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Second Day Hike, I need snowshoes

January 7, 2016

Given that January 2nd was a Saturday, and given that it was sunny and warmer than the day before, I talked Bugman into going for a Second Day Hike. The road up Scotts Bluff would no longer be open to walkers, since the Visitor Center was open again, so we looked for another place to hike.

After learning that we could buy a Nebraska state park pass online and print out a temporary park pass (after a quick run to Staples for more printer ink) while the actual vehicle window sticker wound its way to us through the mail, we decided to go to Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect, since I know the Wildcat Hills Nature Center is currently closed during an expansion project.

We pulled into the site, and saw this sign:

road closed

Um, “road close to thru traffic”? The road to the left is a dead-end in the main parking lot, and the road to the right dead ends at the end of the state property. There is no thru traffic. Were they trying to say the main parking lot is closed?

The parking lot was full of stilled construction equipment and was not plowed to make room for cars, so I can only assume the main parking lot is closed? Another car was in the lot, parked near the construction project between construction vehicles. We parked in the unplowed snow next to the fence. No work going on today anyway, so we wouldn’t get in anyone’s way.

hiking out

The snowy hillsides were just beautiful. Ordinarily, highway traffic from beyond the hill and the twitter of a bird here and there would be the main sounds. On this day, whoops and shrieks echoed through the trees. The people from that other car in the parking lot were sledding!

I have not hiked in the Wildcat Hills enough to be very familiar with the paths, so I’m glad there were some other hikers’ tracks for us to follow. Some of the tracks were made by snowshoes. I’m really, really wishing now that we had a couple of sets of snowshoes. They would sure make winter hiking a lot easier!

snowy shoe

My hiking boots quickly became “snow boots.” I could’ve used a set of gaiters, too. My thick winter running pants were great for the hike, though, as they pretty much shed the snow and stayed pretty tightly tucked against my boots.

rough going

At some point, we seemed to lose the trail. Or was the trail just this narrow? In any case, it was rough going, uphill on a narrow path deeply covered in snow. Good exercise!

uploading nature

The view was, as usual, worth the climb. Bugman took a pano and uploaded it to Facebook in the field.

A couple of things that caught my eye:

birdie prints

Wind-softened birdie prints around a patch of yucca.

snow crystal garden

Ice crystals. This photo is actually from the previous day’s hike at Scotts Bluff National Monument, as the lighting was better. This was so interesting to find this same kind of ice crystal growth in both places, both on the leeward sides of hills. It’s not new-fallen snow. It’s some kind of crystalline growth, perhaps fog deposition, atop the granular base of undisturbed snow. The photo does not really do it justice.

ice crystals

I tried to illustrate the types of crystals by brushing some off onto my black mitten, but it was hard to accomplish the needed dexterity.

Instead of hiking back through all that snow, Bugman and I chose to complete our circuit back to the car in the main parking lot by walking on the road. I was a little nervous that a car would come over one of the hills on the road – the road was pretty icy. Not sure a car without 4-wheel drive could get back to the parking areas past the main lot.

slick road

All in all, a very satisfying winter hike!

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

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