After my quick but needed stop at Chadron State Park it was time to hit the road again. This time continuing through Nebraska to Scotts Bluff National Monument in Nebraska. First a little tip, do not just type Scotts Bluff into the GPS as you will end up in the center of the town of Scotts Bluff. Once we got that cleared up, it was on to the monument. 5 miles outside of town stands a towering cliff standing in the middle of nowhere. Almost like there was a giant game of cosmic Tetris and this was a misplaced L piece.
The bluff itself is imposing but also needs to be put into perspective. It towers over 800 feet above the lands around it. Now considering that trails in Colorado often have over 1,000 of elevation gain this doesn’t seem all that impressive. The impressive part is when you compare it to its surroundings. The hour and a half drive between Chadron, NE and Scotts Bluff, NE is about as flat as you would imagine a drive through Nebraska as being. Chadron (3379 elevation) is about 500 feet lower than Scotts Bluff (3891) and then all of a sudden you have a giant 800 foot wall rock sticking up. This is what makes the bluff so impressive.
Here is where the story turns. When I arrived at the guard gate to enter the monument I was met by a wonderfully nice park ranger. He was wearing a mask and gave me a pamphlet and explained to me that the road to the top of the bluff was closed he also told me that the visitor center was closed but that there was a paved 1.6 mile walk to get to the bluff and I was welcome to go on the trail. So far, so good.
The wise ranger continued by explaining to me that the spot I was on was part of the original Oregon Trail. They even had some wagons on display to show how people traveled in those days. He then continued to tell me that there were rattlesnakes that lived in the area that the path went through. He saw my FatMan LittleTrail hat and said “you look like you know what to do with rattle snakes”. He then said enjoy your visit.
I will now break down everything I was thinking compared to everything he said. We are on the original Oregon Trail. I don’t remember history class from elementary school but I remember playing the old game Oregon Trail. In fact I never remember playing the game and making it to Oregon. I always died in a weird way. There are rattlesnakes that live in the area. No. Nope. No. You look like you know what to do with rattle snakes. Looks are deceiving, sir. If you have read this blog you know I have no idea what to do with a rattlesnake other than cry and lay in a fetal position which is probably what Bear Grylls would advise, right? (Disclaimer: This is terrible advice and Bear Grylls would not give it to anyone. If you are going near rattlesnakes please research rattlesnakes and avoid the bitey side) Enjoy your visit. Ok pal. I’m on the Oregon trail. My memories of the game are of dying repeatedly from either Typhoid, Cholera, Dysentery, or snake bites. We are in the middle of a pandemic and you just told me there are rattlesnakes on this path.
But as any good hero would do, I geared up. I headed down the path to my imminant demise and put myself in harms way, for you. I fought off the invisible attacks of plague and covid, I wrestled with the largest rattlesnake ever seen by human eyes. When I didn’t think I could go any further, I stopped and snapped 4 pictures. I fought my way back in the devastating heat and sun. Again I fought snakes half the size of the 800 foot cliff and returned to my trusty steed with 4 pictures for you, my dedicated readers. Odysseus himself would have cowered from these feats but that is what I need to do for you and that is why I could only get you the 4 pictures you see here.
Or my phone battery died from using too much GPS about 20 steps into the hike and I was only able to get 4 pictures and I am sorry and promise to do better on my next hike!
Scotts Bluff is cool in the contrast of what is against. If you would put it in Colorado against the flat irons or next to a 14er would it still be cool? I’m not sure. If you are driving from Chicago or Nashville out west and have seen relatively flat fields for as far as the eyes can see, would it be cool. Absolutely. I enjoyed my very brief stay there. I wish I could drive up to the top on the road if I ever find my way back there. I also really enjoyed the drive through Nebraska and South Dakota. The land is beautiful in its simplicity. Around a slight bend or cresting a small hill you can see for what seems like 100 miles.You appreciate each hill, creek, farmhouse, and windmill a little bit more when they are spaced out. The heartland will always have a place in my heart. Now to head back to Colorado.
If you have a suggestion for a hike that you would like me to try, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow me on the below social media platforms. I have also added this hike and all the hikes to the interactive map that you can find here.