“Then I discovered the prairie, and a slow healing began.”(Stephen R. Jones, The Last Prairie , 2000)
As we crossed the Great Plains of Nebraska and N.E. Colorado on days 13-15 of our road trip, I envisioned those hardships faced by west seeking pioneers crossing the Oregon Trail by foot and wagon during the mid 19th century. The seemingly endless void of grassy flatlands here seemingly offered little relief from the boredom experienced by the monotonous dust filled paths ahead. Extreme winter chills, hostile Indian raids and treacherous river crossings further dampened their spirits then. Yet clearly they must have enjoyed a strong sense of adventure in traversing the Great Plains environs. These wide open spaces no doubt “cleansed the soul” as well for many at times as they pondered life’s unknowns under such hazardous conditions.
Ruth and I too sought ways to pass the time positively along this vast prairie on these long days of travel. Yet our late March visit happened as winter’s snow thaw brought serious flooding adjacent to the North Platte River. Resultant interstate highway closures and mud filled side roads required finding alternatives routes to reach our intended destinations while far and fewer rest stops meant gauging our driving times more mindfully. Feeling thus much like that modern day pioneer in such times of crisis, the Great Plains provided a similar incentive to seek self enlightening therapy in this region to fill our inner souls.
Birdwatching brought captivating moments on our spring visit as flying sandhill cranes and other avian species flocked to watersheds in Central Nebraska then.
A college baseball game slowed our busy minds on a frigid night as we conversed happily with close friends.
An interesting exhibit, “Prairies To Peaks”, at the Great Plains Art Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska exhilarated our emotions as we observed colorful landscape paintings of a local artist in residence, Erin Jones Graf.
As our arduous path of the prairie ended at Fort Collins, Colorado, we experienced a new sense of adventure at a first sighting of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.