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It’s winter. So what? Go outside and play.

December 27, 2010

Husband and I went for a walk up Scotts Bluff National Monument on Christmas Eve day.

I was pleased to encounter quite a few other folks out there, too. We really have a cool resource here in our backyards, and not enough people take advantage of it, IMHO.

As a recent New York Times article put it, Americans are suffering from “outdoor deprivation disorder.” Our lack of time spent outside may be putting us at increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, vitamin D deficiency, osteoporosis, stress, depression, attention deficit disorder and myopia.


All this could be mitigated by a miracle cure – talking regular walks outside.

I can hear people whining now, “But it’s wiiinterrr. It’s cooold and there’s nothing to seeeee.”


Put on a couple of layers of clothes, so you can add or remove them as needed to stay comfortable. Bring a hat and mittens. Check the weather before you go, to see if you’ll need anything waterproof.

Not convinced that it’s pretty out on the monument in December?

Here are a few photos from our hike at the monument last weekend.

The dried grasses are quite beautiful.

There are so many different kinds of grasses. I took a plant identification class this summer, but most of that knowledge was never used and has evaporated as fast as rain in July.

The patches of different-colored grasses splotched across the landscape look rather painterly.

There are all kinds of interesting little things to find along the trail up the bluff.

Dried flower stars.

Dried seed heads.

Yucca pods yawning open.

And the husks of penstemon (?) flowers, which in a cluster remind of a chorus, throats open in song.

There’s all sorts of texture and color to be found.

Spiny little green plants.

Red in the tiny, perfect leaves of fragrant sumac (?).

Blue of the abundant juniper berries.

Listen, and you can hear the "ping" of Townsend's Solitaire birds, which come to feed on the juniper berries. They may often be found silhouetted in the "bird tree" - a dead tree to the east of the path near the spring. Listen, too for flocks of agitated robins, the busy muttering of red-breasted nuthatches, and the near-constant sound off in distance as evening draws near and thousands of Canada geese bed down near the river.

It’s not just birds who may be watching you as you ramble along the pathways.

Mule deer are a common sight on top of the bluff towards evening.

The vistas are another joy of a hike up the monument.

Sometimes the clouds put on quite a show.

The bluff itself is quite photogenic.

You can never go wrong with a sunset.

If you’re one of the lucky ones with time off work between Christmas and New Year’s, make sure to make time to head into the great outdoors!

It’s good for body and mind.

The monument trails are open from sunrise to sunset, which would be about 7:20 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. now, so close to the winter solstice.

The Saddle Rock Trail, 1.6 miles one way with 435 feet of climb, is an excellent cardiovascular challenge.

Summit Road is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the winter. I mention this because you could always hike the trail one way and get a ride for the opposite journey. Or, you could just drive up to the top and walk around on the trails up there.

One thing to remember, especially in the winter when the guard post at the monument entrance is unmanned – please make sure to pay the entry fee. Your funds contribute to the maintenance of this awesome resource. And at $15 for a whole year, the tri-parks pass (which also gets you into Agate Fossil Beds and Fort Laramie) is a great deal!

See you out there on the trails!

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw


One Comment leave one →
  1. December 30, 2010 11:00 am

    Very inspiring and enlightening!

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