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July 22-24 West Nebraska

Travel log

July 22-24 West Nebraska

Jesse Attanasio

Chadron Apocalypse

Chadron has to be my favorite town in Nebraska. It's right next to one of my favorite places to explore, Nebraska National Forest and it offers plenty of places to go but isn't littered with duplicates of the same stores. It did take me until I left to find a coffee shop with wifi though but I only blame myself for that because I drove right past it multiple times.

Anyways, when I was food shopping I decided to try something new and bought a few ingredients to make quesadillas. Preseasoned and cut chicken was on sale so I got lucky there. Quesadillas are great for camp food because tortillas last quite a while and you don't have to worry as much about them getting smashed like bread and aren't messy to make. 


I was excited to go to Chadron State Park because they have real bathrooms with showers and power outlets at the campsites. I was able to get my usual spot that offers close access to the water pump, not too far from the bathrooms and two trees for my hammock. I was in heaven. I laid around a lot that morning until I finally decided that I should probably pack up my bag since I saw clear skies and hike out to setup for some astro timelapse.

I decided to setup an intricate motion control shot of a pretty crazy tree I found about 3/4 of a mile off of the trail. I was excited to get this shot because it was my first time setting up a focus controlled timelapse with the night sky. It took me a while to figure out a sturdy setup since it was pretty windy but finally I got it setup and was just waiting for the sun to set at that point.


There were some clouds to the North but they were moving incredibly slow and didn't look like they would interfere with my night sky view. I did grab my camera and prepared for what looked like it was going to be a decent sunset. I only took a couple of shots of that sunset since there were a lot of trees obstructing the view and could only find one opening. 

While taking that shot I saw a pretty incredible flash of lightning. I immediately went to extreme panic mode because there was no way I was going to be stranded out there with all of my camera equipment during a thunderstorm. I packed everything up and started to high tail it back towards my car with lightning flashes getting more and more intense. When I got back to the actual trail, I was able to use the overlook to see a field of mammatus clouds and a supercell in the distance.

I took as many panoramas as possible with my 35mm lens before I left all of my gear behind and sprinted back to my car to get my 24mm lens for a wider shot. On my way back I ran into a guy who was hoping to get a view of the storm as well. After setting up a quick timelapse and giving myself time to catch my breath I started talking with the guy about how the storm was forming and heading right in our direction. I could tell he was trusting my instincts and was going to hang out there as long as I did to see the storm as close as possible so once it started sprinkling and lightning was too close for comfort I told him it was time to take off. 

By the time I pulled into the campground the winds had increased immensely and some people were even heading to the bathroom for shelter. I quickly opened my roof cargo, threw my grill up there, tossed my cooler outside of my car and leaped in my backseat right as it started to downpour. After a minute of that there was about 10 minutes of hail that had me worried about my windshield possibly breaking. According to my radar there was some large 5" hail but thankfully that missed me.

After that there was clear skies again, but I was exhausted from running with all of my gear so I just made a sandwich and passed out.

The next morning was nice. I had a good nights sleep and made a filling breakfast of pancakes and sausages. It was about to be another hot day so I went to the park office and bought a detailed map of the area and drove around exploring any roads that I hadn't before. I do believe after that day  of driving, I have explored just about every road available to the public in the entire Nebraska National Forest area.


Clouds rolled in before sunset that were blocking any chance for a good sunset and were sticking around for the whole night so I decided to just take the rest of the night to relax, eat some food and get another good night of sleep.