Thursday, September 17, 2020

Nebraska National Forest: Eagles Eye Rock

Today was another Nebraska peak-begging day. First on my list was an ascent of Eagles Eye Rock in the Nebraska National Forest near Hudson Meng Bison Bonebed. I made the drive out the gravel road to another road with an ominous warning sign. 

I parked nearby and started my hike up the road. 

Eventually the road ended and I came to a trail. 

Really the trail is just a section of the road that has been closed to vehicular traffic.  The trail climbed steeply and offered great view down to the plains below. 

At the top of the ridge the trail became less obvious, marked periodically by diamond blazes attached to posts.

There was a tangle of fallen trees at a bump of land. 

I assumed that this was the summit of Eagles Eye Rock and so I tagged the summit and then made my descent back to the car.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Fort Robinson State Park: Walter Reed Butte (and beyond)

After the day's earlier hike up to the Cheyenne Buttes, I got back in the car, drove the rest of the Scenic Road and then headed over to the Mexican Canyon Trailhead for my hike up to Walter Reed Butte. If you're wondering, yes, Walter Reed Butte is named after the famous Army doctor. Walter Reed was the post surgeon at Fort Robinson in the 1880s.

The hike started in a very scenic area.

 I hiked up a ridge on the west side of Mexican Canyon. 

There were great views down into the system of canyon and side drainages. 

As I hiked further and further up the ridge, I didn't see any obvious high points. In addition, the snow was starting to get deeper.

I decided I must have gone too far. I quick look at the GPS coordinates on my phone confirmed my suspicions. I turned around and made my way back towards where I had come. After a while I saw this bump on the right side of the trail. 

I had found Walter Reed Buttes and had walked about 4 extra miles in my search for it. I climbed up to the summit, took a photo 

and admired the view for a few minutes. 

Then, I started my return trip back to the car. On the way back I decided to hike a different way.

I hiked down into Mexican Canyon and hiked through the canyon and its tree cover back to the car. 

Fort Robinson State Park: Cheyenne Buttes via the Turtle Rock Trail

What a difference a week makes! Last week I was in Fort Robinson State Park sweating. This week I was bundled up against the cold with scattered snow on the ground. I returned to Fort Robinson to so another hike to one of the high points in the park, Cheyenne Buttes. I drove to the trailhead off of the scenic drive and parked among scattered horses. 

I started on the Turtle Rock Trail,

passed a horse lying on the grass, 

and started to climb up to the buttes on an overgrown dirt road.

The last of this summer's flowers still clung to their stems.

As I ascended, the views off to the hills and prairie below were impressive. 

Perhaps even more impressive were the views of the surrounding rock formations.

Soon enough I found myself at the top of a ridge where I took a side trail over to an area with a fenced-in overlook. I believe this is an area where the jeep tours that are offered most summers take their customers. I took a photo there 

and then moved on traversing the ridge. There were lots of great views off the ridge.

At one point I even spied a bird perched at the top of a rock outcropping. I believe it was a prairie falcon. 

Soon I descended off of the ridge and followed the trail back down to the road, not too far from where I had parked at the start of my hike. There were views back towards the direction I had come, including a view of what I assume is "Turtle Rock".

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Fort Robinson State Park: Saddle Rock and Lover's Leap Butte

It's forecast to be a hot day today, but I figured if I got an early start, I could avoid the hottest part of the day. I packed the car and headed north up to Fort Robinson State Park. I parked in a nondescript parking area at a gate in the fence, climbed over the fence and started my walk. I was surprised to find another car in the lot as I set out on the two track trail that led up towards the Red Cloud Buttes.

There are not many different species of wildflowers blooming right now, but there is a lot of goldenrod in bloom.

I made my way to the top of a ridge with nice views out to the surrounding bluffs. 

I then found a side trail that followed the ridge to the east and up and over to my first destination for the day: Saddle Rock. I enjoyed the view from Saddle Rock,

then retrace my steps back to the trail for the hike to my second destination for the day: Lover's Leap Butte. Again, there were plenty of wonderful views. 

From the ridge, I followed the two-track trail north and down into a small valley. There I met another hiker, the owner of the other vehicle that was parked in the lot. He was looking for Lover's Leap Butte and had been unable to find it. I agreed to let him follow me to our mutual destination. We climbed a steep trail out of the valley and made our way to the base of the butte and past a feature known as Grant's Thumb. 

We circled around to the north side of the butte where we found a crack leading up to the top. I led the way up the steep, but manageable climb and then scampered around until I found the highest point. My companion took my photo there.

Then I helped him descend back to the base of the bluff, admiring the views as we went.

Once we were back to the official trails, the hiking went much faster. We enjoyed the scenery 

and conversation. Before we knew it, we were back to our vehicles at the trailhead before the heat became too unbearable.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Medicine Bow National Forest: Crater Lake and Lookout Mountain

 I had originally planned a 12 plus mile loop hike around Browns Peak today. However, when I awoke this morning, it was very windy. It didn't seem like fun conditions for a hike above the trees, and so I packed up my tent (a bit of a chore in the wind) and hit the road to lower elevations that I hoped would be protected from the wind. 

I headed east towards Centennial, but before leaving the National Forest I turned right and headed north towards the trailhead for Crater Lake. It was a pretty long drive to the trailhead, but very scenic. I saw some wildlife along the way: a couple of elk that were too quick to photograph and a pair of moose feeding along a creek.

I arrived at the trailhead and immediately hit the trail.

The first half of the route was very easy and extremely flat. I soon found myself at a high overlook of Crater Lake.

I took my photo at the overlook, 

then started the very steep descent to the lake. The lake itself was a very nice spot. I rested there for a bit.

There wasn't much else to the lake though, so after a short time I was ready for the steep climb back up. It was tough going. Once I reached the ridge I found a spot marked by a few small cairns and took a side trip to what appeared to be the highest point around and the summit of Lookout Mountain. I snapped a selfie there 

and then headed back to the trailhead for my drive back home.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Medicine Bow National Forest: Peakbagging Sugarloaf Mountain and Browns Peak

With more hot weather forecast for my days off, I decided I had to get out of town and into the mountains. I decided I would head to the Snowy Range to bag a few peaks that I hadn't been on before. 

I hit the road early this morning, passed through Cheyenne and then followed I-80 west, following the route of the Old Lincoln Highway 

past Tree Rock 

and the highest point on Interstate 80. 

Shortly thereafter, I headed up into the mountains. I arrived at the Sugarloaf Campground just in time to claim the last remaining site. Then, I hit the trail headed towards my first objective for the day, an ascent of Sugarloaf Mountain. 

I started my hike on the Medicine Bow Peak Trail and closely followed the southern shoreline of Lewis Lake.

 At times I could see my second objective for the day, Browns Peak.

There were lots of wildflowers in bloom along the trail, and some pollinators as well.

At a trail junction, 

I left the trail and set off cross country on my ascent of Sugarloaf.

As I approached the summit, the views got better and better!

Soon enough, I was standing on top of the summit proper. 

I relaxed for a bit at a stone shelter 

and looked north out to some lakes and Browns Peak.

When it was time to move on, I retraced my steps back to the Lewis Lake parking area and set out on the North Gap Lake Trail.

 I could look back at awesome views of Sugarloaf!

I ascended to South Gap Lake.

Then, I hiked up to the ridge separating South and North Gap Lakes. Here I started my off trail ascent. It was steep and rocky, but I could stop every now and then and enjoy the views of South Gap Lake and the surrounding area.

I finally reached the large, relatively flat summit plateau. I explored a bit and determined the highest point to be a spot marked by a tall cairn near the middle of the plateau. I found a place to rest for a bit, 

then started my descent. I spied a few marmots on my way down.

By the time I rejoined the trail, I was utterly exhausted. I found a nice grassy spot near a small, unnamed pond and dozed off in the sun. 

When I was ready to start moving again, it was a short, downhill hike 

back to my campsite at the Sugarloaf Campground.