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July 19-21 West Nebraska

Travel log

July 19-21 West Nebraska

Jesse Attanasio

This trip log won't be as long as previous entries since it was less about exploring new areas and more about returning to places I already visited. So don't be surprised if you recognize landmarks.

To start off I will admit that I made quite the mistake when planning this trip. It was my understanding that I would be attending the Nebraska Star Party on the 21-27. What I didn't realize was that my invitation actually said it was the 21st annual and went from the 27-August 3.

When I pulled into Merrit I was the only one at the campsite and was able to pick my usual spot. It is relatively tucked away and offers a cool tree and a pretty nice view of the sunset. The best part was that it provided two trees so I could hang my newest piece of camping gear, my hammock. I usually only get a few hours of sleep a night (if that) and during the day it gets pretty hot so sleeping in my vehicle is hard. So I knew a hammock would be a wise investment for those midday hours when the sun is too high for shooting and I desperately needed to catch up on sleep.

That first night I felt incredibly bad for anyone nearby with a tent, winds were blowing so hard that I was woken up from my sleep in my jeep. I could see neighbors getting out of their tents and hoping in their vehicles with blankets and pillows. 


I spent the next day lounging around my campsite. At one point I saw a storm developing a ways away and thought maybe I could get some cool timelapse of it in the sandhills. After driving about a half an hour to the East I finally decided to call it quits and head back to my campsite.


As I was making myself some dinner, a car with a couple kids and a lady pulled into my campsite. I had no issue with this since It was a rather big site and all I needed was room for my jeep. They got out with a chain and a rope, and one of those crazy kids climbed up the tree with his cowboy boots on and quickly turned that tree into a rope swing spot. 

 

Luckily they didn't spend too long there because that was the same spot I had in mind to shoot the sunset.

The next morning I went to the RV campground area to take a shower and when I walked out, a park ranger was parked behind me and yelled "Hey, your a week early!" I laughed as I looked at the back of my jeep (it said, "Dark Skies or Bust") and I awkwardly got in my car, drove to my campsite, took my hammock down and immediately took off for Chadron State Park.

Once I got to Chadron, I stocked up on meats and water before heading to the Nebraska National Forest for some off grid adventuring.

Transient

It was incredibly hot out so when I got to my base camp location I mostly just sat around and organized the interior of my car before I finally decided to go scout locations for later on without any gear. Hiking in shorts is usually a bad idea, but this ended up being a nightmare. I had hundreds of stickers in my socks and shoes and a ton of cuts and scrapes on my shins. The peak I was trying to reach had about a 100 foot extreme include that proved difficult even without gear. Once I got to the top, I realized that there wasn't much more exploring without some special equipment and probably another person for safety. So I hiked back down, cleaned my hiking boots from stickers, slapped on some Gators and packed up my bag with a ton of gear to hike back up for some night timelapse. 

As I got back up to that peak and began to setup a timelapse I realized that there were a ton of factors that were going to ruin the possibility for the shot I was hoping for. First, even though it was night it was still pretty hot out. Heat causes some horrible noise in photography causing it to appear extremely grainy. Second was that there were 60-70 mph wind gusts that I am still surprised never blew me or my cameras off the cliffs. And of course the worst of them all was the low cirrus clouds that were coming in. Its obvious that clouds blocking stars is a bad thing, but they also illuminate light from towns far away and cause a nasty gold/yellowish tint. 

After a lot of frustration and debate I finally hiked back down to basecamp. The whole idea was to be up there for the moonrise but that wasn't going to happen so it wasn't worth standing up there any longer.

A little while after I returned, there was of course a clearing of clouds and the moonlit foreground was revealed. I kind of wish I would have just left my camera up there.