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Panhandle Passages with Justin Haag — Old Man Winter’s Parting Gift?

Old Man Winter has been a little slow in delivering this region measurable snowfall this year, but he didn’t mess around when he finally got around to it. I’ve seen varying reports of snowfall in the region this week that range up to 20 inches in Chadron. With the driving winds, the drifts became measured in feet instead of inches. Such a blizzard certainly doesn’t come without hardship by many, but I’d wager it a challenge to find someone who will complain much about any gift of moisture in this drought-stricken country.

I left the house Wednesday afternoon with a diagnosis of cabin fever and hope to reach a full winter’s quota of snow photos. Yes, it’s often just one of many opportunities that come with April in Nebraska.

In most cases, I didn’t get far. Here’s what the evidence of my travels have looked like the past few days. Drive until the bumper starts pushing snow, back up, turn around. Repeat process on another road. Often, this country is even too much for four-wheel drive.

Dead End: Getting off the highways has been a challenge.

As the saying goes, bloom where you’re planted. Not far from the road, I found this cold scene. The clouds did me a favor by letting just a little bit of sunlight through.

Fence posts in snow
Fence posts west of Chadron a nearly concealed by deep snow.

And, for all of you Instagram lovers, here’s one that I tilted, just to be hip, and overexposed four stops. I pulled the exposure back in the RAW converter and added a little contrast. I know, a simple Instagram filter with a smartphone would be easier and result in just as crummy results, but I like doing things the hard way.

Fence posts in snow
All "Instagrammed" up.

Dave Kinnamon, park superintendent, and a small crew were working diligently to get the roads at Chadron State Park clear when I made it out there later Wednesday.

Chadron State Park in the snow.

Chadron State Park in the snow
More of Chadron State Park in the snow.

And another.

With an attentive look around, one can be amazed by how much wildlife we are blessed to have in our presence. Even without getting far from U.S. Highway 20 en route to a meeting at Fort Robinson State Park on Thursday, I spotted wild turkeys, red-tailed hawks, ring-necked pheasants, mule deer, sharp-tailed grouse, mallard ducks, squirrels and a coyote – the latter of which seemed to be thinking about eating a pheasant. Not to mention, numerous birds fluttered by my windshield that had flocked to the little bit of ground that had been exposed along the highway — meadowlarks, northern flickers, killdeer and red-winged blackbirds, to name a few. Surprisingly, I didn’t see any white-tailed deer or pronghorn, but I might go ahead and count them because they surely could have been found without much trouble by a more attentive driver.

Sharp-tailed grouse.
Sharp-tailed grouse near Crawford.
Squirrel at Fort Robinson State Park.
Wild turkeys west of Crawford.

Buttes at Fort Robinson.
The Buttes at Fort Robinson State Park always look good dressed in snow.

Hiking in snow that tops my knees has made me realize that snowshoes wouldn’t be a bad investment. As the snow melts, my mind is drifting from shoveling the driveway to thoughts of spring turkey hunts and kayak fishing. See you out there … hopefully soon.

Justin Haag of Chadron is a public information officer for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and regional editor for NEBRASKAland magazine. He can be reached at justin.haag@nebraska.gov or 308-430-8515.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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