My first encounter with the American Bison/Buffalo

This post isn’t meant to be an academic study of the American Bison or anything in that area, I am posting this purely because seeing them has been such an impressive experience for me. Having read about them and the sad story of their near-demise in the 19th Century quite a bit recently I have become increasingly fascinated by them and when the time came to plan my recent holiday in the Canadian province of Alberta I was more than delighted to learn that they can be found in a couple of places throughout the province. First and one of the best addresses (as far as I am aware) being Elk Island National Park, located less than an hour east of the provincial capital of Edmonton (which was my first stop). So I didn’t hesitate (I even joked with my friends that I wouldn’t return from my trip before I managed to have seen at least one), to drive over to this delightful, 184 km² big National Park with its captivating mix of aspen parkland and boreal forests after my arrival. Fortunately I didn’t have to search too long to spot some, although I didn’t encounter large herds of them (apparently there are over 300 living in Elk Island National Park) so here are some photos I took, being thoroughly impressed, as well as a bit intimidated by their size and statue, although they apparently are rather peaceful fellows from all I heard. Wandering around one of the park’s biggest lakes, Astotin Lake, I felt a bit uncomfortable to be honest, as there was faeces lying around in a number of places, which given its size could only have come from them and I didn’t exactly know what other types of wildlife are living in the park (I am a bit of a coward) It being March, I had the park pretty much to myself and it was snow-covered and the lake iced-over – which apart from me being a bit worried, was a wonderful experience and probably my closest encounter was wilderness so far (and I love snow).

So here are a few photos from the bison I saw at Elk Island National Park

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American Bison at Elk Island National Park

American Bison at Elk Island National Park
Another encounter with them took place at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site where they were fenced in somewhat but that site otherwise being equally fascinating and rather eerily quiet and forlorn at this time of year. I imagine there are a lot more people there in summer, but there were none apart from myself on my visit.

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Canada, here I come

To celebrate my first ever trip to Canada starting tomorrow here’s one of my all-time favorite tracks, taken from Blue Rodeo’s 1991 album Casino. It still sounds perfect to me, one of the best songs ever when it comes to 1980’s/early ’90’s Power/Guitar-Pop in my opinion. I really should do a mix with my favorite tracks from that period and style, come to think of it (remember REM being great?).

Ever since I first got that album over 20 years ago, I decided to go to Canada one day. It took me all that time to make it happen, but now the time has finally come and I’m feeling very excited.

Stanton, Iowa

Stanton is a small town in Montgomery County, about 65 miles east of Omaha/Council Bluffs with a population of around 700 people. It was known as the ‘Little White City’ when all houses were painted white. That apparently isn’t the case nowadays, but most of the houses I saw on my brief visit to Stanton were. It was settled mainly by Swedish immigrants in the 19th century. It’s also ‘famous’ for being the one-time home of a family that was killed onboard the Titanic, and one of them, whose body was recovered, is buried in Stanton.

Former gas station, Stanton, Iowa

Church, Stanton, iowa

The Emigrants statue, Stanton, Iowa

Rural Nebraska (Kearney/Franklin Counties)

Walt Whitman in Specimen Days said the following:

‘… while I know the standard claim is that Yosemite, Niagara Falls, the upper Yellowstone and the like, afford the greatest natural shows, I am not so sure about the Prairies and Plains, while less stunning at first sight, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest and make North America’s characteristic landscape.’

I haven’t yet been to Yosemite, Niagara Falls or Yellowstone, but I have to say that what I saw of the Plains and Praries so definitely left a long-lasting mark on me and I am very much drawn to them. Here are a few photos capturing the affection I hold for this part of the US well, all taken in Kearney and Franklin Counties, Southern Nebraska

Rural Nebraska

Rural Nebraska

Rural Nebraska

Train line in Nebraska

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Franklin, Nebraska

I passed through Franklin by chance on my way from Kearney to Red Cloud, but am very glad I did, if for the Lincoln Hotel alone. It seems to have been standing empty for some time, but at least it is still standing, I hope somebody will give it a new lease of life soon, it would be very sad indeed to lose a fine old structure like this. It is located in Franklin County in Southern Nebraska and close to the Kansas state line. It was founded in 1870 and the site of Franklin Academy from 1880 to 1921.  According to the city’s website (www.franklinnebraska.com) its most famous alumni is Frank Cyr, the creator of the yellow school bus. The population is about 1000 people.

Lincoln Hotel, Franklin, NE

Franklin, Nebraska

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Wahoo, Nebraska

Wahoo is a city with a population of about 4500 people and was the first stop I made after leaving Omaha (it’s located about 40 miles west of Omaha). I wanted to check out the Historical Park I read about. As it turned out it was well worth visiting. It’s a small affair with only a handful of buildings, but clearly a labor of love of those maintaining it.

Joe Bowers Memorial Historical Park, Wahoo, NE

Joe Bowers Memorial Historical park, Wahoo, NE

Burlington Route Caboose, Joe Bowers memorial Historical park, Wahoo, NE

Wahoo Burlington Depot, Wahoo, NE

Wahoo, NE

This torpedo in front of the Saunders County Court House is a memorial to the WW II submarine Wahoo.

WW II Submarine Wahoo memorial, Wahoo, NE

For more photos from Wahoo, check my Flickr at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorimerblack/

Mt. Pisgah Cemetery State Preserve, Iowa

Mt. Pisgah Cemetery State Preserve near Thayer in Union County, Iowa.

Mt. Pisgah was a way-station for Mormons on the Mormon Pioneer Trail from Nauvoo, Il to Salt Lake City, UT from 1846 to 1952. At times up to 2000 people lived here, and around 300 to 800 people perished and were buried here. The headstones are gone by now, but this monument, which was erected in 1888, still stands. After the Mormons left, the site was briefly called Petersville (after the farmer that bought the land).

Chief Pied Riche from the Pottawattamie Indians (who were driven from their homelands in what is now Michigan), visited and told them ‘We must help one another, and the great spirit will help us both. Because one suffers and does not deserve it is no reason he shall suffer always. We may live to see it right yet. If we do not our children will.’  Sadly he was mistaken.

Nowadays it’s totally peaceful, secluded and only a 4-mile dirt road leads to it. On the day I discovered Mt. Pisgah (which was totally by chance), there was nothing to be heard apart from the crickets making their usual loud racket and a few birds, although there’s a farm immediately adjacent to it. It was wonderful and a great place to relax and let your mind wander far back in time.

Mt. Pisgah cemetary

Mt. Pisgah Cemetary, Iowa

Mt. Pisgah, IowaReconstructed log cabin

Log cabin at Mt. Pisgah State Preserve

The view from Mt. Pisgah. I wonder how that view must have looked like during the time Mt. Pisgah existed with regards to the vegetation, and when there were no farm buildings and gravel roads to be seen.

View from Mt. Pisgah