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.
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.There’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 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.Pioneers 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.
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.
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.
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.
We 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 hook-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.It took me awhile to find the trailhead to the famous Pawnee Buttes, but after a little meandering 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.
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.
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.