Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Belmont Tunnel: Nebraksa's Only Railroad Tunnel

On our drive home from Wind Cave, Noelle happened to look something up on her phone and noticed an abandoned railroad tunnel outside the town of Crawford. It was Nebraska's only railroad tunnel and being curious, we just had to have a look.

We took a short detour off of highway 71 and headed east to the small town of Belmont. After a short period of confusion, we followed a railroad access road into an old rail cut and found the tunnel.
To our surprise, we were able to drive through the tunnel,
though I'm not sure we did so legally. Noelle and I got out to explore on foot a little bit
and found some of the most interesting street art I've ever seen.
We then turned around, drove back through the tunnel and scared an owl as we exited on our way back out.
It was an interesting adventure. For more information Belmont Tunnel.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Wind Cave National Park: Lookout Point Loop

Today was our day for a longer hike. We decided to head over to the Lookout Point Loop Trail a 4.5 mile loop starting at the Norbeck Dam Trailhead. We parked the car and set out on foot,
doing the Centennial Trail section of the hike first. We started out by descending to Beaver Creek.
We would continue to follow the creek downstream.
As we entered one of the more narrow, canyon sections, we turned a corner and there, about 120 yards ahead of us and right on the trail, stood a lone bull bison.
We cautiously watched him for a bit and then he started walking towards us. he seemed to be curious about our presence.
He was getting closer and closer and, without any way to escape him up into the forest we had to think fast. We ended up climbing a large boulder where we were safe and could observe him from a close distance, but safely. We even got some video.

 After the bison moved past we started to climb down from the boulder. Our friend had a change of plans though and started to circle back towards us.
We climbed back up onto the boulder before he changed course yet again and moved out of eyesight.

We started to move on and into some more wooded areas along the creek
that were, unfortunately, loaded with poison ivy. Eventually, we climbed out of the canyon and up onto the prairie.
We passed through a couple of prairie dog towns
before the final stretch back to the car.
It was a good hike. However, by the end we were ready for it to be over. The Lookout Point Trail offers little shade and we were all hot and tired.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Wind Cave National Park: Rankin Ridge Trail

This morning we made the 2.5 hour drive north to Wind Cave National Park. Noelle and I were excited to show Sierra a place that is so special to the both of us, and to bring Mom along as well. We entered the park at the south entrance, snapped some photos at the entrance sign,
and then headed to the campground to claim ourselves a site for the night.

After setting up camp and eating lunch, we made the drive north on Highway 87 to the Rankin Ridge Trailhead. We promptly hit the trail headed into the ponderosa pine forest.
There were scattered views through the trees as we ascended higher.
When we reached the top of the ridge, the views only got better.
We passed the fire tower
and then followed the road section of the loop back down to the car.

Finished with our short hike, we were still in the mood to do some exploring and so we decided to drive NPS5 and the 7-11 Ranch Road back to the campground. Along the way we saw plenty of prairie dogs
and some pronghorn.
We also saw a pretty big bison herd just outside the campground.
Later this evening, we took a short walk over to the Natural Entrance of the cave. There must be a storm coming, because the cave was blowing out like crazy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Chadron State Park: Steamboat Loop Trail

This morning, Noelle, Mom, Sierra and I made the drive north to Chadron State Park. We arrived at lunch time and so we ate in the picnic area
next to a nice pond before driving over to the trailhead for the Steamboat Loop Trail.

The trail started on a mowed grass path and I thought to myself that the trail might be a bit boring.
Soon enough, the trail left the wide mowed path and started to steeply ascend a narrow trail lined with poison ivy.
The trail climbed to the top of a ridge
where the views started to open up.
There were lots of interesting wildflowers in bloom, including:
 penstemon,
 Sego lily,
and prickly pear.

We continued along the ridge, emerging at another section of wide, grassy trail.
 We then descended to the parking area, completing the short loop.
We finished our visit with a drive out to the Black Hills Overlook,
then drove to Alliance to break up the drive and purchase a couple of crowlers at Brewery 719.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Curt Gowdy State Park: Hidden Falls Hike

This morning we relaxed around camp a bit before packing up and heading northeast on Vedauwoo Road to Happy Jack Road and over to Curt Gowdy State Park. Our campsite, in a dispersed camping area just east of the Vedauwoo Recreation Area was very nice. Nestled close to a large rock formation,
the only downside was the close proximity to the interstate.
While we could hear the distant whine of traffic, it wasn't unbearable. Still, next time we camp in this area, I think we might try a site closer to Happy Jack Road.

We arrived at the state park, paid our entry fee and headed over to the trailhead for the Crow Creek Trail to hike to Hidden Falls. The trail starts at a pleasant looking reservoir.
There were quite a few people out on the water paddling. We applied sunblock
and hit the trail.
The beginning portions of the hike followed the ponderosa pine-clad shoreline of the reservoir.
There were scattered views of the surrounding rock formations.
Soon we left the reservoir and followed Crow Creek for the rest of the hike.

There were several bridges to cross,
and blooming wildflowers to admire.
The closer we got to the falls, the rockier and more rugged the trail seemed to get.
When we could hear voices and splashing, we knew we were near the falls. The trail dead-ends at a narrow and deep canyon where you can hear the sound of cascading water. A short walk through the water
takes you to the impressive Hidden Falls.

After exploring the falls for a bit and eating a snack, we turned around for our hike back to the car.
It was starting to get a bit crowded as we left.