Wow! This first trip in the shuttle bus was a test of more than the bus; it was a test of me! I stayed overnight in the bus on what I thought was a fairly warm night in January – it got down to 19°F and the inside of the bus was 32° when I woke up at 3:00 am freezing cold! I had run the engine and the heater before going to bed but all the heat dissipated through the wide windows. Not to be defeated, I made coffee. Yes, the coffee maker worked on the AC/DC inverter (which can handle 1000 watts). Once the coffee was made, I poured a mug and put the rest in the thermos for later.
This late hour also gave me time to “whatsapp” video chat with my daughter who is in New Zealand on a study abroad trip. See https://maryfrancesphotographyblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/its-just-beginning/. She is staying in hostels and visiting the beach daily – it is summer there of course. She met up with a couple of German boys in the town of Franz Joseph on the south island of NZ.
My cold night was rewarded by an early morning at Niobrara where I captured the sunrise over the Santee Sioux Indian Reservation. Getting up early also put me in place to be the first and only person to the railroad bridge since the new snowfall at Niobrara State Park. I found this by accident and it was a remarkable surprise. Hiking down to the river on what I thought was the “1.6 mile trail” put me in front of a massive railroad bridge where the sunrise pierced through a three-dimensional frame made by the the steel superstructure and supporting timbers. I was stunned!
The railroad line is abandoned and the old bridge has been remodeled into a fishing pier with safety rails. As one walks over the crunching ice out onto the bridge and away from the shore, a view is afforded of the winter Missouri and Niobrara Rivers lit by the January sunrise. The bridge crosses the Niobrara at the confluence with the Missouri River. West of the bridge, the tracks have been pulled up and a person can hike the railroad embankment which hugs the south shore of the Missouri River. East of the bridge you can hike out over the Niobrara River. As you walk east into the sunrise and look back, you see a natural escarpment made by the cutting force of the river on the west bank of the Niobrara.