Friday, May 25, 2012

Cruising Home--The Last Leg of the PBB RoadTrip

15 May 2012
Today is the last day of our road trip. We are having a lot of fun visiting new places, meeting new people and making Project BudBurst observations, but it will be nice to be home again too.

After breakfast, we pack up the car and drive north out of Council Bluffs to the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. DeSoto lies on the floodplain of the Missouri River and is a great place to fish and view waterfowl. We stop first at the Visitor Center where we meet Ashley Berkler Danielson, the Visitor Services Specialist for the Refuge. We talk with Ashley about Project BudBurst and she talks with us about the Refuge and the flooding that happened there last year. She shares pictures documenting the flooded conditions at the Refuge. Nearly everything was underwater during the flood and for a good long time afterwards. Amazingly, the only part of the Visitor Center that was really flooded was the basement. Not much was damaged except the heating and cooling system for the building. Unfortunately, that meant many of the artifacts from the historic Bertrand Steamboat, found and excavated at the Refuge, had to be packed up and stored to preserve them until proper climate control of the building is restored. Looks like we’ll have to make a return visit to see those!

Layers of silt from the flooding can still by seen throughout the Refuge
It’s back in the car for a quick auto tour of DeSoto. The landscape is striking in that layers of silt can still be seen nearly everywhere and the plants are trying to break through and recolonize. It reminds me of a landscape that has recently been burned, except here there is no ash or burned debris, just silt. Lots and lots of silt. In some places along the road, we see long stretches of standing dead trees that couldn’t handle the flooding. Yet, even with all of the destruction, the Refuge is teeming with life. We see turkeys, a killdeer, geese, a Baltimore oriole, and a woodpecker as we drive around. We are told that many Plains cottonwoods perished during the flood, but still there are many others in full leaf, cotton flying around our car like a light snow. This will be our only “official” stop for today, so we drink in the fresh air and views before steering our car back to I-80.

A Goatsbeard at DeSoto NWR
We’ve set the car to cruise and are making our way towards Colorado quickly now. Many miles to cover before the day is out. But we still need a few breaks, so while in Nebraska, we stop at a Rest Area just outside Cozad and take a few minutes to explore the plants growing there. We find yet another Plains cottonwood and make a Project BudBurst observation. Then back in the car and away we go to Fort Collins and home.

It is a few days since our first Project BudBurst RoadTrip Adventure. As I reflect back, I realize this road trip was unique from the many other road trips I’ve taken over the years. Because one of the goals was to make Project BudBurst observations along the way, every stop we made with our car, whether at a rest area, restaurant, gas station, National Park, or National Wildlife Refuge became its own mini-adventure. Instead of simply “looking at” our surroundings, we were actively “engaging with” and “seeking out” our surroundings at each stop. This made the entire trip even more enriching and fun. It also made the trip a little bit longer than we had planned, since we often got so engaged in our searches that we’d lose track of time! On the next trip, we’ll plan in a little buffer time to help with that. On a plant-related note, we learned along the way that Plains cottonwood (Populous deltoides) is a great tree for Project BudBurst observers from the West to the Midwest. We made observations of it at nearly all of our stops! If you are new to plants or just want to focus on one plant during a road trip, Plains cottonwood might be a great plant to watch.
With all the fun we had on this trip, my husband and I are thinking about making all of our future road trips Project BudBurst RoadTrip Adventures! We hope you'll be inspired to do the same!

Are you going on a road trip this summer? Turn it into a Project BudBurst RoadTrip Adventure. Then share your story with us at or on our Facebook page. Your adventure could be featured in our monthly newsletter or on the Project BudBurst Blog!

Want a Project BudBurst Postcard to take with you on your road trip? Send an email to the address above and we'll send you one!

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