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High Plains Homestead

June 4, 2010

When I first saw High Plains Homestead online, I figured it was a tourist trap. You can eat, sleep, visit a saloon and hang out in a jail all onsite.

Then I visited the place and changed my mind about the tourist trap thing.

When I first checked in, I was encouraged to “look around town.”

Town? Crawford??

No. “High Plains, Nebraska,” the “town” they’re assembling.

The owners, Mike and Linda Kesselring, and family before them, have been moving old buildings from the area onto their property and stocking them with authentic stuff. You’ll find buildings made of hundred-year-old, hand-hewn logs that were disassembled, brought onsite, and reassembled.

I was charmed. They’ve got quite the private museum going, and they don’t even charge admission. (Though they’d be happy if you stayed overnight, ate at the cookshack, shopped at the mercantile, booked a tour through them, or dropped a few bucks into the donation bucket in the school building.)

I loved the saloon with its swinging doors.

I imagined busting through them with a curl on my lip and gun on my hip, hat pulled low, spurs jingling as I walked up to the bar and ordered a sasparilla, spit in the general direction of the spittoon, then looked around at the hushed cardplayers who quickly turned their attention back to their game.

For now, all you can order is a sasparilla, but the owners are looking into a liquor license to be able to provide cookshack diners a beer with their dinner. Perhaps the saloon will go wet, too. I loved the sawdust on the floor. Nice touch!

I got a kick out of the mercantile, too.

Inside is a mishmash of display items that would have been sold to old west settlers as well as antiques, crafts and souvenirs that are actually for sale. It’s fun to look around in there.

I loved the school building, too. The old school benches are bolted to carpet-covered boards so they can be slid around, and there are plastic chairs in the back of the room. The schoolhouse, which actually was a schoolhouse at one time, continues to serve as a community meeting spot. The low bench on the right side of the picture has come coloring books, crayons, and reading books, so youngsters can play school (though signs throughout the town ask visitors not to leave kids under 12 unattended).

There was also the jail, a tiny, furnished settler cabin, a post office with a nice display of old post cards as well as tourism brochures, and a machine shed with a forge. I ate dinner and breakfast at the Drifter Cookshack. There’s an outdoor pit grill to one side of the building, surrounded by outdoor seating.

The night I was there was a Sunday, “Family Open-Pit Grill Burger Night.” I chose a bison burger. The bison that made up that burger was raised onsite. ‘Twas excellent. (The beef and pork offerings were raised elsewhere, but I hear they’re just as good.) My omelet the next morning (included in the room rate), was very, very good. Here’s a view inside the cookshack:

The room I stayed in was decent, if a little dingy. The comforters looked to have been washed many, many times, and the shower floor creaked when I stepped into it, but, hey, it was a private bathroom, and the room was clean. One thing . . . the wellwater’s very sulfurous and rather stinky. Probably good for your skin, but not so good to drink. A bottle of water was provided for the room, which is nice if you want to make coffee in your room before the cookshack opens. Sulfur-flavored cowboy coffee is just a little too authentic for me.

While there are no phones in the rooms, and there is no cell phone coverage right there (make sure to turn off your cell phone, or it will die while searching in vain for a signal), there is wireless internet access.

One of the best things about staying at the High Plains Homestead, other than the fun buildings and the friendliness of the owners and staff, is the scenery.

I met a retired couple from Colorado who was on a getaway for their second (or was it third?) wedding anniversary. They didn’t choose a mountain getaway. They came to western Nebraska and sat in the evening, soaking up the tranquility (at times broken by the watchful burro across the road) and occasionally raising binoculars to spot deer and pronghorn antelope grazing on the adjacent hillside.

This pronhorn buck was right next to the road. My first photo, which would have shown him looking right at me, was spoiled when my flash went off.

The badlands are interesting to look at. Here’s the moon above an odd structure on Sand Creek Road, before storm clouds rolled in.

The next morning, the rain-soaked landscape around Sand Creek Road was magical.

I’m sure the cattle there don’t know how good they’ve got it.

There’s so much to do in northwest Nebraska—hiking, hunting, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock collecting, fossil collecting (on private, not government land!)—yet so many people don’t know the area exists. I certainly plan to return!

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Shane Coop permalink
    June 4, 2010 10:07 am

    Wow! I’ve lived in western Nebraska the greater part of my life and never knew this place existed. Thanks for shining light on it.

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink*
      June 4, 2010 5:43 pm

      Glad to be of service! NW NE is really quite impressive, and so few people know about it. But maybe that’s a good thing . . . escape some of the crowds!

  2. June 4, 2010 6:37 pm

    Very informative!

  3. Suzie permalink
    June 6, 2010 12:25 pm

    The High Plains Homestead is one of my all time favorite places! I’ve been there several times and when I try to describe the place an its location to someone else, words fail. I even made a slideshow of my last stay at HPH:

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