Photo of the Week – December 29, 2016

Kim and I have made it an annual tradition to spend part of our holiday break at the Niobrara Valley Preserve.  Our kids were with other relatives for part of this year’s break, so we had a few days to rest, relax, and explore by ourselves.  The weather was variable during our time there, including fog, rain, snow, hail, strong wind, and warm sunshine.  Perfect.  We watched bald eagles soar effortlessly over the river and bluffs, flushed cottontail rabbits out of the brush, saw white-tailed deer, mule deer, bison, turkeys, and the tracks of many other animals. We enjoyed the diversity of plants we saw as well, even though most of them were brown and dormant.  It was a great trip, although we both wished we’d been serenaded by coyotes at least one evening.  Maybe next year.  Here are some photos from the visit.


Our first day started out foggy, wet, and cold, and we finished our five mile hike just as a thunderstorm rolled in, bringing icy rain and hail. Visibility was limited, but it was still beautiful.


I caught Monday’s sunrise on the bluffs north of the river where the 2012 wildfire left abundant pine and cedar skeletons behind.


Looking up at a burned ponderosa pine.


The Niobrara River was partially frozen over, but still had channels of open water.


I wandered around on the ice for a while, looking for interesting patterns.


This sunflower head was poking out of the ice on a small island in the river.


We climbed up a ridge we hadn’t explored before and enjoyed the view downstream.


While the vast majority of pines were killed in the wildfire, there is one steep draw on the very corner of our property where a decent percentage of pines somehow survived. Kim and I christened it “The Canyon of the Living Pines”.


It was gratifying to see green needles on trees after hiking for hours through burned out skeletons.


A panoramic view of the Niobrara Valley Preserve.


This photo includes five photos stitched together to help show the scale of the property.

Trips like this help me realize how fortunate I am.  I’m lucky to have a wife who enjoys winter hiking and remote vacations away from people and noise.  I’m lucky to have a job that allows me access to places like the Niobrara Valley Preserve and the time to explore them.  And I’m lucky to have this platform for sharing photos and stories with people who appreciate them and share their perspectives back with me.  Thank you.  Happy New Year!