Camping in the Snowies

Camping in the Snowies

Thursday, May 22, 2014

On Bone Creek

Keller Park State Recreation area is a gem. It is located in northern Brown County just off Highway 183 north of Ainsworth NE in the valley along Bone Creek. There are picnic areas with grills, tables, water and restrooms. The RV sites have electricity, water nearby, tables, grills and fire rings. The pads are sandy and not especially level but all are scenic with trees and shrubs. Tent camping is along the creek and near fishing ponds. Decent pit toilets serve all areas. A campground host arrived soon after we did so he is an information resource.  Cell service is not available in the campground but is can be accessed on higher ground. On a grocery trip to Ainsworth, we used the wi-fi at the library. Fast and friendly!

An unique and memorable site marker is a cattle ear tag seen in the foreground here.
Being in this area in middle May is a wonderful time to watch birds. Many songbirds are migrating through and scant leaf cover on the trees makes them easier to spot. A Spotted Towhee's persistent song mystified me until I was able to get my binoculars on him.  Tiny song sparrows and chipping sparrows, goldfinches and wrens, robins and grosbeaks, pewees and flycatchers. Down by the fishing ponds are yellowthroats and an abundance of red winged blackbirds. A blue heron surprised us by flapping off a perch with a disgusted croak sounding call. Many swallows are busy along the creek and in the air above us. Also in the air are vultures and crows. 
Dave pointed out five deer crossing the campground before breakfast this morning. We see bunnies and turkeys and surmise that their predators are about but out of sight. Two roosts for bats show evidence of use. We will watch for them to fly at dusk. So far there have been very few bugs so sitting outside has been a joy.
This has been a great place to camp. It is a little out of the way but well worth the effort. 
Next stop Springview NE and the Kenaston Jamboree. Yippee!!

Sandra's Garage sale

Onward and eastward we travel from Crawford, NE through Sandhills terrain on Highway 20. Farming, ranching and agriculture related businesses dominate this area. Sub-irrigated meadows produce beautiful cattle here. Valentine is the biggest town in the area and is in the largest county of the 93 counties in Nebraska. The Bunkhouse cafe is our lunch stop.
Our destination is Atkinson where both Dave and I graduated high school. Sister Sandy is having a garage sale and we are going to help. 
We set up camp at Mill Race Park on the west edge of the town. The park sports a nice fishing pond complete with a Canada Goose pair and two goslings. Birdwatching is good here. A local man built bluebird nest boxes and stationed the boxes along an easily walkable trail. A few benches provide rest and quiet birdwatching.
Also nearby is a golf course easily accessible from the camping area. Dave played one day, his first round of the year, new clubs, plenty of excuses. He pronounced the course more challenging than he remembered. 
The next few days were filled with garage sale busyness. Brother Robb and Dave carted a storage shed full of possessions to a three car garage. Tables and more tables with boxes and boxes of things to sort and display. We filled up the garages and spilled over onto the apron with household goods and furniture.

After two long days of selling, boxing up and rearranging, remarking and more selling, the sale was over, a success! What was left could fit into a sixth of the original space and will be part of another sale in June. A relief for all of us. 
Memorial Day flower baskets were made from bedding flowers purchased at the Atkinson Garden Greenhouse. Sandy will care for the baskets until Memorial Day when she and Robb will put them on the graves of our loved ones. Mother Helen died just a year ago. She is often in our minds and we all recounted memories of her and laughed when we found ourselves doing things Mom's way.
Family, it's a good thing.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Our first Big Trip

Fort Robinson State Park in Nebraska is our destination.
We start out on a beautiful spring day in Laramie heading north out of town. We appreciate the green of the high prairie, the full Laramie River and multitudes of antelope grazing and lazing in the pastures. Our path takes us on the Sybille Canyon highway over Morton Pass and down into the Sybille Creek drainage. The scenery is spectacular. We stop at a convenient turnout next to the Sybille Wildlife Preserve to see elk, buffalo, big horn sheep and even a glimpse of a moose, maybe.

Up and out of the canyon, through the newly planted cornfields near Wheatland WY and on to Gurnsey  for a convenient gas/restroom stop. Coal trains from the Powder River mines intersect on the east side of town with the National Guard training station, a busy place in the summer. We turn north onto a narrow, twisty but scenic highway through ranching country.  The tiny mining town of Hartville is east of the road. Some of my ancestors came here in the mining days when land became scarce in Nebraska and their families remained in Wyoming becoming ranchers. Their families are scattered throughout the west. 
We turn onto Highway 20 at Manville heading east to Lusk WY. A handy rest area just west of Lusk, one of a very few in Wyoming, offers us a place for lunch and to stretch our legs.  A memorial to the Cheyenne to Deadwood Stage lines offers some insight into the history of the region.

Continuing east on US 20 we pass into Nebraska. This highway is named Bridges to Buttes Highway here and we soon see white sandy looking buttes as we near Crawford NE. There is evidence of a fire some time ago along these former pine forested ridges, now grassed over.  Down into the Soldier Creek drainage and into the Fort Robinson State Park.  We find a pretty paved and mostly level site near the shower house. The park has paved sites with picnic tables and fire rings, most with electricity and some with full hookups. There is a quiet, out of the way spot for tent campers along the creek.
Fort Robinson was an Army fort protecting settlers and wagon trains as the west was settled. It became a cavalry training base for the Army after WWI and later was repurposed as a meat animal research center for the University of Nebraska. The Fort was repurposed again as a State Park when the research facility was relocated to central Nebraska. 
There are wonderful historical buildings and recreated educational buildings telling of the western migration, the Indian wars and the sad final days of the Cheyenne Chief Crazy Horse.  MNy of the former barracks, officers quarters an other fort buildings can be rented for family reunions and vacations. Equestrian facilities are available with stable rental for horses and a dedicated campground for equestrian events. A lodge on the grounds has rooms and a restaurant and summer events include the Post Playhouse where musical theater is presented. Horseback trail rides, stagecoach rides and a chuck wagon cookout are also summer fare. 
We enjoyed the beautiful weather this first evening with an eye on the weather forecast. Sure enough, we woke up to snow the next day.