Nebraska National Forest


As mentioned in my Thedford post, the Nebraska National Forest is just a short drive out of town. The forest is located between Halsey and Thedford. I took the trail from Scott Lookout Tower. This is a fire lookout tower, visitors cannot go into the lookout room at the top but you can climb up to the platform which provides a wonderful 360 view of the forest and grasslands. The stairs are steep, be careful between them and the wind. At the tower there were parking spots, a restroom, and picnic tables but no running water.

This was a solo hike, just me and the camera. Everyone there for the wedding celebration else was either sleeping-in or playing golf. I love to sleep-in at home but not when there are new places to see. On this hike I took our new R-series macro lens. It worked well to help me get some really close up shots. The breeze, that would start up just as I got the camera out, made things difficult but I still got some great shots. I’ll talk more about the lens in a later post.

The trail is three miles one way from the Bessey Recreation Complex and Campground to Scott Lookout Tower. I only hiked halfway before turning around as I was meeting the others for lunch back in town. The trail passes over sandy, low rolling hills. There were only a handful of other hikers on the trail and none started from the lookout tower with me. I really enjoyed this short hike, it was fairly quiet: just me and the birds with a small breeze singing through the trees.

This trail is lined with tall grass and I managed to get so many little bits of grass, seeds, sand, and who knows knows what else into my shoes and socks. Most of the time I hike in long pants and this is not an issue but this time I hiked in shorts. Looks like I will need to pick up a pair of gaiters before my next summer hike.

I learned a bit about bumblebees after this hike. I was wondering why this little one was hanging out in the grass all by itself. Male bumblebees do not return to the nest after leaving it and sometimes female bees get caught outside when the temperature drops too low. Both will sleep on plants and inside flowers! I found the little guy (or gal) on a long grass stem in the cool shade while on the way back to the car.

A bumblebee asleep in the cool morning air.

After my hike I headed back towards the highway and stopped at the ranger station on the way. The ranger station was closed but there were some informational signs and a bridge that crosses over the Middle Loup River. The waters of the river meander slowly but consistently. On the far side of the river from the ranger station is a small pond that can be fished, the Bessey Fish Pond.

Middle Loup River

I really enjoyed this quiet morning hiking in Nebraska and, given the chance, I would hike the whole trail. This is a beautiful and under appreciated part of the country. Granted, I would not want to be there in the winter but in August, it was wonderful. In video you can see the steep stairs of the lookout tower and the wonderful, if windy, view from the top. Remember to leave no trace and safe travels.

Check out the view from the Scott Lookout Tower!

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