Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Toadstool Geologic Park - Nebraska Badlands Hike

On our second and third days at Toadstool Geologic Park we interspersed relaxation with exploration.

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There is a mile long interpretive trail that takes you through a small section of these Nebraska Badlands.  There is also a three mile long trail that takes you to the Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center.  The Hudson-Meng is home to the largest bison kill site ever discovered - 600 bison died at that site nearly 10,000 years ago.  The cause of such a large die off is still under speculation and thought to be possibly human predation or something environmental.

We opted for the one mile interpretive trail.

One of the first things that we spotted was this toad that we believe to be a Woodhouse Toad - Anaxyrus woodhousii.

This area gets it name from these rock formations which have been shaped by wind and water erosion and are said to resemble toadstools.

The smaller 'stem' of the toadstools eventually collapses leaving the tops to add to the more 'grounded' scenery.

Before collapsing completely they take on a 'tilted' stance.

The Rabbitbrush was attracting all sorts of butterflies and moths like this Variegated Fritillary - Euptoieta claudia

and what we believe to be Edwards' Fritillary - Speyeria edwardsii - a LIFER for us (confirmation on this ID is still pending though).

A size comparison - the Variegated (on the right), though its wings are not fully opened, it is noticeably smaller.

We spotted several Rock Wren investigating what looks to be a Black-necked Garter Snake.

The trail winds through and over the landscape

and the interpretive pamphlet points out features like small dents in the sandstone that one would think were from water dripping.  However, these non-descript marks are actually remnants of the footprints of extinct animals such as saver-toothed cats, rhinos, three-toed horses and early camels.

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These formations are estimated to be over 30 million years old. 

They even contain ancient volcanic ash from the west coast.

It is neat to get up close to the formations and to see the details that come about due to erosion.

Another Toadstool in the making.

This little tower

looked like a carving in a museum.

A little bit of 'new' mixed in with all of the old we were seeing.

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As we crested

the top of the trail

the view of the landscape really started to open.

Darlene found this neat formation that looked like a brain.

Walking amongst the formations on the top

a Say's Phoebe kept an eye on us.

As we came across the trail we spotted our girl, Annie (center of photo) patiently awaiting our return.

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Down at lower levels

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where the grasslands thrive

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is where we continued to spot butterflies like this Common Checkered Skipper

and these Melissa Blues

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Lycaeides melissa

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who were busy making more Blues.

Yellow on Yellow - Sulphur on Rabbitbrush

We discovered this cluster of eggs on a very thorny plant.

The eggs of a Braconid Wasp are quite 'fuzzy'.

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The skippers were all around.  We're pretty sure that this is a Leonard's Skipper Butterfly which makes it a LIFER for us.

We had a bumble bee photo-bomb our Gray Hairstreak Butterfly photo shoot.

Down near the campground...

the Forest Service had constructed a replica of a sod house that was built on this site in 1930. 

In Nebraska, upon stopping at a stage station and seeing its sod roof,

Mark Twain commented that it was “the first time we had ever seen a man’s front yard on top of his house.”

We really enjoyed our time at Toadstool Geologic Park.

It was nice to have a few days of exploration and relaxation in this beautiful area.

Next up... We move on down the road.

And, in real time... As of this afternoon, Annie's got all four feet ON THE GROUND!  Woo hoo!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Toadstool Geologic Park - The Badlands Of Nebraska

It was a long ride down a very long dirt road into what seemed like the middle of nowhere - our favorite kind of drive.

In order to not mislead our readers; if you are the kind of traveler who compares one trip or experience with another you may not find the Badlands of Nebraska as impressive as their more well-known counterpart in South Dakota.  If, on the other hand, you are the kind of traveler who likes each experience and each location to define itself well then you may find yourself falling in love with this area of Nebraska. 

Surely, if you have followed us for even a short period of time, you are well aware that we are the second kind of traveler.  And, thus, you can correctly conclude that we truly enjoyed our time at Toadstool Geologic Park in the Oglala National Grasslands.

How could we not?  Just look at how beautiful this remote area is.

We arrived late afternoon and, knowing we'd be there for a few days, decided to just relax and take it all in.

So, that is what we will let you do...


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There's our girl hanging out in the campground. 

We were excited to catch sight of this little one on our first walk around.

He was quite curious and popped in and out of the rocks checking on us for some time.

Meet Salpinctes obsoletus - the Rock Wren - a LIFER for us!

This 'little' guy has got some.... gumption.

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As the sun started setting on our first evening at Toadstool Geologic Park ...

the colors really came alive.

More on this wonderful location in the next post.  We've got to get outside and get to work on our girl!