I spent a few days last week exploring the far northwest corner of Nebraska's panhandle, an area known as the Oglala National Grassland. The Grassland occupies near 100,000 acres of native short grass prairie and unique rock formations that many do not associate with the landscape of Nebraska. To me, it symbolizes the beginnings of the west, where the great plains begin to dissolve into the mountains and landscape of Wyoming and the Rockies.
My first visit to Oglala came during the initial travels for ninety-three during the summer of 2007. It's such a foreign place to someone who has grown up surrounded by the expanses of green farm fields and rolling hills. Nebraska's grasslands appear to stretch on forever, almost completely void of trees, and are filled with little more than the sound of millions of short grasses moving in the wind. It's an unmistakable sound that has stuck with me ever since. There is also a sense of isolation that is both invigorating and a bit unsettling. I cannot even imagine how it felt to explore and live in this area before there were roads or towns of any kind on the prairie. It's no wonder that this land was sacred to Native American tribes like the Oglala Lakota of Chief Crazy Horse, who was killed at Fort Robinson in 1877.
It took a few years, but I did finally make it back. I've started a small project called Oglala that will document the area in and around the Grassland, including Crawford and Fort Robinson State Park. My experience last week was fantastic and I can't wait to share more of it with everyone.