Yesterday I finally got back on the trail. It had been a while - three months - since my last hike and it felt good to get out. My first Nebraska hike would be a couple of trails in the Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge. I chose this hiking areas as it had longer trails than most parks in the area. I chose Tuesday because it was going to be in the low 80s and not too humid. It turned out to be a perfect hiking day with a cool breeze from the south.
The refuge is mostly meadow with wooded areas along the Missouri River and Boyer Chute. The trail leaves the main parking area of the refuge on a paved path, crosses a bridge over the chute, and continues as a gravel and then mowed grass, path east across the meadow.
I followed the Grasses Loop, a four mile loop, through the prairie land. As I walked on the trail, grasshoppers jumped out of the way. Many of the grasshoppers didn't quite grasp the concept of fleeing as they jumped straight at me. I was pelted by insects as I walked along. It felt kind of weird.
The air was filled with the sound of insects and birds. I spooked some pheasant (or maybe quayle) and wild turkey as I walked through the tall grass. The trail eventually reaches a tree line that runs along the Missouri River and turned north. I came across a mulberry tree and picked some berries. It was a little late in the season and the berries were small and not as juicy as I've had in the past. My grandparents had some mulberry trees on their farm. I remember going out and eating them until my hands were stained purpley-black from the juice.
Along part of the trail there were trees on both sides of the trail. A deer jumped over the trail and headed into the trees before I could get my camera out. A rabbit was not to far behind. With the pheasant, wild turkey, meadowlarks, rabbits, deer, and grasshoppers, I saw more wildlife on this trail than on any of the my California hikes. I hope this wasn't a fluke. I like to see animals on the trail.
At around the half way point of the grasses loop, I headed for a nearby virtual geocache. I reached down to check my GPS and it was gone. I backtracked and found it on the ground under the mulberry tree. Gave me a little scare, though I have been looking for an excuse to buy a new one. Not this time. I arrived at the cache site and claimed "Boyer Chute NWR #2" located not far from the western shore of the river.
The loop briefly follows the Missouri River before heading back west. There were a couple spurs that were not shown on the trailhead maps. Not sure where they go - a reason to come back some day. A visit in the fall when the leaves change may be required.
I arrived back near the trailhead and walked the Oriole Loop, a short half mile loop through a forested area, before heading back to the car. Part of this loop passed so close to the chute that the trail was totally washed out forcing me to detour a little.
The Grasses-Oriole loop combination was 4.84 miles with roughly 112 feet of vertical. That's not much vertical and frankly the trail is as flat as they come.
I was not satisfied with this length so I drove down to the southern edge of the refuge and did another hike along the chute to the point where the chute merges with the Missouri River. This trail seemed a little less traveled and felt more rustic even though it was well maintained. There were more flowers along this trail where splashes of yellow and purple liven it up the scenery. The only bad thing about this trail was some garbage on the trail - namely a slightly used feminine hygiene product (X-Þ GROSS).
The south chute trail, along with a short spur to the edge of the chute, added about 1.52 miles and another virtual cache "Boyer Chute NWR #1". So, combined, my hike at Boyer Chute totaled 6.36 miles. Some pictures can be found here.
It was almost noon and I was getting hungry so I headed to the nearest town, Fort Calhoun (population 850+) where I ended up at the Rustic Inn. At one time the place had a western theme with stuffed Cowboy and Indian figures greeting you at the door, long horns over the entrance, and various rusty western stuff adorning the walls. The glittery, UFO shaped, mirror ball hanging from the ceiling ditracted from the western theme. The place was a typical small mid-western town restaurant. The service and food was fast. My cheeseburger and fries were basic and no frills, which is fine since I'm a no-frills type of guy. The soda was served in the can with a glass of ice. Nothing froo-froo here. I felt right at home here.
After my satisfying lunch I found three other geocaches in the area: "Eye Ain't Got No View" (located next to a cemetery), "L&C The Rock" (A memorial to Lewis & Clark), and "A Wetland Drive" (Muggles saw me and aked me if I was checking water quality. I mumbled a little white lie of agreement and waited for them to leave before I re-hid the cache).
After three caches, I'd had enough and headed home. This was a good first hike. The landscape is quite different here than in California. It's different but interesting never the less. I can't wait to see where I go next.