Visiting the Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park | Platte River State Park | August 2021
The beginning of August marked one whole year of living in Nebraska! I can’t believe how fast time has passed for us here, and that we’re already halfway through our time here (depending on how things play out over the next few months). People still ask if we miss Hawaii, and every time we give the same confident answer: no! Looking back on those 3 years, those were some of the hardest years with the most trials, and though we grew through them and were able to do a lot on the islands there is no part of me that wants to go back or relive any of it. When I think back on those years, I see the emptiness and longing I felt, waiting and praying for all I have now. The past year in comparison has been so full, full of time together with Curtis and our families, full of movement and exploration, and full of life. There have been so many moments where I’ve seen and understood why God brought us here, and I’m so thankful He did!
That being said, we may have called Nebraska “home” for a year now, but we’ve ended up being away from our home base for a combined 3 months over the last year, mostly throughout the past 4 months. While our constant traveling is starting to wear me out, I do like how this year has turned out: We spent the majority of the first 8 months at home (besides holidays) and made the most of going out and exploring when the weather was more mild (February being the only exceptionally cold month). This summer, there have been so many hot and humid days, but thanks to our traveling we’ve been able to avoid those (sure, the places where we went were also hot, but as visitors we had extra motivation to do things in the short time we were there). Now fall is coming, and with that we’ll likely be home more often and will be able to continue our Nebraska bucket list in more comfortable weather.
The first weekend of August brought more heat and humidity with chances for storms, and since the next sections of the Wabash Trail are longer, we decided it wasn’t a good idea to continue our walk. Instead, the Omaha Zoo came to our rescue with a sweet deal. They emailed us a code for 2 free passes to the Wildlife Safari Park Southwest of Omaha as a thank you for becoming zoo members this summer. The park wasn’t really on our radar, but since it was free, why not?!
The drive around the safari park is about 3 miles long and offers the chance to see elk, bison, deer, a bear, wolf, and different birds up close from either your car or from short walks to enclosures. We went as soon as they opened at 9, hoping that getting there early would mean the animals would be more active before the heat really set in. The elk were all posing majestically for us as we entered, the males with full sets of antlers. We didn’t see any deer, but that’s ok, you can see deer anytime and anywhere out here. We got out and walked around the wetland exhibits to see pelicans and turtles, then to see the eagle exhibit, as well as a little bird enclosure with the cutest little pocket-sized screech owls.
At this point, a storm was brewing with lightning and thunder coming closer, but we really wanted to see the bear so we hurried to the trail that takes you to a viewing platform. We arrived, and found the bear right up close and personal. His fur looked so soft and smooth, unfortunately he was kept just out of reach from the boardwalk so we couldn’t pet him. After showing off his model walk pacing around the viewing platform, he turned and walked away. From this angle, he looked exactly like the bear I saw in Washington, and I was finally able to take a picture to replicate that experience.
Thunder was booming, but we just had to try to see the wolf enclosure, though we expected them to be in hiding at that point. We made it to the enclosure, but sure enough the wolves were nowhere to be seen. We turned and started hurrying back to our car, and just then we saw one run along the fence line — a brief but beautiful encounter…that we hope to never replicate on the trail. We made it back to our car just as it started to down pour. By this point, we only had bison left to see, so we decided to keep driving. On our way, we spotted a couple of sandhill cranes, much closer than we were able to see them last March on our pilgrimage to central Nebraska to watch the migration.
Finally, we spotted some bison to make our visit complete. We’ve seen a lot of bison this year, and honestly each time has gotten a little less exciting since seeing them in the wild on the Centennial Trail in South Dakota, but the highlight here was watching one of them shake off the rain the same way Charlotte does. Why is it that whenever we go somewhere like the zoo without Char, every animal we see reminds us of her and we spend the whole time thinking about her?
We ended by stopping near the entrance to see the prairie dogs, but this exhibit wasn’t that exciting compared to the rest of the safari experience, or of the prairie dog towns we walked through in the Black Hills. We got our official Nebraska Passport stamps and then went on our way.
Since we were already in the area and South of the Platte, we decided to pay a short visit to Platte River State Park, another location that’s on the Nebraska Passport list for this year. We got those stamps, then since the storm had passed we decided to climb the tower in the park for better views of the Platte. While walking up the steps together, we realized this is the first time in a long time that we’ve climbed up to the top of a tower together, because usually one of us stays at the bottom with Charlotte. I guess it’s good we did this today while she wasn’t with us! The views from the top were excellent, though we noticed that the tower appears to move a considerable amount when you’re standing at the top, which was just the slightest bit unsettling.
After this mini-adventure, we came home and enjoyed the rest of our weekend by woodworking (Curtis), attending a game night with friends, and planning for yet another upcoming trip. More on that, coming up next!