Arizona Trip: Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico
Wow. What a day of driving. We actually left Mpls on Thursday evening (7 or so pm) and found a hotel in Des Moines. Not far, but we travelled most of MN and IA in the dark, which is fine by both of us. So today, we covered 2/3 of Nebraska, took I-76 through eastern Colorado to Denver, then I-25 south from Denver to Raton, New Mexico. We could have done more, but it's not a problem to be a little bit leisurely on our way to Bisbee, AZ.
But the wildlife! It's bird-return season in Nebraska. Between Grand Island and Kearney, NE, we saw so many birds. My birding skills are not good, but I could identify the hundreds (if not thousands) of sandhill cranes, snow geese, and canada geese that were flocking and soaring and flying and swimming. We opened the sunroof so I could see some of them overhead; the V formations were in layers...it was the best air show I've ever seen. In the distance, the flocks would swirl like little bits of confetti in the air. The sun would catch the white of the snow geese against the brilliant blue sky and turn them silver; then they would meander a different direction out of the sun and become an ashy gray. It was an incredible sight. But these weren't the only birds. I'm also not good at identifying raptors, but we definitely saw a lot of hawks in the area...I suspect they were partially hunting all of the migrant birds. But that was nothing next to the beautifully stunning bald eagle that was just on the side of the road. I took over driving somewhere west of North Platte, and the husband admonished me: "Do NOT watch the birds." I hope some of them are still there on the way back so that maybe I can get some pictures.
After I took over driving, the birds actually became fewer and more common to the area (raptors, meadowlarks, etc.). So the next object of my attention was the minature pony farm we passed. I actually briefly woke up the husband with my giggle when I realized that the creatures I was looking at were not, in fact, fat goats, but rather the cutest little barrel ponies.
Since we are in the west, it should come as no shock that we also saw many fields of cows (including a few R-rated scenes, and little teeny tiny babies that were products of previous R-rated scenes). But I had forgotten that the pronghorn antelope also migrate south for the winter. Between Pueblo and Trinidad, CO, we saw some large herds of 'lopes. I'm not really used to seeing 'lopes any place other than Wyoming (they really don't show up in all that many states), so was overjoyed to see them in southern CO too. I saw some deer in frosty Iowa fields this morning, but the playing deer and antelope were nothing compared to the herd of elk I saw on the way up the Raton Pass into New Mexico. I'll try to get a picture of the "Elk Crossing" signs on the pass on our way back; I've seen the standard deer crossing signs, but really haven't ever seen an "elk crossing" sign.
Unfortunately, I wasn't ever able to get a picture of any of the wildlife. I got some scenery pictures through the car window (we'll see how well they turn out), but missed some good wildlife shots. But I'm so grateful to have seen it at all. The whole drive today was from one awesome animal display to another.