Toadstool Geologic Park

This story is NOT for the weak of heart.

Soooo… about a week ago, we drove up to northwest Nebraska to visit the Toadstool Geologic Park, a “badlands” area. It’s about a 10 – 12 hour drive, but out here on the prairie we’re used to doing a lot of driving. So off we went. We started out Friday night after I got home from work, stayed overnight in Lincoln, NE, and then were off again Saturday morning. We drove all day and finally got to the Park as the sun was getting ready to set.

There is a little campground there, and I set off to pay for our camp spot as Harland hurriedly gathered his camera equipment together to take some pics of the park in the setting sun. As I walked along in my t-shirt and shorts (it was a really hot day) I noticed 2 campers dressed in long pants, long sleeve shirts and wide brimmed hats pulled down nearly to their shoulders.

“Wow, how weird is that?” I thought.  But, hey, you see all kinds of strange people on the road. I skipped merrily up to the little kiosk to pay our campsite fee. I pulled out a little form to fill out and – wait – something is biting down there. I looked down at my bare legs. There were about a half dozen mosquitoes on EACH of my legs feasting for all they were worth! I swatted them away and continued to fill out the form.

“Ow OW!”  I looked down – they were back! I grabbed the unfinished form, ran back to our truck and jumped inside.

“Harland, this place is infested with mosquitoes!”  He said he had figured that out and was putting on Deet and a jacket as he took off into the park to take pics. I got back out of the truck and ran back to the kiosk, mosquitoes chasing me in a cloud as I ran along. When I stopped to drop off the form they descended all over me and I swatted at myself as I slipped the form into the slot and then ran back to the truck where I sat there panting and weighing my options. I didn’t drive 12 hours just to sit in a truck, darn-it.

So I got back out and went through my luggage for a pair of pants. Then I looked for a jacket, but all we had were heavy coats.

“Well, I’ll just move really fast as I take my pics and it won’t be so bad,” I thought.

I didn’t use Deet as we are trying for a family and I didn’t think it was a good idea to use bug spray. So I set off in t-shirt, jeans and hat, camera in hand. I headed up into the rocky hills and as long as I was moving the blood-suckers couldn’t catch me, but as soon as I would stop to compose, frame, and take a picture, they would be all up and down my arms and in my face.

Dozens of them.

As soon as I would finish taking a picture, I would go after them.   OWWWW!!  *SLAP*SWAT*SLAP SLAP*

But I forged on. No mere insects were going to keep me from capturing that glorious sunset against that strange otherworldly landscape.

A storm had just passed through and another one was skirting off to the south of us as the sun slipped beneath the dark rainclouds.


Oh neato, look how the sun is lighting up just the tips of those hills off to the east.


I began to notice with some concern that my followers were increasing in number, like I was the first and only warm blooded creature they had ever seen.

But who can leave a landscape like this? What a treasure!





I ran back to the truck, cloud of bloodsuckers trailing along like a ravenous pack of wolves.


Over the hills and finally down into the campground.


I tore open the truck door, threw my camera inside, jumped into the driver’s seat and slammed the door.  I sat there panting, eyes closed, sweating, and trying not to cry.  My frustrated tormentors threw themselves against the truck windows, fangs bared and dripping with blood.

Ok, so maybe not that last part.

But then suddenly I remembered that scene from the movie Jurassic Park when Jeff Goldbum and Sam Neill are hiding in their vehicles from the prowling Tyrannosaurus Rex just outside their windows. I could SOO relate to them at that moment.

The rest of the evening is best to be forgotten. Harland got back to the truck after dark. I demanded strongly suggested we stay in a hotel for the night. But Harland said we had driven all that way and should make the most of it and what a shame it would be to miss the sunrise the next morning.  I grudgingly agreed to stay. Harland set up the tent. I finally got out of the truck, changed and brushed my teeth while marching around the truck one step ahead of the swarm. We tried to sleep that night while the bloodsuckers tried in vain to find their way into our tent. A windstorm came up in the night, but luckily we didn’t get any rain. Harland was out early the next morning taking pics, while I slept in. When he got back, we struck camp in record time and left the badlands and the mosquitoes behind us. Just a few miles down the road we stopped to photograph some cattle.

But there were no mosquitoes.  Blessed relief.

We found a shower in a campground a few miles down the road, and although I don’t usually enjoy camp showers, I swear, it was the best shower I ever had. Harland said that he washed off so much DEET that there was probably a record fishkill somewhere downstream from the campground after he was done.

It’s going to take a long time for me to be able to look at the pictures I took at Toadstool without remembering the bloodletting I went through to get them.

Oh well, just another day in our varied, but never boring, lives.


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Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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49 Responses

  1. Lynda M O says:

    My my, the mosquitos have sent postcards about how tasty you are !~! Lovely photos, thanks for doing them for our enjoyment.

  2. Ashley C. says:

    What beautiful pictures! I love how the sun hit the tops of the hills. Amazing sunsets!

  3. Debbie says:

    Awesome photos! I have never heard of that place!
    So sorry you had such a miserable experience!
    I have never had an experience like that with skeeters, but have heard they can be like that! Wow!
    Did you have lots of swollen bites?

    • Suzanne says:

      I’ve never had such a bad experience with skeeters either. And yes, we both had welts for several days afterwards.

  4. Laura says:

    Thanks for suffering for all of us. Your pictures are wonderful.

  5. Sally Bishop says:

    I wonder if, back in the day, insects were as bad or people were just used to them. I would imagine the long dresses women wore, although hot, would have proven helpful. Way to be a trooper on those lovely pictures.

    • Suzanne says:

      We were wondering that too. We learned while there that someone actually lived there in a soddie back in the day. Either there weren’t as many mosquitoes then, or the residents of the soddie had leather skin.

  6. Tina says:

    You poor thing! Skeeters love me too and I must be allergic to them because I have hard red swollen areas for a good 2 weeks afterward. How about using one of those new repellants you just turn on and hang from your belt? Maybe next time. Best of luck to both of you and thanks for the great pics.

    • Suzanne says:

      I actually had one of those fan things in the truck, and forgot it was there. Was kicking myself in a major way.
      Thanks Tina for the good wishes!

  7. Glenda says:

    I showed this to my boss who is from Scotts Bluff NE. He had never been to that park. The pictures are amazing!
    Yeah, I thought you had one of those fan based repellent gizmos?
    I doubt even that could’ve kept up with that hungry swarm.
    Hope your fleeting memory of the event fades quickly as do the welts.

  8. Sharon Thompson says:

    I thoroughly enjoy your whit, and photos. You sure have a way for being able to capture all of Gods lovelyness.Ya have to be careful with those skeeters, they can carry west nile virus.
    Anxiously awaiting your next post.

  9. Ashley C. says:

    OH YEAH I wanted to share, try dabbing some vanilla on your neck and wrists (maybe ankle)! I tried it last summer when working in the garden and it seemed to work!

    • Suzanne says:

      I probably would have had to bathe in vanilla that evening, but I bet it works with just a few of the little pests. Thanks for the tip!

  10. You got some beautiful photos for all your trouble. You should invest in some veil like pants like Jeannie wore in I Dream of Jeannie. Maybe that would keep them off your legs and not be too hot. What a beautiful landscape. Even the mosquitos like it!
    Chiggers are eating me this year.

  11. Bruce H says:

    Amazing images Suzanne, especially in light of the duress you were under. Sounds & looks like a great place to visit, sometime after it freezes…

  12. That was true dedication right there. Gorgeous shots, and the narration of the side events along the way made them even more impressive.

  13. Sonya says:

    Made me itch just reading!
    I had no idea something so beautiful was in Nebraska. Thanks for showing us!

  14. Ruth says:

    Suzanne, those pictures are amazing!! (And I’m the one who says that word is overused on TV, but in this case it’s true). I wish I had known about this place a couple of weeks ago. We attended a wedding on the east edge of the sandhills and my husband asked several times if there was somewhere that we wanted to go on to while we were that far away. I sympathize with you about the mosquitoes – I attract them, too. Did you go past chimney rock on your way home? That’s another place I’d like to see. I hope you had time to go through the Monument museum over I-80 at Kearney. It’s wonderfully done. The only time I’ve cried in a museum, at the loss of life along the Oregon trail.

    • Suzanne says:

      We passed Chimney Rock, and I saw it from a distance, but we didn’t have time to stop on this trip, unfortunately. Don’t you just love the history of the Oregon Trail? Endless stories and so much to learn there.

  15. Ok, you really had me itching and swiping at my neck and legs just reading this…really, I seriously did that! You have a way of making the story come alive and I feel like I am right there with you! That is crazy how many mosquitos were there! I’m sure I can’t even imagine just how many there really were. On another note, your photos are beautiful. What breathtaking landscape! Oh my goodness! I love the sunset against the rock. {I’m still itching!} I am grateful that you posted these because I haven’t seen photos from there before. I have heard of the badlands, but haven’t really seen photos from there.

  16. By the way, I forgot to say something…I am so envious of all of your travels. You are so blessed to be able to go and go and go. That is wonderful. When I read about your travels, it always inspires me to get out there. In fact today I was reading about a place not far from here called Buttermilk Falls. I think I am going to take the kids there this weekend!!

  17. Eliza says:

    Awesome photos! Thanks for taking me there! I have always wanted to visit the Black Hills – totally beautiful…Here’s hoping you’re not too itchy for it. Sometimes you can just spray your clothing with Deet and not your skin and it will ward off mosquito’s – but it sounds like these were particularly voracious! Who’s taking care of Kitty? 🙂

    • Suzanne says:

      We bought an automatic feeder for Kitty. It’s a wonderful thing. It fills her dish every morning promptly at 6am.

  18. Chester's Mom says:

    Beautiful pictures! Where did the critters come from, I thought they had to have water to hatch in, didn’t see any? Last summer I bought some organic bug spray at a farmers market and it works! Smells ok and I don’t have that chemical stuff all over me.

    • Suzanne says:

      It’s normally very dry there this time of year, but this year they’ve been having a lot of rain. So there’s standing water everywhere on the prairie around that park.

  19. Debbie says:

    Suzanne, I love to use your photos as my temporary screensavers! I change them every few days, usually when you have another pic that calls to me!
    So far I have used 2 of these!

  20. Lynda says:

    The photos are beautiful. Thank you for sacrificing your skin so we could enjoy viewing them. Good luck on starting a family.

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you Lynda. Time is not on our side (I’m 42) but I just have to have faith. With God all things are possible. 🙂

  21. Nancy says:

    What an amazing place! Thank you for what you went through to get such awesome pictures! Three years ago while on vacation..destination Idaho, we stopped at a place in Minneapolis, Kansas called Rock City. Have you been there? What an amazing place! I’d love to see you do a post about it. I had a run in with mosquitoes there as well…but not nearly that bad! I love following your blog! Keep em coming!!

    • Suzanne says:

      I have been to Rock City. Great place to visit, but I was there a long time ago. Next time we visit, I’ll be sure to take pics and do a post.
      Thanks Nancy!

  22. Beautiful pictures. Have you ever tried using an all natural bug spray. I make my own because I refuse to use deet on my kids. There are so many on the market and you can find recipes for them all over the place!!

    • Suzanne says:

      I have some all natural bug spray we bought since that trip. Haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but am looking forward to giving it a try. Thanks Dina.

  23. Jeanne H says:

    OMG! I absolutely love this place and it is my “favorite” natural wonder in the US. I found it totally by accident on my way up to the Badlands one winter when I was out from Seattle taking a vacation driving across Nebraska. While walking through the paths of Toad Stools, I looked back saw my tiny car in the distance and realized for the first time in my life perhaps I shouldn’t be so enthused about going out in the wilderness by myself. (I also had no cellphone reception.) Your pictures are goregous of it. A couple of mine are at

    • Suzanne says:

      I wish I could have enjoyed it more. Maybe we will go back some day when there aren’t a lot of mosquitoes. We learned later that they are having an unusual wet summer there and so that’s why so buggy. Winter would be interesting too with snow on. I visited your page and loved all the places you’ve been. Especially loved the Civil War reenactment shots. Wonderful!

  24. I oohed and aahed over your pictures, they are wonderful and I asked myself “Why have I never been to Toadstool Park”? I probably live closer than you..and then I laughed and had sympathy for you and the nasty dive bombers attacking you and hubby..I would have been one great big rid blob and it makes me itch to think about it…oooh!!
    I hope to hear that you’ve had success with starting a family,,best wishes on that. P.S. I love fried okra,never tried it until a couple of years ago,,yummm, your blog and wit too!!!

  25. Mike says:

    Was JUST there and got eaten alive!!! Loved finding this!! We bailed on the hike… only came equipped w T-shirt’s and shorts. Awesome photos!!!

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