25 August 2017
Wellfleet, Nebraska to Casper, Wyoming 425 miles
We were excited to be able to hike the trails around Dancing Leaf Lodge and to have a look at the earthen lodge where we had stayed 10 years prior. Les and Jan had left a map with hiking trails in our cabin, so we walked up to the lodge, which had a ‘no trespassing’ sign on it – sad face – so we just peeped in. It was exactly as we remembered it, including the area around the lodge where we had enjoyed our breakfast many years ago. We hiked on down the hill and came across a wooden swing (of course we got on it!) and an area that served as an outdoor kitchen and eating area, complete with an outhouse. No, we didn’t peek it that! We hiked on until we came to the spring and then we hiked back up the trail. At one point, we saw a beautiful hawk resting on top of a pole and watched him until he flew to the top of a nearby tree. As we walked up by the former mess hall (this area had been used by Boy Scout troops in the past), we saw a doe and an older fawn in the meadow. The doe ran, but the fawn stood, transfixed, watching us. Soon another fawn approached and we all played a little game of chicken. Kim and I won, but not before we got some good shots of them.
Back at our cabin, we cleaned up, packed up, and I ate some more of my cinnamon roll, and we loaded up the car and went searching for Jan and Les so we could pay for our accommodation. We chatted a bit about how sad we were that the lodge and museum are closed now and inquired about what would befall them in years to come, as Les and Jan do not have kids. If you know of anyone who would love to live a cool, fairly isolated life in rural western Nebraska where there are lots of dinosaur fossils and an earthen lodge and campground, let us know – we’d love to find a good caretaker for it!
We struck out for Casper, via Ogallala and Scottsbluff, but we opted to take a bit of a side route to have a bite to eat at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton, since it was in our Nebraska Passport booklet. The Official Passport Travel Program is in its 8th year – the Nebraska Tourism group selects 80 stops all over the state that give you a great overview of the state, from museums to good food to gorgeous scenery and more – our kind of program! We were sad that we hadn’t known about this program earlier, since we’d already passed quite a few things before we got our passports in Holdrege! But, should you plan a trip to Nebraska, be sure to play along! I wish every state had something like this! Ole’s was in the “Uniquely Nebraska” section, and boy, was it! Full of mounted animals of all varieties – polar bears, leopards, owls, moose, giraffes – you name it, and Ole had hunted it! Since the restaurant was famous for its beef, and it was almost noon when we arrived, we both had a cheeseburger – very tasty!
Back on the road, we passed through Ogallala, the cowboy capital of Nebraska, and a place we’ve been twice before on our trips – in 2007 and in 2010 – and we didn’t stop at Homemade Heaven, a little sandwich shop we love (they have pie!) mainly because of their fabulous homemade bread, buns, and pies. This trip, we veered northwest toward Scottsbluff, but again, we chose to take another side trip to the Double L Country Store and Café in Harrisburg. It was late afternoon when we arrived, just in time for a little snack. Kim had a yummy looking chocolate sundae and I had a piece of homemade peach pie, a la mode. Oh my goodness! The crust was divine – we were both happy with our choices. I browsed around the little store a bit – very cute things made by local artists – and soon we were on our way to Scottsbluff.
Our main reason for going to Scottsbluff, in addition to the fact it was on the route we had chosen, was to see the huge rock formation that had been a prominent marker for pioneers traversing the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, and the California Trail. Whenever we travel across the country, especially when we are on the old roads (and not the interstate highways), we can’t help but think about what it would have been like to have walked across the country beside a wagon carrying your children and all of your worldly possessions that you thought you had to have. We try to put ourselves in the place of women who made this treacherous journey, and it’s hard to imagine how any of them made it! We are so blessed these days, yet we let the least little things get to us…what, no cell service here??
Anyway, we saw a sign for the Legacy of the Plains Museum in Gering and realized it was in our Passport book, so we stopped in for a visit. What a great museum it was! Looked brand new, and it was so nicely done! It was divided into seven themed sections – High Plains, Dwellings and Domestic Life, Commerce and Trade, Irrigated Farming, Dryland Farming, Ranching and Livestock, and Trails, Transportation, and Communication – all housed in one giant room. The displays were really nicely done – we could have spent longer here, but wanted to get to the big rock and get to Casper before dark! Thankfully, the Scottsbluff National Monument was just a few miles down the road – we could see the rock from the museum, so off we went. First, we walked along the path of the old Oregon Trail, where you could see wagon ruts and up high enough to get a good view of the prairie behind us and the mountains looming ahead. Kim and I decided we knew how so many little communities were established along these trails – from women who put their feet down and said, “You can keep going, honey, and the kids and I will be waiting for you here!” There was a nice road up the rock, so we drove through a few tunnels up to the summit where there were incredible views!
While there were a few more things in the area that were in the passport book, we knew we needed to get on the road to Wyoming, because we were staying at a bed & breakfast out from town and we needed to be able to find our way before dark. Also, we were meeting up with our friend Gerise for a late dinner in town! We made good time and found the Red Butte Lodge (no help from Waze, who got us almost there, but sent us the long, gravel road way when we could have driven on a paved road!). I was glad I had seen a photo of the entryway on the website, or we would still be driving around trying to find it! Ruth, the proprietor, had the Australia room all ready for us – perfect! Ruth is from New Zealand, lived in Australia for 18 years, and has been in the US since 2002. We were very comfortable in her home. We got settled and then went to town to meet Gerise for dinner at J’s Pub & Grill. Gerise brought us a lovely book about Wyoming, full of spectacular photographs, and we had a wonderful time visiting and enjoying a lovely dinner. Thanks, Gerise, for making time for us, for the book, and for your wonderful recommendations! Next time we will see the studio!
We filled the gas tank on our way home and settled in for the night, ready for another big day tomorrow! While I am glad to be having fun on our trip, I’m so sad to hear about the calamitous rain, wind, and storms hitting the Gulf coast of Texas and the city of Houston and surrounding areas. Rex reports that other than some minor damage to our dock and downspouts on our gutters, all is well at Tiki; however, our Houston friends and many in between are in a bad way. If you feel inclined to contribute, please consider giving to the Red Cross. And all prayers are appreciated!