Please allow me to speak in hyperbole for a moment, knowing full well that the concept of “nowhere” is subjective and that there is always somewhere more remote than anywhere declared “in the middle of nowhere.” With that said, Toadstool Geologic Park is in the middle of nowhere. Actually, Crawford, Nebraska, is in the middle of nowhere, and the park itself is twenty miles farther into nowhere. Toadstool is the epicenter of nowhere (still speaking in hyperbole). So if you live in or around Nebraska and have never heard of the park, you are not alone. Toadstool doesn’t even have its own real Facebook Page (just an “Interest” page), which makes it practically irrelevant.
The gravel road to Toadstool from Crawford courses along mini-mesas and sagebrush grassland and then along vast fields of pale-yellow scrub towards a ridge of bare cone-shaped hills. It resembles the Badlands of South Dakota, but on a smaller scale. At many points, the only sign of civilization was a train that occasionally raced through the valley without notice.
When Daniel and I arrived at the park, whose parking area doubles as a treeless campground, one other car was parked near the hiking entrance. A man and his son emerged from the hiking trail, talked to us for a minute, and drove off. They stopped for a few moments behind Daniel’s car, presumably to take down the license plate number, we theorized, and left. We saw nobody else in the park for the rest of our time there.
The wind was very strong for the entire drive from Council Bluffs, and it was no different when we reached our destination. This part of Nebraska is dry, and dust whipped relentlessly at us and our camera gear every time we stopped to take pictures. However, the wind gradually waned as we hiked toward the eroded sandstone hills and then disappeared altogether as we climbed through the carved-out crevices between and below them. In that eerie stillness and silence, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the paleontological displays in the National Museum of Natural History—a walk through a thirty-million-year-old eroding landscape.
The image below was taken in the early hours of our second day there.