The First Hike: Ashfall Fossil Beds

Alright, I know that Noel already posted…but these trips tend to keep moving quickly along, and we must post when we get the chance. I write this from a KOA in Casper Wyoming just off Interstate 25, on a bed of gravel with the stars so close I wanna reach out and grab em. I digress. I wanted to share my first hike of the trip, my #1 of 40. So here it goes.

We were visiting the amazing Ashfall fossil site, and Noel had heard about this great hike that one of the rangers was quoted as saying, “I would hike this every day if I could”. Okay. Great. So we signed the log book saying that we were on this hike. Noel noted that no one had taken this hike in three days. Warning sign. So after our first attempt to find the beginning of the trail failed, we viewed the bones, only to then locate the beginning behind a wooden gate. The trail was nestled within the tall prairie grasses of Nebraska, and the trail often was very hard to discern. But we plugged ahead, as the landscape was so beautiful, it really was. We bush wacked our way through the trail, following along with the trail guide that corresponded with numbered post signs until I heard Henna scream! “Spiders!” ” Tiny spiders are crawling all over me!”. Well, Henna wasn’t too excited about this hike to begin with…it was humid, muggy and buggy, so naturally I dismissed her freak out…until I saw them. Those tiny spiders she was complaining about….I found one on my leg, but it wasn’t a spider. It was a tick. Okay. Now I could either have told Henna the truth and freak her out more, or put on my mom poker face and lie (and at the same time make it kind of fun!) I chose the latter, and pushed her on as I flicked ticks off my shoes, legs and kept one eye on my daughter in front of me. Well, when we finally got off the trail, hot and red faced, I checked her and myself…and then I told her the truth about them spiders. Ugh!

Run!

Run!

Well, after de ticking both Henna and I after the trip (I actually found one later the day crawling up my face…while I was driving), I contemplated that hike with life. I won’t bore you, but I realized that life is kind of like that hike. Sometimes you’re going along, enjoying your self…when wham! You’re hit by something that really sucks. And you can let that affect you for a very long time by keeping you from doing things that you want. I was totally freaked out by those ticks…they got in my head and I questioned what the heck we were out here doing! Seriously. But as I sit here tonight, and those ticks are far behind I realize that in life you got to plug ahead, no matter if it scares you so bad you want to give up. I’m glad we kept moving forward, even as Noel thought I was loosing my mind while I continued to check both Henna and myself for ticks days later. Ugh. But I’ve made it these 40 years by moving forward, never going back. And I continue to keep doing just that. Corey

Cool Stop #1: The Seneca Street Saloon in Webster City, Iowa

Seneca State Saloon in Webster City, IA

Seneca State Saloon in Webster City, IA

What is it about Iowa and cities? Sioux City, Iowa City, and Webster City (where I woke up this morning refreshed and ready to really begin this milestone trip). Hey Iowa, real cities don’t bother calling themselves cities. New York City does, but only because it is in New York State. Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia are cities. Webster City is a nice but small dot off route 20. It is a city like the hill at North Park Nature Center is a mountain. But in Webster City I did make my first of at least forty cool stops. Let me present to you the Seneca Street Saloon.
The Saloon has Mills beer on tap (made by and for Iowans), worn out wood floors, posters of forgotten sporting teams decades old (like a high school wrestling team from 1992), endless fish caught and deer shot playing on the television over the bar, and thirty cents buffalo wings on Monday. Pizza, two draft beers, a dozen buffalo wings, and an order of fries with a generous tip; $30 (and they only take cash). Sitting in oversized booths were Webster City firemen (the firehouse was next door), families, men in camouflage, and three tourists from Chicago. The bartender served everyone with a smile and for the first time that day we felt at home.

After swimming we caught Shaw hoisting the cup while swearing loudly on live television. Blood streaked down his cheek from an open gash. I was honestly just glad he was alive as I saw him earlier take a puck to the head from maybe three feet away then drop to the ice motionless. From the hotel lobby I thought I heard the fireworks going off in Edison Park. Noel

Cool Stop #2: Smith Falls State Park in North East/Center Nebraska

Quick, pronounce “Niobrara River.” I am guessing that if you don’t live in Nebraska you can’t pronounce its’ prettiest river. Coming in from South Dakota and meandering south with a western tilt, it is a lazy southern river trapped in the plains. Just west of Smith Falls State Park you can rent tubes, kayaks, and canoes then drift south assured that a packed bus will eventually bring you back to where you started. We passed but did take a four mile gravel road to the state park were we could have also camped right on the river bank. Instead we took a short hike to the base of Nebraska’s highest waterfall then played right under the cascading falls. Another small hike led us to the river and we cooled off in the water just like the cattle we saw all day by the side of the road. Come to think of it the passing river people might have resembled us in our cars. Moo.

Lazy summer day

Lazy summer day

Quick note: Not making the list of cool stops only because we wrote about it last year was Ashfall Fossil Beds. If you remember, Ashfall is the site of a former watering hole. About 11 million years ago a volcano blew up in Idaho (the source of this volcano, its “hot spot,” moves below the surface of the earth and is presently fueling Old Faithful and every other attraction in Yellowstone) and covered much of Nebraska in ash. The confused rhinos, three toes horses, camels, and other prehistoric creatures sought comfort in the watering hole before eventually dying of various ailments. The ash blew and blew and covered their remains then sheltered their fossilized bones from the crushing soil that eventually layered above them. The result is well preserved and more three dimensional fossils. The site was discovered in the 1970s and graduate students work the site under a giant awning/ barn, each summer. Every day they uncover something and at the visitor center a friendly student will happily show you something (last summer it was prehistoric poop). There also is a fun kid area and some hiking (Corey will share a story about that hilarious hike soon).

Fort Robinson State Park (Nebraska), where I am presently waiting for the ladies to wake up, also deserves a special shout out.

Ashfall Fossil Beds

Ashfall Fossil Beds

We did pass on Seusical The Musical(last summer we saw Godspell at their Summer Stock Theater). We also met three generations camping near us and Henna played with the youngsters. I really enjoyed talking with the adults right up until they started talking politics. I had no idea that the government was sending armored carriers into major cities! And I think the correct pronunciation of the president’s last name is Obama, not Osama. Maybe they were a little on edge because of yesterday’s Supreme Court’s decision that will (hopefully) open the door for gay marriage. I will never know for sure though because I shifted the conversation back to Nebraska state parks. Noel

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