It never fails—traveling reveals magic. My trip to northwestern Nebraska this fall certainly did; I discovered a time machine.
So many different days, I stood in a building or on a hill or plain and completely lost myself in the past. Goosebumps rippled my skin over pioneer wagon ruts still tracking the Oregon Trail. While the wind ripped through the trees, I looked down a craggy bluff at the trail Chief Dull Knife and his people travelled as they escaped massacre at Fort Robinson.
Hiking the trail from Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed to Toadstool Geologic Park, though, was like going to church. Ancient Earth church.
Hudson-Meng Bison Bonebed is an archeological site in the Oglala National Grasslands where, for some reason, ancient bison came to die. These aren’t the modern bison we’re used to—these were giant animals, an extinct or transitory species, and their skeletons accumulated over a span of 600 years more than 9,000 years ago. Why did they return? Why did they perish? Many theories exist, but a popular one among the scientists who’ve worked the site is that, some 12,000 years ago, the area was a natural spring, which attracted animals who may’ve been caught in severe weather conditions.
Formed some 38 to 24 millions years ago, Toadstool Geologic Park is a monument to eternity. It’s easy to picture earlier travelers on horseback navigating the harshly beautiful terrain, an introduction to Nebraska’s famous “badlands.” The park was sculpted out of rock by a prehistoric river; wind has sliced its way through, too, creating the park’s eponymous toadstool formations.
A 3-mile trail connects Hudson-Meng to Toadstool, and this is where Nebraska really worked her magic on me. Between the sunrise, changing terrain, incredible rock formations, and transmutable expanse of sky, this geologist’s daughter lost her heart. I admit to worshipping at this ancient outdoor church as we trekked along at dawn one late September morning.
The following photos give a better representation of that trip through time than any words could. At the end, I’ll have some links in case you’d like to go worship there, too.
I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.
View all posts by Leah Nyfeler