Monday, October 10, 2011

38th State: Nebraska - Lake McConaughy (10/10/11)

Lake McConaughy, Ogallala, NE

First I have to say thank you to all my friends, followers and family who helped me get back on the road again… after the set back in September of breaking off a front tooth at the gum line and requiring an emergency root canal, and then the additional expense of realizing my rear tires were falling off the rims, requiring immediate replacement (with used ones for now).

These unplanned expenses left me stranded in SD with no income until 10/20/11.  It didn’t feel good at all.  I tried to get a job. I even painted walls of a stairway to earn a tank of gas.  I tried to sell my story to the paper, I tried making up flyers and handing them out.  I interviewed for a Photoshop job and didn’t get it as the lady was too sick to work with me. 

Then the word got out in the Vandwelling community and through my blog and suddenly gas money began appearing.  I was totally astounded and humbled.  I don’t know what I am doing to deserve such kindnesses, but I can assure you, I will pay it forward to honor all of you.  Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

So finally, I got on the road again and then came down with this horrid case of pink eye.  I couldn’t open my eyes for three days but managed to get to an Emergency Room near the lake I hoped to kayak in NE.  And there I stayed while my eyes swelled shut, they tired one med, then another, and finally came up with the right combination and the swelling began going done.  And SOOOOOO…..

I didn’t know if this day would ever arrive after fighting an eye infection for the last three days.  Have been camping in the Hospital Parking Lot in Ogallala NE, because I couldn’t open my eyes to drive.  The awful weather and wind made the stay a little easier on me, but I hate being in the van when I HAVE to be in the van.

My eye, two days ago and then today.

The weather here two days ago and then today.

How’s that saying go, “Anything worth having is worth waiting for!”  On the left is the Banner Health Ogallala Community Hospital.  Monica’s night crew were marvelous to me.  If you are ever in this area and need care, don’t hesitate to go there… and there is lots of room to park… follow the sign that says “Trucks.”  It’s right by the Helipad… never heard an ambulance or a helicopter and only one or two cars.  No trucks. lol 

Had it been necessary for me to see an Ophthalmologist today, they would have arranged for a volunteer from the community to drive me to North Platte and back again.  And they called twice today to make sure I was o.k. Isn’t that sweet?

The dam and reservoir are named for George P. Kingsley, a Minden banker, and C.W. McConaughy, a grain merchant and mayor of Holdrege, two of the leading promoters of the project. Although neither lived to see completion of the project, their leadership and perseverance eventually culminated in a public power and irrigation project that helped Nebraska become one of the nation's leading agricultural states.

This place is wildly popular in season, but I rather had it all to myself today. They do have a Kite and Sand Festival in the summer.. which looks awesome. The weather isn’t going to get any better than this, this week, well, it will be sunny, but the winds are going to pick up again, so I had to kayak it today.

Finally, on Oct. 10, the eyes and the weather both cleared up so that I could go kayak Lake Mac (Lake McConaughy).


Kingsley Dam was built between 1936 and 1941 by pumping sand from the bed of the North Platte River to form its sides while pumping loess soil mixed with water into the center of the structure to from a watertight core. Pumping from the downstream side of f the dam formed Lake Ogallala. Water is prevented from seeping beneath the dam by a solid wall of interlocking steel sheet piling. Varying in depth from 30 to 160 feet, the piling ties into an impervious Brule clay formation.
The winds were probably the lowest today that they have been in days... so I knew I had to go for it. I didn't go far into the lake and it gave me the same feeling of rough wave action as the Monterey Bay does in the California shoreline. IMGA0810
That wave coming toward my kayak is about 1-2 ft tall. IMGA0817
Rough, but not scary. It was a little more than I was ready for having just spend the past three days in bed with my eyes closed.  That would be zinc oxide on my lips… as they don’t seem to be taking kindly to anymore sun. IMGA0829
This is some sort of Grebe... a Western I think??? They didn't fly away, only dove if I got too close. I paddled on out into those trees, but the wave action was just too unpredictable, so I headed back into Martin Bay. IMGA0834
Now, this calm water agrees more with my convalescing state. Can you see the high water mark on the trees? The water is very low right now. Water levels fluctuate, for current lake levels go to . IMGA0846
The bay is ringed with clean, fine sand, making for a superb swimming beach. Behind the ring of sand, clusters of trees offer welcome refuge from the hot summer sun and a variety from the sand-water landscape. Modern restrooms and a boat ramp are located at Martin Bay. IMGA0848
Between the dead tree and the live tree you can see a large bird flying? He had been perched on top of the dead tree. I was trying to get my camera out and turned on when he took flight. I'm not sure what it was... large like a Bald Eagle, with a white head, but looked like it had some spots on the white. His head looked pointier than an Eagle???? IMGA0862
Another bird.. it was singing and I got some video and audio of this one
This is Martin Bay, far side from where I launched. Took a break. Only other people I saw today were two folks metal detecting.
The Lake is known for it's fine-grained sand, clear water, and a wide variety of game fish. This is some of the smallest-grain sand I have ever seen. IMGA0868
And they there are the humans who have to muck/yuk up everything. IMGA0869
And leave bits of themselves behind as if marking their territory. This is a lump of commercial charcoal. IMGA0870
It's hard to believe that Martin Bay can be so very calm while the Lake itself is a bit un-nerving to be on. But I sure enjoyed the Bay. IMGA0871
313 species of birds have been identified on or near the shores of the Lake. The larger birds like this Great Blue Heron (I think) were very shy and I never got close to a single one.  One place I got within four paddle strokes before it took flight. IMGA0873IMGA0874
Did a little beachcombing and found some nice pieces of bark. Fun to get out and walk along a pretty clean beach... in general.
Break time... on the calm Bay. Can you see how calm the water is? IMGA0880IMGA0884
Another Grebe and a couple of gulls. There were small fish jumping out of the water and then slapping down... sounded like little snaps. I kept trying to catch them in a photo and this was the best I could get... the ripples in the water between the camera and the gulls are the little phishes.


A beautiful fall day.  Returning to shore... see how clean the water is? It was a good paddle. Next time I come to Nebraska I plan to spend about a month exploring the state. There is sure more to see. It would probably take a couple months just explore this whole lake... 35,000 acres.

I came, I saw, I conquered Nebraska.  Look out Colorado, here come Swankie and SwankieWheels.

Yes, tonight I am indeed in Colorado and may paddle here tomorrow.  I just love it when I can do that… two states in a day or within 24 hrs.  Makes me feel like SuperGrannie.

(will be adding some links here)
Things to see next time:


  1. Glad to hear you're doing ok. Besides the side track of pink eye you souund great.

  2. Glad to hear that you are on the go again.Being sick is not fun on the road.Hope you get to do some of your jewelry course I am an avid rock collector always wondering would this make a great piece of jewelry,or would that make a ring i could wear always remembering where I found it. Great travels and great friends are the wish to you. From Carol

  3. Bev, Dave, and Carol... thank you very much. Eyes still a problem, but I'll push on and get to AZ as soon as possible. Jewelry classes will be going on all winter... I just didn't want to miss a single one of them. I am blessed with great friends, even though I haven't met them all yet.

  4. Glad I could help, and nice to see you really enjpyed a burger!


Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.