Friday, September 03, 2010

Hiking Nebra ... Oh, Never Mind

This was going to be another hiking post.  Thursday I drove two and a half hours to Ponca State Park to do some hiking.  The park in located along a wide spot of the Missouri River.  The north part of the park is meadow while the south and west are forested loess hills.  The thing about Nebraska State Parks, or more specifically their websites, is that they don't post good trail maps.  The map I found was of poor quality and didn't have any trail lengths marked.  This makes planning a hit or miss proposition.

Now, I'm not sure if it was my need to get on the trail or what but I let my need overshadow my better judgement and I ignored the weather forecast.  Rain was in the forecast for the morning and I totally failed to even check if the weather was different two hours north.  I asked myself "what was I thinking" as I drove through the rain on the approach to the park.

The rain did let up as I arrived at the park headquarters.  I went in and picked up a better trail map along with a sheet of brief trail descriptions.  Back in the car I looked over the map and headed to the first trail that looked promising.  Ponca State Park has ten trails totaling about 20 miles.  The trails range from 0.8 miles up to 4 miles but, after studying the map a bit I saw that there were a lot of little connector trails that would allow you to combine loops.  I set my sights on a combination of the Old Oak, Bloodroot, and Corps of Discovery trails that would yield a five mile trail whose difficulty would range from easy to moderate to difficult.

I reached a trailhead for the Old Oak Trail, geared up, walked up to a plaque with a You Are Here map and felt the rain restart as I studied the map.  I didn't have a rain jacket (It was on the list in my head but I forgot to check that list when I'd left that morning) and I was carrying my camera.  I don't think I would have minded getting wet but hiking without my camera ... I feel like I would see the most amazing thing and I would not have any proof.  I looked at the trail.  It was a narrow, packed dirt trail that, after all the rain we've had, was mud.  It was also a hilly trail so I could see myself slipping and sliding my way along the trail - I would find this a plus if I were 10 but at 47 I was less enthusiastic.

I got de-geared and got back in the car and sat there listening to the patter of rain on the car roof.  Not wanting the day to be a complete waste, I drove around the park making a note of the diverse terrain and the location of various trailheads.  The rain let up a bit so I decided to look for the sole geocache in the park.  I parked near the archery/pellet gun range.  This is one thing I haven't gotten used to yet.  In California you would rarely have any type of firing range in a state park.  In the Nebraska/Iowa area, most areas, including wildlife refuges, have at least archery ranges and some are closed to hikers during hunting season.  I walked along the closed asphalt road that went through the range.  Most of the targets were just stuffed canvas targets but there were a few stuffed dear and bear to be used as targets as well.  I reached the cache location and found it ("Nebraska 4-H GC - Dixon County") fairly quickly despite the fact that the GPS was jumping all over the place.

As I walked back to the car the rain started anew.  I sat in the car and ponered how I could salvage the day.  Salvation came in the form of the Nebraska Passport program.  I pulled out the passport and looked to see if there were any attractions nearby.  The Lewis and Clark Visitors Center about forty miles west seemed to fit the bill.  I left the park and headed for Crofton, NE on the Outlaw Trail Scenic Byway.

Most of the drive west was through rain.  All that rain was heading towards Ponca State Park so I think my decision was a wise one.

The Lewis and Clark Visitors Center is actually located north of Crofton on the banks of the Missouri River/Lewis & Clark Lake just south of Yankton, SD.  The visitors center overlooks the Gavin Point dam/power plant.  This center, run by the Army Corp of Engineers and the National Park Service, has displays about Lewis & Clark, the Missouri river, and the Army Corp of Engineers.  I looked through the exhibits, bought a travel magnet, and got stamps in both my Nebraska Passport and my National Parks passport.

The rest of the day was a long drive back home with a stop for lunch in Norfolk, NE.  The day turned out pretty good.  I now had enough intelligence to plan my next trip to Ponca State Park.  I found a cache.  I picked up some stamps, and a I found a new magnet for our collection.  My only real regret was not stopping to take a picture of an old building north of Norfolk.  The red building sported a large sign that said "Wee Town".  Wee Town is, apparently, a ghost town that once was home to nearly 50 residents.

3 comments:

  1. Who wouldn't want to be a Wee one?

    Did they call them Wee Folk? "Ah just go down the road a bit until you come across the Wee Folk."

    Yup. that sounds pretty great to me!

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  2. I've always found it fascinating that wildlife refuges, even here in California, are refuges so that birds can multiply their flocks... so that people can shoot them. *sigh*

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  3. Miss McC: A wee one would be okay but a wee wee one ... well that would be embarrassing.

    GH: A sad state of affairs, I agree.

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