Saturday, February 16, 2013

Blue Rock Cave - Perhaps it's still hidden in the hills…

Click on the photo to see a larger
 version of Blue Rock Cave and 
explorers Denton & Miller 
If you can't grow up on a farm or ranch, perhaps the next best thing is seeing the world through the eyes of a small town kid.

One of the many benefits of communities like Crawford, Chadron, Rushville, and other similarly-sized towns is that you're never very far from the great outdoors.

Today, of course, the thought of traipsing through the hills south of Chadron to places like  "Paradise Valley," "King's Chair," "Blue Rock Cave," and "Sacrifice Cave" has lost a bit of its luster.  First, I'm not sure my old feet could hold up -- and even if they did, what would I do about snakes or poison ivy?

Such thoughts found no place in my mind back in the 1940s and '50s.  Playing soldier or hide-n-seek was the highlight of a summer day -- maybe even a step above going swimming. (Of course, we "city" kids had to swim under the scrutiny of lifeguards -- unlike our country brethren who could find a bit of solitude from adults at a country swimming hole.)

These thoughts came racing back today as I foraged through a box of pictures that my sister sent to me…….and I stumbled upon the one shown here.

Blue Rock Cave (I have no idea if that was its real name or just one that we embraced) was one of those special locations.  I remember the cave vividly, but just who took the photo has joined the clutter of other pleasant youthful memories that are unencumbered by details -- things like specific names and dates.  Nonetheless, the photo  reminded me of the wonderful times of a different era.  That's Lawrence Denton atop the cave, and wannabe National Geographic explorer Larry Miller at the entrance to the cavern.

They say you can't go home again, but in the 1980's, my teenaged son and I trekked all the way from Oklahoma for a visit to Chadron.  It included a hike to the hills of my youth -- and I was giddy at the thought of sharing some of my special places with him.  King's Chair was still sitting regally in its proper place -- as was Paradise Valley.  But after what seemed an eternity of hiking and looking, we gave up trying to find Blue Rock Cave.

Maybe you can't go home again -- at least not without a good map…..or GPS.

Monday, February 4, 2013

No doubt about it, 2012 was a dry year

By Con Marshall

Much of the upper plains is very dry
At least two Dawes County rain gauges measured less than eight inches of precipitation during 2012, making it the second driest year on record.

Del and Aletta Hussey, who live along Chadron Creek about eight miles south of Chadron, said they measured 7.94 inches of precipitation during the past year.  Eldon and Janett Wohlers, who ranch northwest of Crawford, said their gauge showed only 7.50 inches during the year.

According to a U.S. Weather Service report issued in 2007, the driest year on record for Chadron was 2002 with only 5.76 inches of precipitation.  Second on the list was 2006, when only 8.45 inches were received.

The Weather Service said the driest year prior to those years dating back to 1893 was 1963, when 10.55 was reported.

The Husseys measured 14.99 inches in 2006, but they recorded just 11.12 the following year.

Both the Husseys and the Wohlerses said they measured nearly 25 inches in 2011, making it one of the wettest years in history.  However, the spigot began shutting off about midway through 2011, meaning Dawes County and much of the surrounding area is now in its 19th month of severe droughty conditions.

The Husseys also recorded 19.23 inches in 2009 and 20.20 in 2011, giving area producers three outstanding years in a row (except in areas where hail was a part of the precipitation).  They also measured 19.74 inches in 2005.

Old-timers as well as historians remember the 1930s for being especially dry. Weather Service data shows that less than 12 inches were received in Chadron in 1931, 1932, 1934 and 1937.

According to the Weather Service, 1915 is the wettest year on record for Chadron. A total of 31.86 inches fell that year. Next on the list is 1923, when the total was 26.47.  Another exceptionally wet year was 1927, when 25.89 was measured.

Other years when Chadron apparently received more than 20 inches were 1920, 1930, 1982, 1925, 1922, 1942, 1921 and 1947.

Eldon Wohlers said the Squaw Mound east of Crawford where he was living at the time received approximately 36 inches in both 1966 and 1967.

Precipitation amounts according to Del and Aletta Hussey