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/

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.