Thursday, August 18th 2011

Considering I spent the night in a closed up, overly warm hotel room I slept fairly well.
Why closed up?
Well... there is the train crossing one block away. I never knew how load the horns were until they were up close and personal.
Why overly warm?
I asked for a room with internet access. The one I ended up in has no A/C. And, it has been in the 80s here for a while. This choice of room was for naught as the connection in the room is so tenuous and slow I have to sit on the concrete stoop up by the office to get enough speed to upload my pics.
But, that's OK. The weather is pleasant enough and it is fairly quiet and calm here and makes sitting out on a concrete stoop not such a bad thing to do.

So! After that bit of windage, let's get down to business!
I was up at 5:30. It was cool, overcast and foggy. The usual routine and by 9:00 was out the door and down the road to clear skies and a lovely breeze. Fortunately, the Bessey Recreation area for the Nebraska NF is only a mile down the road and I was there and parked in no time.

Click on the photos below for a larger image.

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This a shot of the hotel. It is called the "Halsey Frontier Inn", not the "Wilderness Inn" as stated before.

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A shot of the info Kiosk at the Bessey Recreation Area. Click to enlarge and read.

Nebraska National Forest was established on November 15, 1907 by the consolidation of three smaller forests: Dismal River, Niobrara and North Platte National Forests. The total area of the national forest is 142,000 acres (575 km2).

The national forest comprises two ranger districts. The 90,000-acre (364 km2) Bessey Ranger District is located in the Sandhills of central Nebraska. Encompassing about 63.9% of the forest's total area, it lies in parts of Thomas and Blaine counties. It was established in 1902 by Charles E. Bessey as an experiment to see if forests could be created in treeless areas of the Great Plains for use as a national timber reserve. This effort resulted in a 20,000-acre (80.9 km2) forest, the largest human-planted forest in the United States. Today, the forest's nursery supplies 2.5 to 3 million seedlings per year.

Source: WikiPedia

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The pic-nic area at Bessey. Very inviting looking I thought.

I stopped in at the Ranger station to get some pointers and info on the area. Unfortunately the person there was just about clueless and could answer none of my questions, only verify what I already knew. Oh, well... it's hard to get good help these days

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I decided on the 6 mile out and back hike up to the Scott Fire Tower. The tower is closed for renovation but I was assured I could get some good views of the surrounding Sandhills from the Summit.
This is the multiple use trail which all the 4-wheelers use to get to the tower. The trail head for hikeres is just around the bend.

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I was not sure if this excluder was intended for ORVs or livestock. Probably the former as I saw no livestock or evidence of any.

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Meet my new friend!! I don't know the name of this plant but it stuck with me the entire hike up to the tower.

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You can see what I mean by "stuck with me"! At first I started picking off everyone of the seed pods but then soon realized I would never get anywhere if I continued this. So, I would only stop and pick off the ones which caused me pain or irritation. Some of the plants were tall enough to hook onto the underside of my shorts hem. Then they would spike me in the thigh. Ouch!
In case you are wondering why I am not wearing more protective footgear like hiking boots it is because shoes/boots cause me debilitating foot pain and these Chacos do not. But, they are problematic at times like this. Glad I was wearing the Darned Tough socks Betsy gave me!

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The path was sandy and could have easily been a trail in the NJ Pine Barrens or elsewhere. The yellow sunflowers were in bloom by the 10s of thousands.

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This area has had numerous files. The big one was in 1965 when it burned over a third of the NF.

Although Pinchot reported in 1947 that the Nebraska National Forest "came to be one of the great successful tree-planting projects in the world," nature reclaimed much of the land nearly twenty years later. On May 5, 1965, lightening started a prairie fire that spread to the Dismal Forest Reserve, destroying eleven thousand acres or approximately one-third of the Bessey Division of the Nebraska National Forest. Faced with this catastrophe, the Forest Service decided to replant only the areas where tree growth proved most favorable, which involved about 48 percent of the burned area.

The Service seeded the remainder of the land in grass which quickly claimed the rolling hills. Instead of changing the environment, the Nebraska National Forest now provides controlled grazing lands for cattle raisers, a recreation area, and an experimental nursery for the Great Plains.

Source: FORESTRY ON THE GREAT PLAINS, 1902-1942

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Here, the trail is obscured by this parade of sunflowers.

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Not sure what critter would have made this den. The lens cap is about 3" in diameter. Maybe an Ornate box turtle?

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The trail ran in and around and up and down the sand dunes.

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Quite the change of scenery from the lush hills of my beautiful West Virginia.

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Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)is common here in the Sandhills. Those who are involved in rangeland us consider this plant a weed/pest but I am sure it serves as an important part of dune ecology.

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Bathtub gin, anyone?

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The sandhill in the distance is sparsely covered with vegetation. Not all sandhills are created equal. You can find out a lot more by visiting this page.

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There were several ravines and gullies, this one was deep enough to require a foot bridge.

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The path had turned into a washout here and had been stabilized with these platform steps.

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The same ATV road I saw at the beginning of my hike. I heard them on-and-off but, thankfully, never saw one.

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It is hard to make out but the trail follows the bottom line where these two dunes intersect.

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Lots of beautiful Sumac. Made me think of a tall cool glass of Rhus juice.

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I saw the Soapweed/narrow-leaved yucca (Yucca glauca) in several places. No doubt it is widespread though out the dune country.

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One of the views from the summit. Too bad the tower was closed.

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The tower is scheduled to reopen later in 2011.

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Some good info here. Click and read.

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The Basics of Dune Formation
There are three processes by which eolian (wind blown) sand forms dunes - saltation, surface creep, and suspension. The most important of which is saltation wherein sand grains bounce as they are moved by wind. As they bounce along, they displace other sand grains and settle to form ripples. Given enough time and steady winds these ripples can turn into ridges and eventually dunes.

As a ridge becomes taller, wind-blown sand is more likely to be deposited on the upwind side and forms a gradual slope. The downwind side becomes steeper with a slope of 30% or more. The steep downwind sides are called slip faces. As sand builds up on the crest of these ridges it eventually slides down the slip face and the dune slowly moves in the direction of the wind. Precipitation can cause wet sand to cascade down these slip faces like an avalanche. Both wet and dry sand avalanches can be dangerous. Dinosaurs and pickup trucks have been trapped in them.

The area between dunes is called the interdunal area. The dunes have the same effect as a snow fence in that they cause finer particles of silt and clay to be deposited on the downwind side. Subsequently the interdunal soils have more water holding capacity and vegetation can flourish there. There are numerous wetlands among the interdunal areas of the Nebraska Sand Hills.

Source: Formation of the Nebraska Sand Hills by John W. Zupancic

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The trail was a 6 mile loop and I decided to take the road back. I would be easier walking and also no damned prickly foot stickers. The temps were easily in the high 80s and the road was hot, hot, hot and not a bit of shade.

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When I back down to Bessey I looked longingly at the cool water. I decided I would go check out the showers I had seen earlier at the campground and maybe that would cool me off.

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This is a view of the Middle Loup River from the road bridge into Bessey Recreation area. Shown here is the pedestrian bridge and overlook of the river.

I headed down to the open showers and then realized they were adjacent to a set of steps which went down to the river. I walked down the timber steps and this is what I saw.

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Imagine my surprise. Two people and 3 dogs playing the river like it was their yard. I had no idea the river was so shallow. I called out and asked how it was and the said: "Great! C'mon out!". Well, I didn't want to fool around with finding my bathing suit so I stripped down to my panties and in I went. The water was perfect and the river was moving nicely. The river bottom was clean sand and I scalloped out a place and plunked myself down. Heaven! I had been SO hot and this was just what the doctor ordered. I sat there and watched the water and the dogs running back and forth fetching balls and a fabric frisbee.
I chit-chatted with the couple and at one point the gal asked: "I wonder how long it will take us to get all this sand out of our privates?" I was taken aback a bit by this but was ready with a snappy comeback: "Depends on who's helping, I guess!" She let out a laugh and went back to her doggie business.

When I stood up to leave I said "So long" to them and as I walked away I heard yet another remark from "Miss Privates". She said: "You know, I'm likin' those shorts" - referring to my now was soaked and skin-tight undies. I looked back and said "Aw, shucks!" and was on my way.

I arrived back at th hotel relaxed and refreshed. The temp was 86 in the shade and my A/C-less room was sitting right on 80. But, the humidity was so low it really did not feel that uncomfortable.

I showered and did some photo transfers then sat out on the porch and talked to the owners' dad who was there recuperating from gull bladder surgery. He had lived in the area most or all of his life, which, I was not sure. His daughter who now owned the hotel was one of 7 kids and she was the only girl.

Among other things he told me he had run the bar down the street for past 30 years and said they had the best chicken fried steaks around.
He also said all the trains were coming out of Wyoming and it was from there they were getting the strip coal which was going to power plants in Oklahoma and Texas. In the two days I was there I bet thousands of cars of coal passed through there - in just two days!

He then asked me if I knew what "tanking" was. I said "no". He said he used to really enjoy it. Seems a bunch of them would take a 10' stock tank and set up some chairs and a table along with beer and steaks. They would then float down the river drinking and playing cards and then put ashore, build a fire and grill the steaks. He said the Loup river moved at 4mph and not many rivers moved that fast all summer.

Tanking the Middle Loup River

Tanking the Middle Loup River

Well, all this talking had made me hungry and just a tad bit thirsty so I walked the half block down to the Double T Bar to satisfy those urges.

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While waiting for the half order of chicken fried steak I amused myself by taking a few snaps.

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I then started reading a newspaper that was there and this ad caught my eye.

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This is one of my all time favorite albums and one I have listened to hundreds of times - most of them when I was growing up. Songs like "El Paso", "Big Iron" and "They're Hangin' Me Tonight" are incomparable classics

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This gal musta had a bit too much and tried to leave through the attic.

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Ahhh... dinner! (the half portion)

Now, I usually like my chicken fried steak "wet" (with gravy), but I have to say this was pretty tasty as were these home fries which were sliced razor thin and cooked until crunchy.

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I cleaned up my plate in no time and was glad I had ordered the half portion.

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While finishing up my beer I took a few more shots.
When I get home I think I will make Betsy one of these - maybe for Christmas.

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Gee, I wonder what Betsy would think of this coaster?

 

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Speaking of Betsy! I took this shot two days before I started this trip. I look at it know and wonder why I left town.

 

Next stop: Laramie.