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A (quiet) view of fireworks from on high

July 5, 2011

Around 7 p.m. last night (July 4), I, husband and a friend hiked up Summit Road on Scotts Bluff National Monument. Once a year, the park stays open late to allow people to look out over the North Platte River Valley and witness the spectacle of the insane amount of money people around here send to China in exchange for patriotic ordnance.

It was nice to walk up the road because it’s wider and allows better group conversation than would be possible on the Saddle Rock Trail. It’s a challenging slope to hike, but it was worth it because we got to the top before the folks who were driven up on the park bus. We snagged the best seat in the house, I think. (The bench off the path that leads northwest from the parking lot.) We could see Scottsbluff and Gering, plus we could look behind us to see fireworks up the river valley.

A note: mosquito repellent is a must for sitting up there comfortably, unless you are a member of the undead and have no blood in your veins.

I was puzzled by the number of people who brought their dogs up there. I don’t really think that having strange dogs milling about in the dark in close proximity to strangers and children on narrow pathways on the bluff top where rattlesnakes live is a good idea. (And how would the dog owners be able to see to clean up any “presents” the dogs left behind?)

For me, one of the best parts of the evening was being able to watch the sun set from 800 feet above the valley. I’ve never been up there at sunset before, since the park closes at dusk.

The view over Scottsbluff (and a couple who went off path and sat way closer to the edge than would make me comfortable):

The magical view northwest up the North Platte River Valley:

The bluff’s shadow creeping over Gering:

Oh, that magical evening light! The sun set behind a cloud, so there were only a few golden moments.

Around 8 p.m., the isolated pops of early fireworks merged into a constant chorus of crackling explosions that lasted almost four hours. The still photos I took absolutely do not do the scene justice, especially since I did not catch any of the lightning flickers that lit up the clouds in the distance.

Scottsbluff view

Single firework in the distance with the reflections of the North Platte River at dusk.

We and the strangers who joined us in our viewing location wondered if we would be able to pick out the Jaycees fireworks show at Western Nebraska Community College out of all the amateur shooters. Once the show started, we had no problem picking them out. The pro show shots went waaay higher up in the air.

The Jaycees show is all funded by donations. To contribute, send a check to Scottsbluff Jaycees, P.O. Box 271, Scottsbluff, NE 69363-0271.

When the Jaycees show was over, there was an impressive cloud of smoke drifting up.

Flashlights in hand, we joined the small crowd of people headed down the monument, dodging a couple of times to avoid the park bus. It was kind of a cozy feeling to be among fellow walkers under cliffs and trees illuminated by flickering flashlights. I just wish the young people behind us had been a little quieter and discussed less-TMI topics.

For the record, we did not encounter any snakes on the pathways or the roads.

The “official” show had ended, but the rest of the town wasn’t nearly done yet. As we walked down, we could watch the constant bloom of fireworks on the horizon. (I might have stayed up there longer, but the parking lot down below closed at 11 p.m., and I had to work the next day and needed what shuteye I could manage.)

I caught a bonus as I looked up to the stars visible between the clouds – a shooting star sliced across the sky.

The benefit of being up on the bluff for the fireworks was driven home as we were driving home.

For one, there were relatively few people in the parking lot and it was very easy to get out, as compared to the mob scene by the college.

The biggest issue, though, was that I was removed from the insanity of being in such close proximity to explosive projectiles. Especially since so many people light their fireworks right next to the street. It’s very startling and jangling to the nerves. Especially when you know that some of those people are inebriated, and that the fireworks tip over on occasion.

We couldn’t even drive down our street without getting shot at. Some jerks up the block from us lit some rockets in the street, even though they could see a car was coming. We had to stop and wait to proceed until the coast was clear, and steer to avoid the debris in the street.

A lot of people had turned on their lawn sprinklers, to cut down on the risk of fire, I imagine. We passed a couple of firetrucks a few blocks away, too. And this has been a wet year. How terrifying during a drought!

Yes, the fireworks display is quite a show, but one best enjoyed from 800 feet up and a few miles away, in my opinion. Thank you, National Park Service, for providing the opportunity for viewing the fireworks in peace.

Copyright 2011 by Katie Bradshaw

4 Comments leave one →
  1. martin permalink
    July 5, 2011 10:06 am

    Such a beautiful account of your experience…thank you.

  2. July 5, 2011 12:15 pm

    I’m wondering how they’re going to regulate the size of the fireworks that are set off in the streets–this year’s were the loudest ever on this street!

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink
      July 5, 2011 1:11 pm

      It was way louder in my neighborhood this year compared to last, and later, too. I do not like this trend.


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