“One by one she slew her fears, and then planted a flower garden over their graves.”
―John Mark Green
As I sit here, writing this article, in my little motel room, thinking about what I am going to do on my last day of my little min-vacation, I feel such a huge sense of accomplishment. PTSD (I wrote something a while back that describes some of my history and symptoms-Link) has been something I have struggled with on and off for most of my life. Over the last couple of years, I have allowed it to sink its roots deep inside, and have felt like it was taking over my life. There are many facets to the anxiety and depression that comes with it; some that links directly to the cause of the trauma, but most are triggers or stressors, that once they start can make it difficult to feel you are able to regain control over your own brain again. I had some vacation time I needed to use, and since my husband and children were unable to accompany me this time, I decided to go somewhere alone.
I have always been an independent person. I moved out on my own at the age of 17, moved from state to state on more than one occasion, and traveled alone in old vehicles. As soon as I started talking about my trip, I heard lots of feedback. Some people mentioned how concerned they were about a woman travelling so far alone to such a desolate area. Others who were more supportive told me how brave I was, telling me not to listen to anyone but my own voice.
I agree, I am brave, but not because I am a female capable of traveling long distance without a man by my side. I am brave for going off on my own in spite of the shadow PTSD casts, continuously lurking over my shoulder waiting. I’m brave for not cowering at home in fear, because no place is ever completely safe if we think about it. If someone wants to attack you, they will attack you. An unarmed man can just as easily be attacked, so the whole female thing is outdated.
Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska (pictured above, and below), was one of my first big stops. I will post more on each of these places at a later date, but for now I wanted to share something small on each.
The story of Carhenge below:
Since Carhenge was built-in this gentleman’s father’s memory, I thought it was fitting that my dad’s ashes were in the car with me
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” — Helen Keller
I stayed in the tiny town of Harrison, in the Sage Motel, which turned out very relaxing. The owners were quite nice, and the beautiful horses out back were one of the best parts of my day! They had at least 2 colts, and there were 2 others that I wasn’t sure if they were male or female (I didn’t look too hard).
The goat above was in the Pine Ridge Reservation area, South Dakota.
Fort Robinson, Nebraska, pictured below, was a place that I had no idea was in Nebraska. Crazy Horse was killed there. I walked over to the area, interested since it was a historical site, and then I read the words, “On this spot Crazy Horse Ogallala Chief was killed Sept. 5, 1877.” Tears pooled in my eyes.
My father and I had always been interested in Native American culture, so travelling to South Dakota and this area was always a dream of his. The history of the area, how poorly the Native Americans were treated is something that has always bothered me, so standing on the same soil where so many shed their blood combined with bringing my father’s ashes on the trip was a very emotional experience. The Cheyenne Outbreak also took place there.
Toadstool National Park was one of the biggest reasons I travelled this direction. The moonscape type terrain reminded me so much of Plaza Blanca, New Mexico, which is a favorite place of mine. The first day I went, I was unable to get there until late afternoon-evening, so I barely made it for the sunset. It rained most of the early day, so the dirt road out there was a rutted, muddy mess!
The last day of my trip (because I WAY over-did it the day before), I headed back there for one more hike.
What a beautiful place! I thought it would be similar due to the limestone to Plaza Blanca, but the terrain is not exactly the same, and you will see what I mean in a couple of weeks when I post the Plaza Blanca piece I have scheduled.
The stacked rocks below were probably my favorite.
The contrasts of the saffron leaves against the craggy formations, and brilliant cornflower sky was something I could never fully capture from behind a lens of a camera.
In the photo below, if you look to my right (faaarrr right), you can see the car! I was so proud of myself for hiking all the way up there all by myself.
Per the Nebraska Historical Society:
When the First World War broke out, the United States was cut off from European sources of Potash, which was a component of fertilizer used in the cotton belt. Two University of Nebraska graduates in chemistry developed a method for separating potash from the alkaline lakes of the Nebraska Sand Hills. Large-scale production began in 1916.
The potash-producing brine was pumped from the lakes to reduction plants near the railroads. By the spring of 1918, five plants were in operation in this vicinity. Nebraska potash was used in the manufacture of fertilizer, epsom salts, soda, and other products.
With the end of the war, importation of foreign potash resumed. Because French and German potash could be produced more cheaply than the Nebraska product, the Nebraska potash boom collapsed. The last Antioch plant closed in 1921. Today, the ruins of reduction plants and pumping stations bear mute testimony to the activity which once made Antioch a major potash production center.
One of the many abandoned houses in this area.
I drove through the park for a couple of hours on a dirt road (it’s a long story, but it took WAY longer than expected to arrive) that was extremely narrow. At times there were drop offs on both sides, with no guard rails, and it was NOT a one-way road. I learned very quickly to get over my anxiety and to just enjoy the ride. I eventually hit pavement again.
I could not drive through the entire park due to a time constraint and hope to one day visit again. I loved it!
The entire experience remained emotional. My father’s ashes were with me the entire time, and upon my arrival to the park (at the visitor’s center), I found myself in tears again. This time it was in front of two younger Sioux gentlemen. The history of their people donned the walls, mentioning the cruelty of the white man; forcing them to cut their hair, killing innocent men, women, and children, not allowing them to practice their own religion or speak their own language, and taking their land. I felt sick.
My trip was rich in history, laughter, tears, sprinkled with epiphanies, and even disappointments. I sang until my voice cracked, hiked until my lungs burned and my joints throbbed. I spoke to every single animal I came into contact with, including the wasp that decided to chase me around my room my first night, and I took thousands of photographs without anyone complaining I was taking too long or we needed to turn back. More than anything, I rediscovered myself and remembered how self-sufficient I really am. Before being happy with anyone else or being anything significantly important to anyone else, you must first be your own best friend, and your own greatest advocate. Would you give someone a raise who asked for one if they didn’t believe they were worthy of it themselves?
A close friend of mine passed away last November. One of the things he mentioned to me before he passed away was not to wait to do anything that was important to me, because we never know what could happen tomorrow. We don’t know how long our bodies will allow us to travel or to have the opportunity to go back to school, whatever it is you have been dreaming of. I hope this encourages anyone who is feeling afraid to try something new or even just a bit outside of their comfort zone to take a leap. Because why not? We are never promised another tomorrow, and we cannot redo yesterday, all we have is right now. Make today count.
“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” — Katharine Hepburn
Trish Eklund is the owner and creator of Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed, and Family Fusion Community, an online resource for blended families of all types. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over and Pocket Abandoned. Check out the new Bonanza Store for AFD merchandise! Follow on Instagram and Facebook. Trish is regularly featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Divorce, and Her View From Home. She has also been featured on Making Midlife Matter, and The Five Moms, and has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz.