawn
Mom and fawn

 

 

 

 

 

Today, with only scattered afternoon showers, I had an opportunity to make an early evening photo trip and found a few more pronghorns and this lone whitetail fawn grazing in a crop field, no mom anywhere that I could see.

Osprey on fence post
Osprey
Young mule deer buck
Young mule deer buck

 

August 24, 2013 Ennis, Montana

Prospecting for wildlife along the Madison River

Pronghorn family crossing the road
Pronghorn family crossing the road

Unfortunately I have to address my HWH hydraulic leveling system problem. For a week or so I have had one front jack that will not descend, now I have the other front jack deciding that it will not retract, so time has come to find a service technician. Fortunately, the people here at the Ennis Rv Village had the card for a local tech who does work on these HWH systems and I was able to get an appointment for Monday AM. Unfortunately, his hourly rate is $100/ hr., sure hope he is worth what he charges.

Fleeing pronghorn family
Fleeing pronghorn family
Pronghorn family fleeing
Pronghorn family fleeing

 

I took off this morning at sunrise hoping to find some deer to photograph and maybe even some pronghorns. I headed down a road on the west side of the Madison River out of Ennis heading toward the fish hatchery. It didn’t take long to find both deer, though no nice bucks, and my first pronghorns of the trip.

 

 

 

Doe and fawn
Doe and fawn

 

There was a doe with her fawn grazing in the tall grass alongside an irrigation ditch and I stopped to take some photos. I was horrified to see how badly tick infested the fawn was, while the doe had no visible ticks. You would think mom could help her poor kid out somehow, but I guess that is not how it works. Perhaps the fawn should consider signing on with a baboon troop.

 

 

uch! You'd think mom could help with those ticks
Ouch! You’d think mom could help with those ticks
Fawn and thistle
Fawn and thistle

 

 

 

 

 

Scouted out a couple more small campgrounds along the Madison River and got some shots of couples heading out flyfishing with their guide. Looks like a great way to spend a gorgeous day like today.

Jenny inspecting my Madison River campsite
Jenny inspecting my Madison River campsite

 

Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison

 

 

 

 

 

The open range
The open range

 

Crossed over the Madison River, from the west over to the east side, and drove through a couple of miles of open range pasture, where I could see hundreds of black angus, and hoped to find more pronghorns.

 

Determined not to let me pass
Determined not to let me pass

After getting through my black angus road block, I ran into a few more female pronghorns and their fawns and then finally found where all the big boys were hiding.

Pronghorn bachelor herd
Pronghorn bachelor herd
Pronghorn girls watching the boys go by
Pronghorn girls watching the boys go by

 

 

 

 

I would guess that the mating season has yet to start for them as the males are still herded up together and the females and youngsters are still in separate bands.

Horses follow the leader
Follow the leader

 

Freckles
Freckles
Red horse portrait
Red 2
Red horse portrait
Red

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way home, I stopped by a horse pasture hoping to get some full body horse images for my painting references. There were a couple light horses, a few beautiful reds, and one paint that I thought would make a good addition to my reference gallery. Well, before I could get up to the fence to take my shots, they had all covered the hundred yards or so between them and the fence. They must be used to people bringing them something to eat, or were they just being friendly?

Anyhow, I couldn’t resist taking some horse portraits since they really were beautiful animals.

Two pronghorns
Two pronghorns
Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier takes flight
Northern Harrier takes flight

 

Doe in the stream
Doe in the stream

 

Freckles 2
Freckles 2

 

 

Flyfishing the Madison
Flyfishing the Madison