Island to Inland PCS Road Trip | Day 9 | August 2, 2020 | Scottsbluff National Monument, Chimney Rock, and Arriving in Omaha
On the last morning of our road trip, we packed up our tent one last time and drove back to Scottsbluff. We knew we’d have around 2 years to explore Nebraska, but we couldn’t keep ourselves from visiting Scottsbluff National Monument right away. We wanted to end our trip on a high note and make some happy memories for our first full day in Nebraska.
We arrived at the park before 8 that morning and began our hike up the Saddle Rock Trail in the cool morning air. The trail started off flat as it approached the bluff, gradually gaining elevation, and then became steeper as it began ascending the bluff at about three-quarters of a mile up the trail. There were a few others out hiking and jogging, but overall it was a quiet morning on the trail. Altogether the trail gained 600 feet of elevation before reaching the top. There’s also a road that takes you to the top of the bluff, but it didn’t open until 9am that morning and we had most of the top to ourselves. We wandered around the sidewalks and took in all the different view points.
Scott’s Bluff, like so many other locations along the North Platte, was an important landmark for people traveling on the trans-continental routes like the Oregon and Mormon Trails. They would often camp at the base of the bluffs before crossing over a pass to the steep pass to the South. But few, if any, pioneers ever made it to the summit. It wasn’t until the 30’s that the Saddle Trail and Road were built.
For our return trip, we decided to walk down the road which was still closed. The hike was 4 miles round trip, perfect for giving Charlotte some exercise before our long drive across the state. If you’re interested, you can see our AllTrails recording for this hike here.
As far as our driving route went that morning, we planned to take a pretty direct route knowing that we’d have plenty of time to explore more over the next couple years.
You may be wondering, how much is there to actually do in Nebraska?! How will we possibly stay busy? I’ll admit, before finding out we were moving here, we had similar feelings. The only times we’d been to Nebraska since getting married were once in 2014 and again in 2015, both while driving from Iowa to Arizona, and you’ll notice in both posts that we mention how long and boring Nebraska is.
Now, I’m not claiming it’s more interesting than neighboring states such as Colorado, Wyoming, or South Dakota. But once we started looking for things to do in Nebraska and creating our bucket list, we found there were plenty of things that piqued our interests, from state parks to historical sites to random attractions. Not to mention a hobby of ours that we truly enjoy, but haven’t been able to pursue for the last 3 years: County Counting!
But wait, there’s more! We’ve decided to take it a step further here, and instead of simply driving into each county and saying “we did it,” we are going to attempt to see every courthouse in Nebraska. This idea came to me after a few weeks of stay at home orders in Hawaii, which led me to spend an afternoon looking up the addresses to every courthouse and making a separate personalized Google Map with all of them starred. I’m sure everyone was making equally obscure goals and plans for life after quarantining, right…?!
Anyway, on today’s drive from US-26 to I-80 all the way to Omaha, we were able to see 5 courthouses. Only 88 to go! We saw the courthouses in Scottsbluff, Morrill, Garden, Keith, and Buffalo counties. We also stopped to see Chimney Rock near Bayard, NE, and got Taco Johns in Kearney, NE. Chimney Rock was another important landmark on those tran-continental routes, but this one is slowly yet surely weathering away. Only a few more lightning strikes and it will probably disappear altogether, so we’re glad we got to see it today.
Driving I-80 confirmed to us that it’s way more fun to take highway roads, but at least we know we have that faster option for when we want to road trip to Colorado or Wyoming.
We arrived in Bellevue around 4 and checked in to our hotel for the next 2 weeks. This was also the official start to our official post-PCS 2 week quarantine…which ended up being nothing like the strict quarantine happening for people who arrive in Hawaii. More on that later. We settled in to our hotel and had our first Runza experience for dinner that night.
Here’s to a great start to this chapter of our lives, to becoming Midwesterners again, to having more time together, and to figuring out what we’re going to do with our lives when this is all over in 2 years!