Ft. Robinson and Niobrara State Park

Apparently a week of travel through Nebraska takes a month to blog about.   Our last couple days of travel included a night at Ft. Robinson State Park, a trip to the Fur Trade Museum, and a very relaxing evening in a sweet cabin at Niobrara State Park.  So many of our friends spent childhood summer vacations at Ft. Robinson but none of us had ever been there.  We went to the Trailside Museum and saw some mammoths and other fossils, then we just walked around and checked out some of the buildings.  We stayed the night in the lodge, which is the main building of the fort, and sat on the big porch and played cards after dark.  Ft. Robinson is where Crazy Horse surrendered and was killed.  There was a certain creepiness about the fort since it seemed like the site of a lot of violence and death.  However, our night was spent ghost free…as far as we know.  In the morning we took a drive around the fort and saw an antelope and some long-horned steer, then made our way along the top of the state to Niobrara State Park.

One of the Nebraska Passport stops was the Museum of the Fur Trade.  I am not going to lie, this stop did not excite me at all so it surprised me that I enjoyed it as much as I did.  I think they did a nice job of  including girly things in the museum.  There were lots of beautiful clothes on display and tactile displays.  Their gift shop was filled with beautiful blankets, jewelry, and of course furs.  I bought some turquoise earrings and then lost one of them that night… sadness overtakes me.

We arrived at Niobrara State Park just in time to fire up the grill and hang out a bit in our cabin before putting the baby to bed.  Our stay at Niobrara was incredibly relaxing and the cabin was perfect.  This is not the area of Niobrara that you can canoe or tube down, but it was really pretty and just what we needed at the end of a long road trip. We sat out on our covered porch and watched set while we reminisced about our giant trip across the most beautiful state in the country, Nebraska.

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Toadstool Park

Toadstool Park is awesome! It was Brent’s favorite part of the trip and definitely in the top 3 for me.  If you have always wondered what it was like to walk on the moon, then I suggest you visit.  At the park you can hike through and see the layers of rock formed over millions of years by volcanic ash, and the rivers and wind that eroded the rock.  There are all these pocks in the rocks that are actually track marks from some ancient rhinos.

 

We went hiking pretty early in the day but it was still balmy.  The only way to carry Edith without falling into a cavern was to tote her around on my back with my Ergo.  At about the half-way point she started losing her shit.  I don’t know if she was hot or just sick of being on my back but she was sure to let me now she  was not happy by screaming in my ear.  A bench, in the  shade of a giant rock magically appeared so I took advantage and nursed Edith back to a normal state.  No one said traveling with a one year old was going to be easy.  Honestly though she did great and this was her only major breakdown and in her defense it was on day 5.

 

 

All in all, we had a great time at Toadstool.  We spent about an hour hiking around, but we took the shorter hike.  You could definitely spend more time exploring and looking for fossils.  You can also camp right outside the park.  It’s pretty primitive camping but if you are into that sort of thing…I am obviously not.  Please stay tuned for my final post about our trip around Nebraska!

High Plains Homestead and Hudson-Meng

After driving several scary miles on a gravel road, we pulled up to the High Plains Homestead where a pretty lady in a blue dress and red lipstick welcomed us. I knew as soon as I saw the lipstick that we were in good hands. We got settled in our room with a bottle of wine then went exploring. The homestead is set up just like an Old West town: there was an old school-house, a functioning saloon, a livery, a jail, a post office, and a little house. They also have a beautiful garden, donkeys, chickens, and two bison who just had a baby (SO CUTE!!). If that wasn’t enough to make you interested…they also have a pool that looks out over the Sandhills. Our room was very comfortable and spacious as well.

In the evening they made us a lovely dinner over the fire. Chuck was thrilled because he got two different types of orange cream soda. In the morning they fed us breakfast. Brent said the pancakes were some of the best he’d ever had, a perfect mix of fluffy, crispy, and buttery. It was a fun little adventure out in the middle of nowhere.

After checking out of High Plains Homestead, we hopped on another gravel road and went to the Hudson-Meng Education and Research Center to check out some 10,000 year old bison fossils. We showed up right at 9 when they were said to be opened and walked in. We quickly realized that we had somehow broken into the Center and set off the alarm. Not knowing what to do we walked around a bit, then the phone rang. I answered it and it was the security company. I reassured her we were not robbers. After that we felt pretty sketchy so we waited outside. Soon after a pretty park staff member showed up and laughed nervously when we told her our story. She gave us a lot of information about the fossils and the Center. There are conflicting hypotheses on what happened to over 600 bison 10,000 years ago. The most believable hypothesis is that it was an area rich with bison due to there being a small pond nearby. It is assumed that American Indians would hunt there year after year and thus the bones were collected in somewhat of a trash dump. Others assume there was a natural disaster type of situation that wiped them out all at once. This was less believable for me though because there were very few skulls found in the area and about 20 arrowheads were found lodged into the bison bones. The bison were much bigger than the bison of today, about 10 feet tall. It amazes me to think that there were people living in our area 10,000 years ago. It makes modern life feel like just a tiny blip on the radar.

Scottsbluff National Monument and Wildcat Hills State Park

I am so far behind in posting  about our Western Nebraska trip.  I was busy celebrating my baby’s 1st birthday. Woo Hoo!

After visiting Chimney Rock, on our way to Crawford, Nebraska, we stopped at Scotts Bluff National Monument.  I was completely blown away by this place.  Apparently it’s not nice to say “it looks nothing like Nebraska” because those who live in this area take offense to that….since it IS Nebraska.  I will say that it is not what people think of when they think of flat Nebraska.

The Oregon Trail also passed through this little area called “Mitchell Pass”.  We walked along the trail and saw a few oxen and covered wagons along the way.

Because this is a National Park, it was very well taken care of.  There is a great road you can  take through tunnels in the bluffs to reach great views. You can also hike through tunnels to the top, but as you know, we had a baby in tow.  The day was clear, sunny, and beautiful.  I think  we all agreed it was one of our favorite stops on our vacation.

Scotts Bluff was a great way to start the morning off.  It was just getting hot so we decided to go a few miles away to Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. We looked around in the visitors center at all the “wild cats” on display then went out for a hike.  As we were heading out, a woman stopped us and asked if we were going hiking.  We nodded and she simply said, “watch out for snakes”.  Gee thanks, lady.  The whole time we were hiking I was looking around me for snakes and cougars.  I don’t think I took full advantage of the beautiful scenery because I was on guard.  Luckily, I found a stick to carry with me in case we were attacked.

 

After plenty of hiking for the day we hopped in the car with Edith’s new friend, Pete the Sandhill Crane, and headed to the Crawford/Ft. Robinson Area.  Stay tuned for more.