Stinky Feet and a Bust

Whew!!!  The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, keeping hubby and me on our toes.  I’ll share more about our shenanigans in an upcoming post.  For today, I’ll focus on getting caught up on our travels.

Bayard, NebraskaIn my last post, we were working our way south through western Nebraska; America’s Heartland.  Much to our surprise, we found the prairies in this part of the country incredibly enjoyable.

As we meandered down Highway 385, there was virtually no traffic.  We took in the scenery and although mostly agricultural, the land rolls with the occasional rock butte.free campingThere’s a beauty to the land AND the hard-working people who call this place home.  The area is rich in farming and rich in history.  The iconic Chimney Rock served as one of the most recognizable landmarks for the great western pioneer migration in the 1800’s.Chimney RockChimney Rock is now a National Historic Site.  This slender rock spire rises over 300 feet from a conical base and can be seen from nearly 30 miles away.Chimney RockPioneers used Chimney Rock as a landmark to guide them along the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Mormon Trail.  The trails ran along the north side of the rock following the Platte River and continued on to Scotts Bluff, another important landmark.

Scottsbluff

The Platte River with Scotts Bluff in the background 20 miles away

Chimney Rock

It’s no secret that I’m not the history buff in this family, but I’m fascinated by the tale of those gutsy Pioneers.   This was, after all Indian territory.  As a matter of fact, the Lakota Sioux referred to Chimney Rock as Elk Penis, a name I find much more entertaining.  Indians, rattlesnakes, and harsh weather were just the beginning of the difficult journey west for those enterprising pioneers.  The fortitude and determination it took to embark on such an ambitious venture is astounding.  Many made it to their destination, and many did not.

covered wagon

my horse and covered wagon parked at the Bayard City Park

So while the Pioneers of the 1800’s could park their horses and covered wagons anywhere they saw fit, hubby and I need to abide by rules and laws governing where we can park our modern-day horse and covered wagon.

free campingFree overnighting with electric AND water…..

We find ourselves frequently using the site  Campendium.com  for camping reference and quickly noted a place to camp for the night.   We find the Bayard town park easily.  It’s located across from a large grassy picnic area in a small gravel lot with electric and water pedestals for 3 RV’s.  What a great find and it’s located only 3 miles north of Elk Penis Chimney Rock.

As much as Al and I enjoyed our free campsite, later that evening we accused each other of having stinky feet…. that is, until a gust of wind brought the rather light stench to one of sheer on assault.  Ah yes, we were quickly reminded that we were indeed camped in cattle country.  The next day, it was time to take our clean feet and move on!

By the way…  there were a total of four bloggers all traveling through this part of Nebraska within days of each other.  For a different view on the same area, I’ve attached a link to the other bloggers.  First up was Pam and John followed by Mona Liza and Steve, then us (although we didn’t visit Scotts Bluff), and lastly Nina and Paul.  I find it interesting to read four very different and distinct blogging accounts on the same subject.Morman Trail

Corn HuskersWe continued our journey south through western Nebraska. We could not possibly pass through Sidney, Nebraska, without a quick stop at the original Cabela’s store.   I love success stories and this is certainly a tale of the American dream.

Dick Cabela turned $45 worth of fishing fly materials into the number one outdoor retailer.  You can read the entire story here.

We also appreciate the RV friendly facilities found at most Cabela locations.  The Sidney store offers a couple of dump stations along with plenty of free overnight parking PLUS a campground complete with full Sterling, Coloradohook-ups for a nominal fee.

On to Colorado……

We pulled into the North Sterling State Park in northeast Colorado.  It was midweek with no ranger in sight and plenty of open campsites.  We drove around looking for a nice site with a view and noting any reservation notices on the site posts.  We pulled into site #6 which required a little creative leveling but nothing we couldn’t handle.  A mere two hours later, the camp host came by and reluctantly said, “I’m sorry folks, but I’m going to ruin your day.  I need you to move to another site”.  Apparently, the ranger failed to post the reservation notices that morning and this site was already reserved for the evening.  We responded in a very understanding manner.

North Sterling State Park

Site #49 at North Sterling State Park, Colorado

With the camp hosts assistance, we found a site that was available for that night and into the up coming weekend.  Within 30 minutes we were all set up in our new spot – site #49, which turned out to be equally as nice as #6 with even more spacing between sites and more privacy.

North Sterling State Park

Who knew we’d find white pelicans and herons at this lake in northeast Colorado.

That evening the camp host dropped by bearing a gift of the most delicious full SLAB of BBQ ribs that he had slow cooked all day.  Yum!  A little visiting over drinks ensued.

Pawnee National Grasslands

Where am I? Pawnee Buttes are in the distance on the left.

Pawnee National GrasslandsThe next day I was off on my adventure; an excursion I had planned a few months earlier and one not of interest to hubby.

I wasn’t optimistic about by sojourn to the Pawnee National Grasslands, but I was curious since a blogger recommended I might enjoy it.  I drove, and I drove…. down this gravel road and that gravel road.  I encountered one 18 wheeler after another.  At one point, I was sandwiched between two.  The cloud of dust was blinding at times.

18 wheelers at work - fracking all over Pawnee National Grasslands

18 wheelers at work – fracking occurring all over Pawnee National Grasslands

Pawnee National Grassland

You see, this is serious fracking country.  Beneath the surface of the Pawnee National Grasslands are oil and gas reserves that are being extracted.  The land is dotted with production facilities and evaporation ponds (the waters used for fracking turn toxic after use and need to be dealt with).  Not exactly fitting of the scenic category.SterlingIt took me awhile to find the trailhead to the famous Pawnee Buttes, but after a little Pawnee National Grasslandsmeandering down various gravel roads I eventually found my destination.  I spent 15 minutes looking around and talking to the cows before hopping back in the truck.  No hiking for me.  My interest had totally waned.

I wanted so much to like this place.  I tried really hard to find the beauty, but after 4 hours of driving one gravel road after another and sharing the dust with semi-trucks, I turned tail and headed home.  I would categorize this visit as a bust (aka failure, flop, fizzle, dud).  Don’t get me wrong, there is a beauty to the land and I enjoy communing with cows, but the industrial aspect took away from the experience.

Picnic area and trailhead to Pawnee Buttes.

Picnic area and trailhead to Pawnee Buttes.  A wind farm can be seen in the distance.

Perhaps birders might find this place of interest as the Colorado State Bird the Lark Bunting was flying around in abundance, or perhaps the western region of Pawnee NG offers something more photogenic, but the area I explored held little interest to me personally.

facilities like this, dot the landscape

facilities like this, dot the landscape

When I returned to the RV, hubby and I looked up reviews for the Pawnee National Grasslands and discovered the majority of the reviews were negative.  I’m glad I went with an open mind and read these reviews AFTER my visit.  Even though it was a bust, I’m still glad I visited.  Not all places in Colorado can be labeled majestic.

Let’s move on to Denver……Sterling

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56 thoughts on “Stinky Feet and a Bust

  1. I’ve traversed the Great Plains several times and each time cannot help but think of those brave pioneers making the same trek, but in covered wagons or on foot. And for what? A most uncertain future. Heroes one and all. You gave the Grasslands more of a chance than most would. Sorry to hear that it’s not what it could be.

    • Thanks John and it always boggles my mind what those pioneers had to endure. I don’t think I could muster up the courage or strength to embark on such an unsure journey.

  2. I too found it interesting to read each of your separate accounts about the same area, one we had traveled not to long before. As for the Pawnee Grasslands, I think I would have turned around after the first signs of fracking. Great photos Ingrid.

  3. These midwestern states seem to have a lot of these cute little town parks with RV spots for free or for very little money. We just stayed in one for free in Chanute, KS that was ideal, right next to a huge park with great walking trail through what used to be a golf course.

    • They must have a serious snake problem, because there was an abundance of signs posted around the Chimney Rock visitor center. It would’ve been fun to actually have had a blogger convention even though we’ve all met in person at various points in our travels. Amazing that we all missed each other within days.

  4. Ingrid, I’m curious as to your thoughts on whether the prevalence of blogging leads people to visit many of the same places? Your links to other bloggers, with their own take on certain places, made me think about whether there is a bit of a herd mentality–understandable because we all want to visit places that others recommend–that results in focusing on blog-recommended spots rather than checking out completely new areas or wandering around to see what may be out there. For example, a whole slew of bloggers recently visited car-henge. Which is fine, but there are so many other places of interest in Nebraska. I don’t mean to be a pain, but I respect your thoughtfulness and wonder whether you think this is just a harmless, expected result of RV travel blogs.

    • I know for a FACT, in this particular circumstance, it was totally coincidental that the four bloggers traveled a similar route. First off, there aren’t a lot of north/south routes to choose from in this part of the country and each of us was working our way toward a destination. I think travelers in general (whether RVing or not) are an independent bunch thus do NOT feel there’s a herd mentality 🙂

      • Sorry, I did not mean to be offensive. I think it’s an interesting and legitimate question as to what effect travel books and blogs have on where and how people travel. I know that when we were traveling, both had an impact on where we went–sometimes in a good way, but other times, I wished we had ignored them and had been traveling into a complete unknown.

        • No offense taken. I’ll occasionally get emails asking for RV and travel destination recommendations. Time and again, I let folks know it’s a personal choice. We enjoy using blogs for ideas and reference but also know it’s important to understand ourselves. Traveling into the unknown can be fun but I always prefer some amount of information especially since I don’t wish to jeopardize my home.

  5. Fabulous photos again, Ingrid. That Chimney Rock is astounding. Love the more interesting name too. 🙂 I’d not be very comfortable after seeing the rattlesnake warning. 😕 What an absolute shame about the fracking of the grasslands.

    • Thanks Sylvia. It was interesting seeing a place that played such an important role in the western migration in this country. I’ve learned to keep my eyes on the ground while hiking…. not always easy when surrounded by beautiful sights, but important 🙂

  6. Interesting, we havent been through Nebraska yet, but will get there some day. Glad to hear of some interesting places.
    Thanks for info on Campendium. We just recently learned about the lovely Core of Engineers sites. Sharing information is beneficial for all us campers!

    • COE parks are some of the best. We stayed at one in TX near San Antonio that we loved. I’ve discovered some of my most enjoyable places via fellow bloggers. Campendium was started by a full-time couple and the majority of folks posting reviews are bloggers or Instagramers.

    • You never know is right. I am glad I visited and there is definitely a beauty to the desolate plains, but the semi-trucks on the gravel roads added a layer of stress and displeasure, unfortunately. Campendium.com is a great site offering tidbits of info other RV campground sites don’t offer.

  7. Cutest photo of you, Ingrid, holding your Atlas. Very creative!

    Thanks for the great tour of Nebraska. We haven’t spent much time at all in that area. I just love the diversity of our country’s landscape. Chimney Rock is a beauty in its own.

    • Thanks Marsha. I was feeling a little silly (or bored) and got out the tripod and self-timer. I was really in the middle of nowhere without another soul in sight once I veered off the gravel road and headed down the dirt road. Thank goodness for 4 wheel drive trucks 😉

  8. Sad to read about the effects of fracking. Chimney Rock looks very interesting though. I would have enjoyed taking a 100 photos of it! 🙂 The blue skies are gorgeous out there. I like the spaciousness of the landscape – how vast it looks. A little question about rattlesnakes. Are they aggressive snakes or only bite if you step on them and harass them? Most of our venomous snakes are fine when left alone although some become more aggressive during mating and nesting season. I wouldn’t want to step on any though. 😉

    • Definitely vast and one can see for miles. It’s lovely when the sky is clear and the breeze blows gently. I’d say most snakes are the same and only attack if felt threatened. I have learned to hike with my eyes peeled to the ground and my ears taking in the sounds. When it’s time to take in the views, I stop and look around. It can be heart stopping coming with a foot or two of stepping on a snake…. been there.

  9. I, too, really enjoy reading about places we have been in other blogs. We didn’t stop at Chimney Rock just admired it as we were approaching. I love the photo of Scotts Bluff in the distance with the river:) Elk Penis…clever:)

    I’m sure the camp host truly appreciated your understanding and positive attitude about moving after getting all set up. And to think you scored ribs!! Good deal!

    Catchy title:)

    • And those ribs were some of the best we have ever eaten. It was indeed fun to see how each blogging couple explored the same area and how the experience was shared. We all have our own style and yet we all share the same appreciation. We really enjoyed what little time we spent in western NE… much to our surprise!

  10. Well, I guess getting bumped from your campsite had a good outcome — an even better site, and barbecued ribs! So sad about the Pawnee Grasslands. I would have turned tail, too, and probably sooner than you.

    • Al and I have gotten so good at setting up and taking down camp, that it really wasn’t a big deal to have to move. Ending up with a better site and served ribs was an unexpected treat. Even though the Grasslands was a disappointment and I’m glad we didn’t drive out of our way to see it. I’m sure serious birders might be drawn to the area though.

  11. Oh dear….4 hours to the bust! Imagine I’d have the same take on the industrial staged upset…bummer! Lv the city campsite sign….stay free!!! Moving day for us in the morning…hope this one goes smoother!

    • Moving goes better the more we do it. After we’ve sat idol for a while, it takes a bit to get back in the groove. Hope the rest of your drive to the Gulf is less eventful.

    • Glad you found the Campendium site helpful. We think it’s one of the better resources out there. Have a great winter in southern Utah.

  12. Hello Ingrid
    I have a question for you. What Maps or books do you use to find all of these free or almost free state parks and camp sites. We will be heading to Texas from Utah in a couple of weeks and would like to find some free or almost free spots to spend the night. Our motor home is set up for dry camping so that would not be a problem.
    Mel

    • Hi Mel, I have a separate tab here on the blog near the “About” tab called “RV Resources”. You’ll find some of the sources we use listed and linked. There’s a lot of boondocking options in AZ but we found few in TX. We usually head to Rockport TX for the month of January and usually overnight in a campground or state park. Safe travels and lets hope TX has a pleasant winter this year.

  13. I like the open prairies and imagine the early pioneers on their horses and in their wagons crossing the vast expanses. Tell Al that we got 32 duck today….mallards, pintails, widgeon, redheads, gadwall, blue bills and teal

    • Those pioneers had to be a hearty bunch to survive the harsh realities of life back then. I sure appreciate my climate controlled leather truck interior. Al is so jealous. He just bought a new toy that he can’t wait to play with in Texas this January.

  14. While I’m a child of the lush green East, I thought most places we visited were pretty in their own way. I don’t think it was at the same time, but we traveled US-26 on our way from North Platte to Cody so we passed through the same area. We had a couple of those stinky feet experiences as well.

    • Yes, those cattle sure make their presence known. I enjoy the open vistas and being able to see for miles, but it’s not so pretty when those tornados come whipping through. Interesting land.

  15. So funny that so many bloggers were all traveling through here at the same time (cheers for the shout out by the way). Bummer about the grasslands, but sweet find with the free campsite in NE. This is desolate country for sure!
    Nina

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