Wandering Sisters!

This weekend wasn’t long enough.

For a couple reasons.

One, my sister, P.J. flew up for the weekend- I wish I could have kidnapped her and kept her up here for a few more days… or a month…or a year…

My sister! Checking out Norden Chute.

Two, we had to pack a lot of stuff into mainly one day… I need more sleep and my poor feet are swollen- nearly three days later…

But it was worth it!

She is the best big sister in the whole world! Not going to lie I needed a girl’s day with my sister- between the pregnancy, lingering SAD symptoms, and Covid my mental health was blah at best. I wasn’t as bad as I was during the shutdown, but I needed a “break.” She helped break me out of my funk and we had a little fun- plus, she didn’t treat me like glass.

The best thing about living in rural Nebraska is that you’re two-three hours away from everything. The bad thing about living in rural Nebraska is you’re two-three hours away from everything.

PJ’s flight came into Grand Island at 10:30…pm. Three and a half hours away from Valentine.

I had a nice sunset drive going down part of the way. Then I was driving into the dark which night driving never really bothered me. However, with pregnancy I have to stop every five minutes, it felt like, to walk around, wake up, and go to the bathroom.

But we timed it well, I pulled in on the airport road as her flight was landing and was pulling into the airport terminal while they were taxiing. Originally, I was just going to wait for her outside in the idle lane, but Hunter was excited and bouncing on my bladder…

So, after a quick circle and finding a parking spot I ran inside. Well, waddled inside- my eyes zeroing in on the bathrooms. I saw PJ but I was on a beeline. She thought it was funny and met me right at the doors to the bathroom.

We hugged after we got back outside.

Then food! Late night drive throughs are awesome, and we got to chat and catch up in the parking lot of Raising Cane’s. New car didn’t want to eat in it- I’m weird I know…

A late-night drive through the Sandhills was fun- we stayed awake and somehow, I made it without needing a bathroom, lol.

We got to Valentine at 3 a.m.–we stumbled in and went to bed after saying we’re getting up at ten to go exploring.

Surprisingly, we did get up at ten, we had breakfast, and then the exploring began.

Snice it was a short trip I decided to show her the highlights along the Niobrara National Scenic River. We drove out to the Niobrara Valley Preserve to check out the Norden Chute. It’s one of my favorite places and the drive along the river valley kind of reminds me of home.

We hopped out of the car and meandered down to the river and took the trail that leads to the chute. It’s a little steep heading off the parking area down to the river side trail. PJ said to “be careful if you fall and go into labor I don’t know where I am, nor how to deliver a baby.”

So, she did treat me a little like glass, but she didn’t harp on it…

I was there in June- the water has dropped a lot. Which is normal but still noteworthy.

I apparently make people worry- I walked up to the edge to get some photos and my sister is like… “You’re going to die!”

Well, not that dramatic but she still was like move back this way…

I wandered into the water which felt good on my footsies. Yes, I say footsies. 

We spent a little while taking photos- even photos of each other…

We hoped in the car and went up River Road- it was fun showing my sister where I usually spend most of my time in the summer. She’s visited before but in the winter and a lot of the locations are inaccessible during that time.

I actually convinced her to come back (hopefully next summer) with the kids for a float trip! I’m happy about that.

We made a bathroom pit stop at Brewer Bridge. Then headed to Smith Falls State Park.

Smith Falls State Park is home to the tallest waterfall in the state of Nebraska and is on the banks of the Niobrara River. We made the one-mile trek to the waterfall. Since it was a Saturday, I warned her that there might be some… inebriated… people around. But we hit it in the late afternoon and the crowds weren’t too crazy.

It was a hot walk.

By the time we hit the slot canyon the temperature decrease felt good. One of the best things about the Niobrara River Valley is the hydrology and geology. Because of the geology, the Ogallala Aquifer is near the surface and there are places where it seeps out creating waterfalls. Since, the water is mainly from underground it stays around 50 degrees- even in the summer. So, the waterfalls and side creeks are gloriously cold!

My hot, cranky, and pregnant self loved that the temperature dropped. I was ecstatic when we got to the waterfall and I could put my poor swollen feet in the water. I just wished I had brought a change of clothes or a towel because I wanted to crawl under the waterfall for a little while and just chill. Best perk of my job during the hotter months.

PJ thought it was cool! And cold…

All too soon we were heading back to the vehicle; luckily, I have awesome a/c.

The original plan was to stop at the Fort Niobrara NWR upper overlook and then head on to the house for dinner–then head back to the lower part of the refuge after dinner. However, the truck ahead of us had some interesting characters… that seemed to be inebriated… or at least the guys in the back seat who was poking his upper body through the back window and digging in the cooler and waving at us while the driver slowed down… they turned off so we decided to head on to town and walk the dog before dinner.

We made a good call.

After the dog was walked, we headed to one of our local restaurants- Peppermill. It was really good, and Wade met us there for dinner.

Afterwards, I dragged him out to the refuge for maternity photos– he hates getting his photo taken but since PJ encouraged him to tickle me, he was a good sport about doing it.

PJ got to do my makeup and hair which made her happy- she does a great job. I think she would make a great makeup artist if she wanted too!

I was so happy to be home- my feet and legs were swollen. I propped them up with a big glass of sweet tea and we decided to break the news to my mom that PJ came up.

My parents are older and don’t travel as much–especially with a pandemic. However, mom wanted to see me pregnant and all, so we felt bad that PJ flew up. It’s easier for PJ to fly out of Dallas since she lives in the metro area, like me the parents live several hours from an airport.

Once she realized who was on the phone… apparently, we sound alike… she wasn’t too upset. An hour later we were finally off the phone and popping popcorn!

We then binged watched Grimm until late in the morning. We also said we’d get up at 8 and hit a few of the last spots before taking her to the airport in Grand Island….

Wade and PJ were up at eight… I was unconscious until like nine…thirty.

So, we had to amend our mornings activities.

We hit up the Cowboy Trail Bridge- I about died. It was weird normally the mile hike out and back doesn’t bother me, but I was sweating, hot, and cranky by the time we got to the middle of the bridge. But it was worth showing it to my sister- she liked it. I wound up getting mad the last little bit of the trail and speed walking to get to the car so I could get tissues and Wet Ones to wipe the sweat out of my eyes and clean up my face. Plus, down a bottle of Gatorade.

Looking back, I think I pushed it the day before and even that morning–I don’t want to hold back but the baby does put a lot of stress on the body and I’m 35 weeks. Hence why it’s three days later and I’m still recovering.

Then it was the long drive to Grand Island- we did stop for lunch which took a little longer than we thought… well the trip out to the bridge and actually stopping for lunch took a little longer than we thought it would.

We also–Wade and I– thought that the drive was only three hours (Wade) and the flight was at 3:15 (me).

PJ was in the back seat…. uhm… my flight is at 3:01…

“It only takes three hours- at this point in Broken Bow we can make it in two, so you’ll have thirty minutes.”

I am checking the driving time on my phone…

“This says we’ll get there as the flight is taking off…”

Que panicked mode.

Wade might have exceeded the speeding limit a time or two, but we made it with twenty minutes for PJ to get through security and board.

I love that Grand Island is a small regional airport with two gates. Plus, the security line isn’t crazy and the one benefit of Covid-19 only “x” number of passengers on the flight.

Because of the panicked running we didn’t have a tearful goodbye- although, after she was through security and waiting to board, we stared at each other through the glass and texted how the weekend was too short and that I should have just kidnapped her.

Ten minutes after getting into the terminal they started boarding- fifteen minutes she was in line and going through the gangway.

Wade and I watched her plane taxi off, get clearance, and hit the sky.

She was home nearly an hour and a half later.

We were still driving.

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. I get to see her again in about a month!

P.S.S. We made it home before the sunset and had a nice walk with the dog.

One last thing…. check out Pike Creek Girls on Instagram it’s a little project us #wanderingsisters are working on! https://www.instagram.com/pikecreekgirls/

Bored…I’m Bored!!!!

Short post this week, sorry about that.

Yeah…after that nine-day work week my weekend consisted of me doing laundry (only productive thing I did) and eating Oreos on the couch…

Oh, and walking the dog.

I’m turning into a boring person.

It’s just not the same as going somewhere for a hike.

However, I did read a wonderful book on hiking… Dances with Marmots- A Pacific Crest Trail Adventure by George Spearing

If you have any recommendations or want to hear about one of these books let me know!

I have a friend on social media that got out and was hiking some mountains in Japan; now I’m itching to go somewhere and climb a mountain. However, between the Covid-19 restrictions and lung kicking that’s not going to happen- so, I’m drooling over his photos and jealous. Thanks @bnheise

Sadly, the closer I get to the due date the less my doctors seem to want me to do anything- I understand why but it’s sending me into a funk. Plus, with the extra weight and the whole growing a small human the heat of summer is getting to me- it’s making me cranky.

**plan any future children to be carried to term during the winter… the internal heater will be nice.

So, more sitting in the A/C and reading books on other people’s adventures. Some are re-reads. Nothing, wrong with that but there goes my winter reading list… although, this year I will have a new buddy to spend the winter with.

I’m back to my normal grind and have an upcoming weekend- I’m hoping to do something this “weekend.” I do have a doctor’s appointment in North Platte this week and I will be going by the Valentine NWR. I might take a little time and wander there…

It’s hot mom!

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. Send me your favorite hiking reads!

P.S.S. Decaffeinated sweet tea is not the same!

33 weeks!

A Jaunt at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area

“Nebraska: Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

It’s a pun! Run!

Wait…is it a pun? *shakes head in confusion, looks up puns, still unsure, continues to write anyways without finding out for sure if it is a pun*

Honestly, Nebraska gets a bad rap. Before I came here for a job in 2014, I was one of those people that thought it was flat, corn, and interstate. Then I accepted a seasonal job on the Niobrara National Scenic River and learned that I-80 might resemble my preconceived notions, but north central Nebraska shattered the illusion that the whole state was flat cornfields.

Niobrara NSR
Niobrara River!

Yes, corn is grown throughout the state but it’s not “flat.” Now, as a former ridge runner from the Ozarks there is not enough trees or hills to truly remind me of home, or remove the idea of “flat” totally, but there are places where I can find “wild” country and it makes me happy. By “wild” country I mean bluffs, ridges, hills, etc.

It’s different but there is “wild” country to explore, especially in north central and western Nebraska.

There are Sandhills, sand dunes anchored by Sandhills/mixed grass prairie, the dunes were formed by winds blowing loose sand deposits from retreating glaciers during the last Ice Age. These rolling hills are an ecological wonder leading to north central Nebraska where north, south, east, and west species meet in a crossroads formed by the 100th meridian (w). The Niobrara River is also different from other rivers in Nebraska, at least the section that was deemed scenic in 1991. The geologic history is interesting, deposition began around 98 million years ago, when it was covered by a shallow sea. Overtime the river canyon developed creating microclimates that still exist to this day- although, if conditions continue to change the hybrid aspen and paper birch trees will die out. Other rivers in the area are similar but down south the rivers are “flat” and braid out more- which so does the eastern section of the Niobrara. I might talk more about the Niobrara River Valley and floating at a later date- right now it sounds to much like my day job and I don’t want to think about work.

We even have waterfalls here in the Sandhills.

The same Sandhills also lead you west to a different type of “wild.” Massive bluffs and interesting rock formations rise out of the rolling Sandhills as you travel west on Highway 2 or 20. Let’s see how many people paid attention in history class back in the day? What were the biggest markers on the Oregon Trail in western Nebraska?

*…music to favorite trivia game show…*

Did you guess Chimney Rock and Scott’s Bluff?

You are correct!

I had been out to Scott’s Bluff before but wanted to go again for a more relaxed trip. My first time out there we only had one day; we packed in Scott’s Bluff National Monument, Agate Fossil Beds, and Fort Robinson State Park with some co-workers and friends. It was a whirlwind trip and I might do a flashback post about it at some point.

However, this trip was a camping trip with my awesome husband Wade.

Due to a series of unfortunate events I didn’t get much time off last year, then Covid at the beginning of this year…so I didn’t get any camping done in the last year and a half.

A year and a half.  

It was starting to get to me.  

Originally, I was planning on doing a last hooray pre-baby trip in September…which is when I’m due…

Wade gave me a look when I mentioned that and said “did you think that through considering…” He then gave me a panicked look because I’ve been carrying “big” for most of the pregnancy and I figured he was going to say something along the lines “you’ll be as big a house…”

He would have said it lovingly- and I really can’t fault him for saying it because I had already said it a couple of times.

“Well, since I work weekends and you work weekdays, we don’t have a lot of cross over and that was when my schedule goes back to weekends off…”

I figured the trip would be shelved again until the little one was old enough for a camping trip next summer. *Need to Google when is appropriate age to take infant camping…

I got the best surprise.  

My sweetheart of a hubby decided to take a couple days off during the week in order to make this camping trip happen well before I’m big, “big” and two weeks away from my due date.  

I think he knew the lack of nature and camping was starting to get to me.

We decided to stay in the state of Nebraska and narrowed it down to heading up to Gavins Point Dam and doing some kayaking on the Missouri River or head west and explore the western part of the state. We wound up going with Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area so that we would only be a couple of hours (if Wade was driving, less) from my doctor in case anything went wrong.

Missouri National Recreation River, I will one day explore your banks and paddle the Missouri… maybe with a mini-me!

I scoped out the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission page to look for some campgrounds. I looked pretty hard at Chadron and Fort Robinson State Parks because I’ve been interested in exploring them some more but with the Covid-19, and people, I wanted something that wouldn’t be a high tourist destination.

Don’t get me wrong, I like people- whole career is based around liking and talking to people but I’m peopled out by this point in the summer usually…

I found Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area after looking at Chadron SP and from the photos on the state G&P site it seemed… less traveled than other places in the region.

Wildcat Hills SRA!

We had our location, we had our days lined up, all that was left was packing up and heading out.

I took off a little early on a Sunday (my Friday) so that we could make the best of the “weekend”- plus get back in time so we could unload, do laundry, and I could attend a EMS training.

Getting loaded and sorting only took a little chunk of the afternoon- most of my camping gear is stored in totes for ease of traveling from when I was a seasonal employee. The rest we keep in our basement closet- again really easy to access. I have a lot of stuff that I’ve accumulated over the years- plus from my Carin box…I need to re-subscribe to that at some point- they have lots of cool stuff…  In Wade’s opinion I have way too much gear and I should downsize (I agree a little bit). I think he has to much gaming equipment… I believe we are at a stalemate for the time being.

We checked the cat’s automatic feeder, made sure we had plenty of water, and loaded my original hiking partner- Princess- into the car and headed for the store.

This would also be the maiden voyage of my new Subaru! I needed a new car; my old ride Samson the Ford Focus wasn’t holding up to the Nebraska winters (all wheel drive is a blessing) and it wasn’t really “family friendly.” I refused to get a mini-van (see all wheel drive comment) and we decided on an Ascent- perfect for hauling all the little goblins around or taking the family camping!

I never thought pregnancy brain was a “thing” or if it was it was exaggerated a great deal. After becoming pregnant I’ve hilariously learned differently. I was driving and said we will stop at the store going out of town… go through the stop light just cruising along…

“So…we’re going to get food in Chadron then?”

“Huh…?”

“OH!” Barely flashes turn signal before making a right turn on the street after the store that has access…

Wade has a cute smile…and now a little whiplash.

I have never been so forgetful in my life.

We picked up what we needed and then headed west!

I probably should have just let Wade drive…but it was my car. We made it about an hour and a half, and I needed a nap. Lmao.

I’ve also never been much of a “hard core napper” but little Hunter takes a lot out of me.

We drove into the sunset…and a small storm… my poor dog was terrified. Wade pointed out the famous Carhenge- apparently a Nebraska staple outside of Alliance. Since the weather might be a problem we didn’t swing in and check it out- but we did decide to hit it up on the way back to Valentine.

Carhenge!

Luckily, the storm cleared as we drove into the Gering/Scottsbluff area. Scotts Bluff and the surrounding geology rose out distance.

We drove past Scotts Bluff on the way out to Wildcat Hills SRA and we talked about when we should check it out- since of Covid-19 they have limited hours you can go up on top. Finally, we pulled into the kiosk to register for camping…and my next moment of pregnancy brain became apparent. I only brought big bills… and we needed two bucks to cover the camping and vehicle fee for Nebraska State Parks. Considering I spend most of my day telling folks how much the vehicle fee is for state parks you might have thought I would have remembered that little fact…

I also had to pee like a racehorse. Aww, the joys of pregnancy- I would spend a lot this trip walking to and from the restrooms. They were nice (primitive) bathrooms. Plus wildlife…

This little guy would be my favorite thing all “weekend.”

We had to run back to Gering to get change, pens, and hopefully find a bathroom before Hunter kicked my bladder again. Luckily, it was less than ten miles.

I was able to find a pen and get change at the gas station, but the bathroom was occupied.

I also forgot to fill out half the form…

We stopped at Family Dollar- the ladies took pity on me and let me use the bathroom after they had already closed it for cleaning. I also bought pens.

Once back at Wildcat Hills SRA I finished the paperwork, paid, and donated a couple of pens to the state park!

Wade was impressed with the shooting range- however, it was closed during the time we were there- I appreciated the quiet but it would be fun to go with the guns and (my) bow sometime and check it out.

We picked a campsite…we could have picked any of them- hooray for working weekends and having weekdays off.

It didn’t take too long to get the camp set up, walk the dog (who was not liking the wind), and get dinner started. Wade is a professional setter upper and packer- it’s awesome. I’m not too shabby but he is awesome. By the time I was done walking the dog he was ready for me to help put the rainfly on. Once we had that done, I started playing pyromaniac in order to get dinner ready. Wade unloaded the air mattress (I didn’t think I needed it, but he was being a sweetie again) and realized he grabbed the full sized…oops. This will come back into play later.

Wade scoped out the outhouses- I’ve used a lot worse. Plus, I had a cute toad to look for when I went to the rest room. He had a prime location on the trail.

My Little Buddy

We watched a glorious sunset, but the wind was a little high. As we turned into the tent my loveable, terrified, dog dove into the sleeping bag and air mattress. My sweetheart of a husband said, “let her sleep with you tonight, I’ll take the ground- makes me wish I had realized it was the full sized earlier.”

My girl and cuddle buddy.

I had a little fun getting her to squeeze over so I could lay flat, but we managed.

The next morning Wade made a delicious campfire breakfast (sausage and hash browns). It was a perfect morning, sunny, cool, and great for a hike!

Hold up.

One little bitty issue… the water taps in the campground were not working.

No, no- it’s a flashback to Badlands.

Hehe, not quite; we had some flavored water and Wade had a full gallon. However, we were a little worried about it for the next few days.

We decided to do the Turkey Run trail- it was the longest trail just under two miles. Wade didn’t want me to get too carried away on the trails… he also asked me if I was okay every five minutes- I decided not to throttle him because he was being sweet.

But it did get annoying.

I did have to cut back on what I normally do- and I couldn’t do Wade’s pace- nor would I want too.

Wade is a “I’m here to get it done- no photos, march,” type of hiker. However, he had to slow down because of the dog and me.

I like to take photos and wander, add in the pregnancy I plodded at best.

Opposites attract.

Luckily, between the dog and him worrying about me we managed to finish the hike without killing each other.

My feet were a little swollen- normal with pregnancy.

Once we were back in camp, we grabbed some bottled flavor water (I still like plain water), took a seat to relax for a few minutes, and decided the next step of the day. Scotts Bluff…and because I married an electrician, and we were near a larger city, – a home improvement store.

The drive up to Scotts Bluff is always amazing- it rises out of the rolling grassland to a large…bluff…so much for poetic language. I’ll be working on that.

We talked to the ranger in the information booth. Unfortunately, the visitor center was closed so I couldn’t show Wade some of the neat stuff in there. However, the grounds were open, and the trails were calling…other people.

Wade was worried that the Summit Trail would be to much for me pregnant and it was getting later in the day and hotter. He was right but I still grumbled.  

It was his first time there- which is surprising since he’s from Nebraska. He had a fun time and we checked out the trail system up on top.

I always liked high places, so this was up my ally. My dog tried to jump up on the rock barrier and almost went over the edge because she wanted to see too. Wade being the big sweetie he is, picked her up so she could see too.

The view…was amazing in certain directions, I’m not a big fan of looking at cities but it was still amazing.

I found some flowers to take pictures of and some nice shots looking along the bluff.

Narrow-leaf penstemon

On the drive down, Wade wanted to go zoom, zoom- he thought it would be a good road to race on… I had to remind him what my day job was…

The next stop was a late lunch- Chinese takeout was on the menu…

So fun fact- I don’t like coconut, I don’t mind the milk so much (which was the main ingredient in what I ate) but something about the texture. Anyways- I was craving coconut chicken and I gorged myself on it… I even impressed Wade.

Coconut Chicken!

The next stop was for Wade- at this point I was sleepy and needed to get my feet up.

I wound up falling asleep while Wade did his shopping. Luckily, the passenger seat in the Ascent lays flat. Princess got to enjoy the a/c with me and played guard dog…she would lick them to death, but she would whack me with her tail on her way.

I woke up after Wade had us back to Wildcat Hills… he wound up going to Wally World too and got a water tank so we could fill up without having to worrying getting it in the campground.

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing in camp- I read, Wade watched videos on camping trailers, and we enjoyed the breeze. I got some sunset photos and caught a couple mule deer wandering along the hillside. A buck and a doe.

I spent a few minutes trying to get some nice moon shots; I’m trying to learn new things with my camera. I like landscapes and wildlife, but I want to keep learning. So lightening, moon, and videos here I come!

Wade checked the weather while we were getting ready for bed- the dog already burrowing into her spot on the air mattress. Wind would be high, so Wade decided to let her have the bed again- I gave him a backrub when we got home to make up for it.

The wind was ridiculous; we had gusts up to 40 mph. My dog was not liking it and Wade, and I, woke up at different times throughout the night thinking the tent was going to mimic Dorothy Gale’s house. I decided to put off going to the rest room in order to keep my corner of the tent down around 2 am. I really had to go when we got up at 7. I almost ran over the dog and Wade.

Even with the wind- it was a nice morning, luckily it died down enough we were able to get the tent packed away and walk the dog without too much trouble. Again, Wade is amazing at packing a tent back into the package it came in without modifying the tent or the bag.

One last trip to the bathroom and we’re heading into town for a greasy breakfast.

We then headed to Alliance and Carhenge.

Carhenge is not quite what I was expecting. I thought it would be kitschy, but it was charming and not overtly touristy. It’s actually sculptures and artwork. I thought it was just going to be cars stacked to mimic Stonehenge but there was more to it- I really enjoyed the dinosaur. After walking around and Wade gushing over, and saddened, by the old Jeeps used to create the “henge:- I needed a bathroom again.

Sadly, I had to wait till Gordon, NE nearly an hour away.

I was seeing water at one point.   

We made it- barely, lol.

All in all, it was a great trip.

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. I wish I had my trekking poles for some of the steeper sections of the trail but I managed!

P.P.S. I will be adding more photos… either my internet doesn’t like me or my photo files are to big and I need to render them down…

Winter Bleeding into Spring, Happy Surprises, and the COVID-19 Quarantine

Well, there wasn’t much to write about as far as hiking goes. This winter I got sucked into my usual seasonal affective disorder (SAD) ‘meh’ phase. I find I love the snow (for the first few days) but I hate the wind and cold- then the snow becomes ridiculous. I’m short, the snow gets deep in places- even walking the dog around the local park- and Wade doesn’t want to be married to “that weird chick that wears snowshoes in town…”

Cold dog outing…

I was about to the point of wearing them anyways this winter.

Overall, I still enjoy winter, but I don’t know a lot about winter weather hiking and Wade doesn’t seem to keen on going out and exploring. So, we spend a lot of time inside and I get bored and start slipping into SAD territory. I might investigate some winter outdoor groups in South Dakota, so I can learn some new skills and get out in the cold- maybe I’ll appreciate it more.

Wade dealing with our snow fort…

January…same as December, other than walking the dog I didn’t get out much. Although, we did do a fun work related trip at Norden and I got a cool (and cold) sunrise morning photo…

Cold, foggy morning on the Niobrara NSR

February led to some big news! We’re adding an addition to the family. Little Hunter will be here late September to join us on various adventures. Things were starting to pick up at work, but little did we know…

Little Hunter!

By March the COVID-19, or as it was then known the novel Coronavirus, became a major thing on our radar and it would curtail any plans I had for spring trips. By April I was teleworking and homebound…it was tough and did not help with the SAD going on. Although, I don’t know if it was because I was home more or I just finally noticed that the cat (Hela) became a psychotic little minion of death, she keeps trying to drown her mouse toys in the dogs water dish- AND I caught her trying to drown the dog but the size difference seems to keep that murderous intention down. Princess seems to not care for the attacks or just think she’s playing with her…

Not sure why it loaded this way…

May things started to open, including work so I was busy. I did get out for some local hikes and photography- check out my Instagram, photos seem to be an easier medium for me to post regularly. Plus, learning how to do stuff while pregnant- mainly me learning limitations on doing stuff. On top of that Wade apparently thinks I’m glass now and doesn’t like for me to lift anything over ten pounds if he’s around… I feel lazy and loved 😊.

Found out it’s a little tricky to get out a canoe. Let’s leave it at I mimicked a turtle on it’s back a little bit after doing a rollout onto semi-dry land. My belly is huge and I’m only six months along! My lungs are being squished- the joys of being vertically challenged and pregnant so I sound like a freight train even on easy walks.

With all the stuff going on that was keeping me home I worked on my poetry (Instagram @priarie_river_witch) and other writings- so this blog got neglected again but I didn’t really have any hiking/backpacking/or even camping stuff to talk about. Or really any adventure other than contemplating writers block to speak of- so I didn’t want to bore anyone.

I’m going to post some more about June and a lovely adventure that my husband and I are taking for my “weekend” this coming week! I’ll hopefully have that up in a week or two…. I make no promises, lol.

We can’t wait!

Keep wandering,

BJ

Effigy Mounds, Happy Anniversary, Winter Begins…

Well folks, you’re getting a twofer! I meant to post this back in early December but… yeah… things happen.

*looks skittishly at the date of last post and cringes…

I’ve been very busy- I finally have my new boss in place but it’s a whirlwind of activity. We started planning for this year and like all well laid plans they went out the window in March… more on that in the next post.

This post is a catch-up of the end of October through the beginning of December.

After my break and trip to Omaha last…*cringe* year, I went back to work refreshed and ready for the next thing.

Turns out my next thing would be going to Effigy Mounds for work related training. The training was great, but the hiking trails and the history were so much better!

Effigy Mounds National Monument is a place that inspires reflection and wonder. It was established in 1949 to protect prehistoric mounds left behind by Native Americans. Over time more land was added, and it now protects 191 known prehistoric Indian mounds, 31 of which are effigies of bear and birds.

Effigy Mounds has had its ups and downs. When it was first added to the NPS, archaeology-based parks tended to have multiple digs that would degrade and destroy the sites in question. By the late 1950s Effigy started moving away from the digs and instituted a “nondestructive testing” methods only policy- by the 1970s it shifted even further to preservation and interpreting the mound builder story.

The 1980s and 1990s would bring about new changes, that would influence one of the biggest scandals at Effigy Mounds, namely the passage of The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. A former superintendent fearing that the entire collection at Effigy Mounds would be repatriated, hide the remains of 41 people. The mismanagement of the remains was only discovered after another superintendent went rouge and ignored Section 106 (site vetting for archaeological impacts) for 78 maintenance projects. You can read more about both incidents here:

https://www.outsideonline.com/2191011/case-of-the-missing-bones

I had both incidents on my mind while wandering the grounds. I can’t help but feel disbelief and anger at how it happened. The boardwalks remain, one of which punched over one hundred holes into a series of mounds. It saddens me that we have such reverence for cemeteries but dismiss mounds.  

I walked with a sense of sad beauty. The positive is the new management staff and interpreters there are working towards rebuilding the connections with the tribe and are putting protections in place to prevent such actions from happening again. But only after something horrible happened…

That was my mindset while wandering around the grounds at Effigy Mounds.

Now, while it was somewhat maudlin, I did find a lot of wonderful places and I loved the trail system- especially the trail to Fire Point. I even wrote a haiku… I also found a few spots along the questionable boardwalk that I liked. I like that the boardwalk makes it far more accessible for more people, but I still think there could have been a compromise on how it was put in with respect for the mounds.

I wish I had more time to explore the area around Effigy Mounds- both in Wisconsin and eastern Iowa. There are some beautiful areas I would like to explore… I do plan on making a return trip.

I’m a JR. Ranger dork…

I did get to stand on the banks of the Mississppi again which is always like coming home.

Mighty Mississippi
Me and bridges…

However, I had to pack it in and get back to my hubby for our first-year anniversary! We did not do anything fancy- I just got back from a weeklong work trip and he was working hard, suffice it to say we had a great anniversary.*

*Side note, there are some things I just do not want to write about or put out there- I didn’t post anything on social media about it either.

November, for the most part was a bust- just work, trainings, and more work. However, we did go to my family in Missouri for Thanksgiving! Got hang out with my sister, brother-in-law, and the kiddos, plus mom and dad. We went to my aunt’s in Naylor…we were a little late…but considering Wade and I didn’t roll in until almost 4 in the morning it could have been worse. Since it was a whirlwind trip we didn’t do much sight seeing or hiking- although we did do some hiking around the old house and hauled out some furniture and other stuff worth saving before dad and some friends finished burning it down.

My sis!

December started out nice- it was a little warmer than it had been in the past and I was hopeful I would get out and do some hikes. However, that was a pipe dream. Snow came, negative wind chill, and I became a hermit. I did get out a little bit, but I’ll talk about that in part 2 of the “catch-up postings.”

Keep wandering,

BJ

The Cowboy Trail

Hi all! It’s been another busy week here in Nebraska.  I had two fun days off; well except for the eye appointment I had. As I let all my Facebook friends know I had some trouble with my right eye. I apparently scratched it at some point. Did you know that the material in your eye is similar to skin and when it is scratched it also scabs over?

I didn’t. I wore my contacts.

Guess what happens when you wear your contacts all day and take them out when you have a scratch?

Pain, a lot of cussing, followed by hours of swelling, irritation, and borderline insanity. Talk about a fun Friday night. The contact acts like a band-aid and once the scab has fused to the contact you rip the the scab off when you take out the contact. Unlike the band-aid and regular scab, it hurts for hours and you think you’re going blind. Or that that spoon you used for ice cream looks like a excellent way to remove the eye…

Sandbar under Cowboy Trail Bridge
It’s a little tough hiking around without sunglasses…

Luckily, I’m fine and wearing my glasses until the eye finishes healing up. I think I’m going to invest in Lasik after this go around though. Tomorrow on my next day off (Tuesday) I’m heading back to the eye doctor. Fingers crossed my eye has healed up!

Anyways, that little trip to North Platte was fun, other than the stop into the eye doctor. On my “Sunday,” and everyone else’s Tuesday, I got in a little training on the Cowboy Trail. It was hot- good practice for Badlands.

 

 

I had a hiking buddy for this little jaunt, my best friend on four legs, Princess! She loves getting out and about- but doesn’t like 100 degree heat. I do not blame her in the slightest.  We keep the hike a short one, only about a mile and a half. I could have kept going but Princess was trying to swim in her water dish. A 70-pound lab mix trying to swim in a five inch collapsible bowl is adorable to watch.

Hot Princess_edited
I want to believe she’s thinking, “You’re an odd human.”

I probably won’t take her on high heat training days from now on, unless it’s under a mile or along the river.

This particular hike is over the river, the Niobrara River, in case you were wondering. We parked at the little trail head and started out. For the most part there is no elevation gain or lost (to me, but I’m also from Missouri and still think Nebraska doesn’t have real hills), along this little section of the trail. On the way back there is a slight incline from the bridge to the parking lot; usually I only notice it though if I’m carrying a pack to prep for the arduous Wildland Firefighter test.

Cowboy Trail_edited
Heading west on the Cowboy Trail. On the right, in the distance is Borman Bridge- the official start of the Niobrara NSR. 

This is similar to many of the trails I’ll be tackling at Badlands- the Castle Trail for example, the one myself and friends fondly refer to as the “trek to Mordor.” We decided to hike it a few years ago, in August, midday, with only a few water-bottles between us.  Ten miles. We assumed there would be water at the Fossil Exhibit Trail head, we were wrong. Yeah, we weren’t that bright. We did survive- I now take more water than one person should be able to drink whenever I go to Badlands. Since it’s only a couple of hours from where I live now, I should be going up there more than once every few months.

Anyways, back to the Cowboy Trail. The Cowboy Trail, if it’s ever completed, will be the longest Rails to Trails unit. It crosses the Niobrara, near Valentine, NE. The bridge is amazing and has been featured in a lot of publications, video footage, and photos from the area. For more information check out these websites:

Cowboy Bridge
One of my favorite shots- no I was not climbing over the railing to get it…

http://outdoornebraska.gov/cowboytrail/

https://www.traillink.com/trail/cowboy-recreation-and-nature-trail/

In fact the photo header for the Trail Link website is the bridge I’m talking about.

The walk we took, I like I said was a short one. It only lasted about an hour, about ten minutes of that was Princess and I sitting in the shade. We spent it trying to empty my water bottle- mainly over Princess.

Water bottle
I have Badlands on my mind… and water bottle. 

I’ve walked over it several times in the last four and a half years that I’ve been living in Nebraska. It’s one of the amazing highlights of the Niobrara River Valley in my opinion. I decided to highlight the actual river in a future post (I’ll be doing a overnight floating trip soon). Sadly, it will not focus as much on backpacking or hiking since public land is limited and the hiking trails are usually under a mile.

Next practice hike on the agenda for my upcoming “weekend”- a trip to the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, Princess will attend because she can hop in the river!

Keep rambling!

Looking Downstream from Cowboy Bridge
The Niobrara River, a neat contrast to the surrounding prairie.