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Another place to hike: “old picnic area” at SBNM

January 23, 2012

This winter has been so mild, I’ve been taking advantage of the opportunity to get out and about whenever I can. This past Saturday, Bugman and I checked out another local hiking place that we had not yet explored – the “old picnic area” at Scotts Bluff National Monument.

If this document is is correct, the old picnic area was constructed to the south and east of Mitchell Pass by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, “temporarily closed to the public in late 1939 because of overuse and abuse,” permanently closed “without substantial opposition” in 1940 and “obliterated” in 1941. Judging by the concrete rubble we found out there, the obliteration project was halted just before the “clearing away” phase.

While you can’t drive out there for a picnic anymore, you CAN park at a pull-off on the side of Highway 92 and go for a hike there. Check in first at the Visitors Center, then go west through the pass. You’ll see the chained-off old road just past where the wire guardrails end on the south side of the road.

Bugman and I followed the tire marks left by the Park Ranger patrol vehicle until they ended, wandering off the path from time to time to see what we could see. Here are some of the things we found:

An old boundary sign

A 1935 survey marker. Do you suppose the penalty for removal has gone up since then?

At the based of a slightly burnt pine tree, a pile of mouldering cloth held down by stones that concealed a rotting Copenhagen can and a hole full of sticks and pine cones and perhaps something else that I was too chicken to continue to dig for.

In one of the canyons, a den - three feet in diameter. Wonder what lived there??

Maybe it was the same critter that deposited these hairballs on the trail nearby?

UPDATE: a response from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission on the critter responsible for the above deposit: “Speaking with Sam Wilson our Wildlife Biologist specializing in carnivores it appears that this coyote feces comprised of remnants of deer hair and grass and seeds. It is most assuredly deer hair which would lead us to believe coyote or fox.”

What’s really fascinating to me are the microclimates present on and around the bluff.

In a sheltered area on a south-facing rise, plants were already sending out new buds:

While in shady draws there is still snow clinging around, and I can’t even remember the last time it snowed (apart from Sunday morning, after this hike):

On a larger scale, it’s interesting to compare the relatively treeless east-facing south bluff, which is visible from the Visitors Center:

Photo taken February 2011

with the pine canopy of the west-facing portion of the south bluff that you can see from the old picnic area trail:

Photo taken January 2012

Here’s a photostitched panoramic view from where Bugman and I climbed up towards the face of the bluff:

This is one of the few photos on this blog you can click to enlarge

The lovely scenery and potential diversity of insect habitats at the old picnic area has got Bugman’s curiosity piqued. He wants to go back and explore some more.

I hear there are quite a few rattlers out in the picnic area in warmer weather. All the better reason to go hike there now!

If we go back in the summertime, I may have to invest in some type of snake chaps – maybe SnakeGuardz (linked just for the annoying video and the name spelled with a “z”),  designed for “Hunters, Hikers, Campers, Fishermen, Ranchers, Surveyors, Realtors and Border Patrol.”

Copyright 2012 by Katie Bradshaw

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Lavon permalink
    January 23, 2012 6:28 pm

    Thanks for all your posts! I love all the great places you two go and it gives us some great ideas!!

  2. vnewman permalink
    January 30, 2012 8:24 pm

    Ever find out what the scat was from?

    • Katie Bradshaw permalink
      January 30, 2012 11:27 pm

      I posted the image on the NGPC Facebook page, and the first suggestion I got was “Jimmy Hoffa.” A consult with Sam Wilson is included in the update above. 🙂

  3. May 2, 2012 7:14 pm

    I’ve always loved picnics!


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