Riding out the Storm
The start of my day was rather boring, I made breakfast and immediately hit the road with Valentine, NE in my sights. I didn't see much interest besides abandoned homesteads off in the distance or on private property so I didn't stop the entire way. Not even for gas. Which turned out to make for quite an intense ride. When I got about 20 miles outside of Valentine, my gas light came on, which means I have about 20 miles until my car putters to a stop. There was no time to stop at Smith Falls state park and I was throwing my car into neutral on every hill that I could. When I pulled into Valentine I was flabbergasted that there was not a gas station immediately off the highway and I had to drive to the main strip on fumes, literally. When I reached the gas station I was so excited I yelled a "hell yea!" and awkwardly got out of my car as a family walked passed me to their camper parked at the stall next to mine.
Exhausted from all of the stress, I started heading back towards Smith Falls state park to check it out and maybe see if I could get a good timelapse shot with the clouds above. After talking with the park ranger about the area I packed up my bag and took the short hike to the falls. When I reached the falls, I was surprised because no one was there and after the day I had I decided to take advantage of the situation and I setup my camera, through off my shirt and shoes and run under the falls for a quick freezing shower. Of course about 20 seconds in, I saw a family coming up the trail so I ran back to my bag to move it out of the way. This is when I heard a thump on the steps of the deck that leads to the falls. I looked down and my Rokinon 14mm lens was taking its own little bath in the stream. I quickly jumped down and grabbed my lens. Furious with my stupidity, I packed my bag, hiked back to my car barefoot while holding my shoes and hit the road back to valentine. I figured it couldn't hurt to pickup a box of rice and some gallon sized zip-lock bags and hope that it would be able to dry out the lens.
Once I realized I was over Valentine and it's surrounding parks, I started heading west for Toadstool park. I went there on my last trip and it was incredibly dark out there plus the camping is free. About half way there I saw some more storms forming to my South, and some large ones to the West where toadstool is. By the time I got to Chadron, NE I could see that I was going to be driving directly into a downpour of a storm, and after filling up my tank I did just that. About 20 mile west of Chadron turned around and headed back. I did't have any service so I couldn't read any of my weather radars to see how big and serious the storm was getting. After driving around Chadron for a while, I found a motel I was able to steal wifi from and noticed the Chadron State Park, was right on the edge of the storm. I figured I could go there, hang out for a bit and maybe crash for the night if the park was any good.
Being that the park was on the edge of the storm, I followed the signs to the "Blackhills overlook" which I assumed could give a good view of the storm. The view was pretty incredible, I quickly packed up and hiked out on a trail to find a good vantage point. Although there was no visible storm, I had cool view of the land and wanted to waste a bit of time because I had a feeling the sunset could be good if the clouds dissipate enough.
After my timelapse was finished I followed the trail for a bit further only to find it reveal even more epic landscape. I knew right away that I was going to be a busy guy if the clouds can become thin enough for a good sunset. Once I found the spot I wanted and made sure it would work if the sunset went off like I hoped it would, I started the timelapse and took my other camera to some other peaks to get ready for a panorama.
Sure enough the clouds became thinner and I was looking at one of the most magnificent sunsets I have ever set my own eyes on. It was incredible the way the clouds lit up almost forming the same silhouette of the hills in the foreground. I couldn't take enough photos, and couldn't be more excited to have this amazing moment after the hellish day I had.