Sandhills Ride by Horseback
June 27, 2011
Day 19: This was July 4th! I was glad to be far away from any town, because Maple and Tana do not care for the noisy sounds of fireworks. I got off to a rather late start but since I was only riding 1 mile to my next stop, it did not seem like I needed to head out early. This was my shortest ride.
Gloria had planned to go see a daughter in Colorado, so I moved on to a wonderful B&B just a mile down the road. The Schoolhouse B&B is a wonderful place for any traveler. I rode in there on July 4th and there were guests at the B&B, so I camped in the big red barn.
Now this was something: this barn is a work of art to me. It was built by German brothers about 1916 and it is 115 feet long and 50 feet wide. It has huge double tie stalls in it for 24 draft horses. It is yummy and a real treasure.
Carol and Tom are the perfect innkeepers as they are just really nice, warm folks who make one feel at home from the first moment. They had gone into Crawford for the July 4th festivities and I was asleep when they got home that night, so I did not meet them until the next morning. They knew that I was there though. I was soundly asleep in my tent pitched in the big barn. Carol was shocked that I camped in the barn, but I loved it!
Day 20: Carol walked down and invited me to come in to breakfast with their B&B guests. How very nice! We got acquainted and had a very pleasant breakfast and visit. The B&B guests left that morning and Carol insisted that I stay the next night in the schoolhouse B&B house. It really is an old schoolhouse and the original blackboards on the walls are full of thank yous and greetings from the guests who have stayed there.
Carol and Tom reside in the big farmhouse just next to the schoolhouse. They are not your average innkeepers, because they love meeting folks who come and welcome them in for suppers too. Their whole place is really fun with lots of wild turkeys and their own domestic chickens and guineas, kitties, dogs, bunnies and horses. It is a beautiful setting as well at the edge of the pine ridge. So, I stayed two nights at this quiet, safe and delightful spot.
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Tom took me on a drive around the local area to show me the sights. He is a great tour guide and knows the local history. He showed me the Belmont School (now closed) where he and Carol had both taught. We drove through the old railroad tunnel, built 1920 and now a rail trail/road. This is a beautiful area, rolling hills, pine trees, and creeks.
I was once again lucky in my timing for I got to attend the Wohler Ranch 125th celebration picnic! The Wohler Ranch is just a mile up the road from the B&B. We went there on Sunday afternoon and enjoyed a very pleasant and convivial picnic with about 100 people and enough food for an army! I got introduced to lots of nice folks who welcomed me. The weather was perfect and the day was great fun. That evening Carol drove me over to meet Jaynet, down the road a few miles, where I would stay tomorrow night.
Jaynet has a very interesting hideaway a mile off the county road and back through a wildlife refuge area. We crossed a creek seven times on our drive into her place. What a secluded, shady and special place. I would look forward to riding to her place tomorrow.
Day 21: After another wonderful breakfast at this B&B, I said goodbye to Tom who was heading out to spray weeds and Carol who was heading off to a 4-H class, I got packed up and rode out at 10 a.m. It was only about a 5 mile ride to Jaynet’s.
Maple, Tana and I enjoyed that shady stretch of road with nice creeks alongside of it. A pleasant change from all the hot, treeless roads we had been on through the Sandhills.
We got to Jaynet’s about 11:15 a.m. after an easy ride. I picked up Jaynet’s mail and carried that in her 1 mile lane, across the creeks, enjoying the huge shade trees. Jaynet welcomed me and since she has horses, she had a good accommodation for Maple.
Jaynet’s beautiful log home is set beside a lovely pond complete with ducks and lilies. Bunnies hop about and her horses look so picturesque grazing beside the pond. I loved her log home which is custom, yummy and comfortable.
Jaynet too had done nursing and was now a writer so once again, we had lots to talk about. I got to read some of her stories which were very entertaining.
She put me up in a perfect little apartment just off her garage. It was perfect: living room, with an all-one-piece kitchen unit (sink, stove, refrig), bathroom and bedroom. I was getting spoiled about staying in my tent!
Jaynet has a yard full of gorgeous flowers. She battles constantly to keep the wildlife from eating them all! People were spoiling us for sure. Gloria had dropped off goodies for Tana and me while I was at Carol’s and then Carol left a rawhide treat for Tana while we were at Jaynet’s.
Day 22: Jaynet twisted my arm and insisted that I stay another day/night so we could go out to dinner at the Cook Shack. Okay, I would stick around although it was taking me a long time to make these last few miles into Crawford.
It was another fun day. Carol, Jaynet and I went to Toadstool Park which was fascinating. Sandstone formations in very interesting and odd shapes. We hiked around and took lots of pictures.
Then, we went to the Cook Shack where I enjoyed seeing the lovingly restored old town buildings that had been moved there and carefully rebuilt. It is like an old-time town with a store, a school, a jail, sheriff’s office, livery, farrier shop, saloon, house and barn. All 1800 buildings. I could have easily enjoyed living during that time!
We stopped in Crawford and they showed me how to ride through town to the rodeo grounds when I got there. That was very helpful. We had a fun day and I was further spoiled. Much appreciated.
Day 23: I got packed up, thanked Jaynet profusely and rode out at 6:30 a.m. heading to Crawford. The ladies had told me places where I might stop if I needed to, but we rode right on into Crawford. I had not camped in a town since Hemingford and I needed to stop, write letters and mail them. I stopped to visit with the saddle maker in town and then rode on to the rodeo grounds. They were deserted, but still a bit muddy from all the rains that had hit on July 4th.
I put Maple in a pen and stowed my gear. I walked back to town and went to the grocery and post office. I wrote and mailed a lot of cards from here. I walked back to the rodeo grounds, grazed Maple, wrote more cards, pitched my tent and tried to stay cool.
Jaynet and Carol drove in to find me! We had another nice visit. I couldn’t thank them enough for all their kindness.
Day 24: I got up and enjoyed my oatmeal and tea. I fed Maple and Tana and let Maple graze while I cleaned up her pen and stowed my gear. I walked back to town and mailed more cards and ate more breakfast at the Frontier Restaurant before returning to the rodeo grounds. I loaded up and rode out at 9:30 a.m. heading to Fort Robinson. It would have been nice (not to mention safer) if I had been able to ride cross country along the Pine Ridge Trail on to Fort Robinson State Park property, but the gates are locked, so I had to ride along Route 20 for 3 miles … whew. A busy highway.
I reached the Fort at 10:30 a.m. and rode back toward the horse barn area. I had been here before so I knew where I was to go. I had to unload all my gear and tack, put Maple in a stall and then go to the Park office to check in and get camping and stall permits.
I met some very nice folks at the camp area and asked them if I could leave my gear with them while I checked in. Edna and Curt were camping there in their huge motor home and they were delighted to help out.
The Park people were not quite sure where I should put my “parking sticker/permit” since I came in by horse! I just posted it on my little tent. Tana was done. I took a great picture of her flat out in the grass, resting. Maple was fit and ready to go further. I was fit and fat from all the great meals I had been fed.
We all three felt great after our 175 mile/24 day trip. I have nothing but fond memories of northwestern Nebraska from my short-long ride!