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May Roadtrip Day 2 (May 24-25)

Travel log

May Roadtrip Day 2 (May 24-25)

Jesse Attanasio

Niobrara Hills Adventure

Since I was up for just over 24 hours by the time I dropped Chris off at his house. I took him up on his offer of a spare bedroom to sleep in, It sounded incredible after the amount of driving I had just done.

After about 2 hours I woke up from a weather radio in the room and for some reason couldn't fall back asleep. So I decided I should go food and supplies shopping while the stores weren't so busy. 

I was greeted at my vehicle by a few turkeys and once they all scattered in every direction. I hit the road to Yankton, South Dakota.

Of course nothing exciting happened while shopping, but I will mention that after dealing with the usual early morning crowds at walmart, I realized that I forgot some important things like, ICE, lunch meat and a gallon of water so I made a second stop at Hyvee. Plus I wanted to get myself some starbuck's since I knew it would be a while until I could spoil myself with some gourmet coffee.

With no real destination for where to go besides West, I fought with my phone gps to keep me off of HW 20 since I have traveled that quite a bit and found it rather boring. Plus I knew of an abandoned ski lift somewhere in the hills of Northern Nebraska and right as I gave up hope on finding it, I came over a hill and there it was. Which was a huge relief because I hadn't had breakfast yet and needed something to eat if I was going to be driving any further for the day. So even though the skies were rather dull, I setup a quick timelapse and made a sandwich while checking the weather forecast for West Nebraska.

Once I felt like the timelapse had captured enough of the hardly moving overcast clouds, I  took to HW 12 and headed West. 

Although I had Valentine, NE as my end destination for the day, I was taken away by the hills of the Niobrara area. So as soon as I saw the entrance for Niobrara State Park I bought my annual state park pass and decided to get a camping spot so I could take a quick shower and a nap before scouting for locations to shoot.

I showed my homemade shower in the previous entry buy I will post it here to show a quick demonstration of it. It is made from an old liquid fire extinguisher that I adapted a standard kitchen sink spray nozzle and add pressurized air with a travel air compressor. Showers are incredible for trips like this. After over 24 hours of staying up and only a couple hours of sleep, you begin to feel incredibly exhausted and especially smelly after being covered in bug spray and wandering through fire burning woods. 

The shower was incredibly cold, and ended up being slightly difficult to maneuver since I had to place it on a picnic table and lean over with only one free hand to soap up and scrub. But it definitely turned my mood around and after a small meal and a quick rigging of a bug net over my open hatch I passed right out and was able to get a good 3-4 hour nap in. My favorite part of sleeping in my car is how easy it is for me to throw my cooler in the back of my car and I'm back on the road. Not dealing with a tent keeps me on the road longer and I am far less picky about where I am going to crash for the night.

Once I was back on the road, I tried as many minimum maintenance roads as possible to find my way to either a good overlook, or some sort of abandon structure on the Lewis and Clark River. Most of the roads I took either ended  abruptly or taking me to someones front door, but the first overlook I found seemed to be extremely promising for a sunset and I loved the view of the rolling hills. 


After quite a bit of aimlessly driving around, my buddy Chris (intotherfd), who I went to Minnesota with on my first day contacted me and since I didn't travel far at all, he wanted to come out and shoot the sunset and some astrophotography later. 

I gave him the coordinates to the location I liked for an overlook of the sunset and he met me there. I immediately decided to incorporate a focus push of the fence line with a linear rail move and some bulb ramping for the sunset was going to be my shot. 

Since I have two camera bodies, what I usually do is setup one intricate timelapse and shoot behind the scenes stuff with the other unless I can find a totally different angle or shot to timelapse. 

Chris mentioned a town of 1 person that wasn't too far away that had a pretty unique church we could use as a foreground for some astrophotography so once my timelapse was finished, we went to check that out.

Unfortunately, it was right off of the highway so passing vehicles were an issue to me since it would cause an annoying flickering on the foreground of my timelapse. After some debating on where to go we ended up just turning down the first dirt road we saw and drove until we were a decent distance away from the highway. Our stopping lacked in anything for foreground so he hopped in my car and we took some even sketchier roads further into the darkness until we were stopped by a barbed wire fence where we got out and started preparing for the milky way to rise.

We were relatively low in the hills so the temperature dropped quickly so we mostly hung out in my car and watched stuff on my ipad to pass time while our camera clicked away. 

This is what happens when you forget to put hand warmers or use an anti-fog wipe.

Right about the time we were ready to leave, I came to realize that the drop in temperature more than likely caused my camera lens to fog over. Luckily I stills was able to get a decent amount of footage before the lens started fogging over. We packed up most of our gear, but took some last minute selfies with the milkyway before I dropped Chris off at his car and we went our separate ways again.