Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Cedar Canyon State Wildlife Management Area: Secret Trail to Secret Overlook

What an unexpectedly wonderful adventure we went on today! This morning we decided to get out and head back to the Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area to explore a little bit more. Hoping to see the bighorn sheep again, we pack a couple pairs of binoculars, some snacks, and water and headed out.

It was a quick drive to the parking area. Our car was the only one in the lot. I grabbed my pack and we set off down the road.
Just like our last visit the scenery was striking, with a brilliant blue sky.
We wound our way through grassland, interspersed with yuccas and ponderosa pines.
After crossing a dry stream bed, we came out to a prairie area with a few boulders scattered just along the road. Of course Sierra had to climb one of them!
Climbing done, we had to hustle to catch up to Noelle.
After crossing the second dry stream bed, we came to another meadow area where Noelle spotted a group of four bighorn sheep. We watched them for a bit through our binoculars
and I used the binos as a zoom lens to get a half decent photo.

As we took turns looking at the bighorns through the binoculars, I noticed what appeared to be a trail leading up the a ridge just to our west. We decided to head over to that trail, crossing over a dam. On the other side of the dam was the rib cage of an animal, possibly a bighorn.
After observing the bones, we ascended towards the trail.
The trail turned out to have a semi-maintained feel to it. In areas it seemed more distinct than some of the trails in the nearby Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area. It traversed a mixture of open areas and ponderosa pine woods.
There were some impressive views off to the east side of the trail.
By the time we were 2/3 of the way up the ridge we were pretty hungry, so we decided to stop at a particularly scenic are for a snack.
After about 15 minutes, we continued ascending the ridge. There were scattered clumps of delicate-looking phlox in bloom.
Soon enough we made it to the top of the ridge and some amazing views.
I noticed an exposed rock overlook and we all agreed to head over to it to have a look around.
It offered some of the best views yet!
After a few minutes admiring the views, it was time to turn around and retrace our steps back to the car.
Though Sierra was pretty tired by the time we were back to the road, it was a great day out in the fresh, spring air. Without any other visitors to be seen, it was easy to social distance also.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Cedar Canyon State Wildlife Management Area

Warm weather was forecast for today, so Noelle, Sierra and I decided to get outside and take advantage of it. We wanted to go to a location where it might be a bit easier to do some social distancing, and so I decided that the Cedar Canyon State Wildlife Management Area might fit the bill. We made the short drive out there
and immediately hit the trail, actually a two-track, closed road.
Sierra excited skipped along the road. We followed the "main road" for a bit before turning right onto a side road that led into a small canyon. Almost immediately upon turning on the road, Noelle noticed a herd of bighorn sheep on a steep hillside.
We watched them for about 10 minutes
before they moved out of site. Then we headed further up the road to a point where it dead-ended. We continued in the same general direction after the road ended, to a point where there was a low ridge. We stopped there to rest for a bit.
Eventually we started back in the direction from which we had come.
We then decided that we would attempt to climb up the ridge close to where we had seen the bighorns earlier.
Parts of the climb were steep and treacherous. We noticed a few clumps of blooming flowers, phlox I believe.
We persevered and eventually made the ridge top.
From the top of the ridge we could see the bighorn herd again down below.
We observed them for a bit before beginning the descent, much less treacherous on the east side of the ridge.

Once we were down in the valley floor,
we followed a two track road for a bit and then branched off onto what appeared to be a fire break.
We returned to the two track and followed it to the east boundary of the wildlife management area.
Then we followed the main road back to the car for the short drive home in the wind.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area: Muley Trail

I wasn't supposed to go hiking today. Noelle and I had finished painting our bedroom and I was tired of sitting around the house and so I decided to get out for a little bit. It was late and so I needed to stay close to home, and so I decided to head out to the Wildcat Hills again.

As I approached the State Recreation Area, it was obvious that there was a lot more snow in the Wildcat Hills than down in the lower elevations. I arrived, drove the muddy access road and hit the trail. Today I would be hiking the Muley Trail down to where it leaves the recreation area at Stage Hill Road. I would walk the road back to the car. I started on the Turkey Run Trail and hiked up to the old, stone picnic shelter.
The views from the shelter were stunning!
I continued down the trail,
slipping, sliding and trudging through the snow.

Eventually the Muley Trail
ascended to a little pass. I found a narrow trail that followed a ridge to the left. I took this trail out to a wonderful overlook of the surrounding area.
More views opened up as I made my way down the trail.
Eventually, the trail passed near an interesting rock outcropping. There were lots of names carved in the soft rock there. I followed the cliff face for a while, looking for interesting signatures. I found one that looked old and simply read "Philadelphia."
Nearby was one that said "Guatemala", and yet another that read "El Salvador".
I wonder who wrote these inscriptions and why the place names. From one part of the cliff face, there was a particularly interesting view looking down into the valley and across to Scotts Bluff.
I continued to follow the trail descending steadily into a meadow, with nice views of the surrounding rocks.
I also passed an old, wooden building of some sort. I have no idea what it was. Part of the old CCC camp maybe?
Soon enough, I was at the e3nd of the trail and Stage Hill Road. I made a right onto the road and followed it back up and into the state recreation area.
It was a wonderful, snowy hike with lots of interesting things to look at.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Scotts Bluff National Monument: Social Distancing/Hiking the Summit Road

We, like a lot of other folks right now, have been feeling cooped up in the house. With nice weather, we felt the desire to get out and get a little fresh air and exercise and so we headed over to "the Monument" for a hike along the Summit Road, which is currently closed to vehicular traffic. With a wide roadway, we figured the road would allow for plenty of room for social distancing in this time of Covid 19.

We arrived to a parking lot that was more packed with cars than usual. Even as we approached the monument, we could see people, little specks from a distance, hiking the trails. We parked in the far section of the lot and started our way on the road.

Hiking the road gave us a different perspective of Scotts Bluff and Mitchell Pass compared to what we are used to.
Soon we approached the first tunnel.
The view looking out of the tunnel was fantastic!
Then we moved on towards tunnel 2.
You can look out of tunnel 2 back towards tunnel 1 for a really interesting view.

Near tunnel 3 we stopped to admire the view.
There would be plenty more opportunities to stop and admire the view.
Once we reached the summit, we walked out to the South Overlook.
Then we headed over to one of the North Overlooks, with a nice view of Gering.
Then we walked down via the Saddle Rock Trail. It was pretty busy at the bottom.
Perhaps not the best place to be for social distancing.