Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Touring through Toadstool Geologic Park

When Jim and I leave Arizona from our winter stay, we try to take different routes back home to Illinois to explore new places. This time we waited till just about a week before we were to leave before we planned our trip. Friends of ours, Larry and Norma, had read an article about Highway 2, the Sandhills Scenic Byway that went East-West across Nebraska. We read the article and thought, "What the heck?"

Alliance was the first stop on the byway where we stayed two days. In the morning we went to Carhenge, and then drove about 65 miles northwest to the Toadstool Geologic Park, which is 18 miles northwest of Crawford, NE.

It was well worth the drive.

Things you need to know if you should ever go there:

  1. It's in the middle of nowhere (Nebraska Badlands).
  2. You have to drive on a gravel road for about 20 miles. Don't worry, you really WILL get there.
  3. Bring your own water. There is no water available.
  4. There are toilets (port-a-potty); they may be out of toilet paper. Bring tissue paper.
  5. There is a nice picnic area if you want to bring a lunch.
  6. Don't forget your camera!
  7. Wear appropriate shoes!
  8. There IS a campground there - if you have a generator and can dry camp, or even tent, I think. 
  9. Not recommended if there has been a lot of rain.
The scenery was very beautiful on the drive out to the park. Of course we passed sandhills.
We passed the Oglala National Grasslands.

As I stated above, we had to drive on a gravel road for about 20 miles. Everything was really dry so we stirred up a lot of dust as seen through our side mirror!

This is the road into the Toadstool Geologic Park.

We were the only ones there. It was like the end of civilization. No kidding. We started walking on the 1-mile loop around the park. This is the dry creek bed next to the walkway.

Jim walking the path in front of me; I have more pictures of his behind than I know what to do with!!

Call me crazy, but I originally thought that this park was called "Toadstool" because these looked like "toads" sitting on "stools". Go ahead and laugh. I'll wait.

Jim informed me that the park was named "Toadstool" because of the rocks resemblance to toadstools:

photo courtesy of

Oh. Never mind.

This is me, not acting my age.

Do you think you could relax sitting on this bench, or would you worry that big rock would roll off and crush you?

See the different layers of the rocks on the top?

An official "toadstool"!

This little rock intrigued me. I picked it up and it felt "fuzzy". It had tiny little plant growth all over it. Jim is holding the rock.

Nearby was this other plant growing on a rock.

I didn't see much other plant life up high on the rocks where we were standing. Jim followed the path even higher. I've got to climb up there?

It was well worth the climb. I could see for miles around. It almost looked like the moon's surface except for the train off in the distance. Can you see it?

No kidding.

I spy with my little eye a heart in the dirt.

Who likes clams? This one would feed an army!

Hey, doesn't this huge rock look like an upside-down heart?

Let me just switch that photo right-side up and see! Yeppers!

That would have been a GREAT addition to my heart-shaped rock collection, wouldn't it?

We came across this one section with tons of toadstools forming along the walls. It was kind of eerie because they looked like skulls to me!

Well, we've come to the end of the trail. This is looking back at what we had just traversed.

This is looking down at the empty campground and our sole truck in the parking lot.

We rested our weary bones and had a quick lunch with the hodge-podge of things I had grabbed from home: oranges from Arizona, yogurt, rice cakes, and Craisins. And you know what? It was delicious and hit the spot!

Right before leaving the park, there was a sod house built by the Nebraska National Forest in 1984. It is a replica of one built at this site by Kenneth Pelren and Segard Anderson in 1930. A grasshopper plow was used to break the sod into strips 12 inches wide and 4 inches thick. The farmer used a spade to cut the strips into three-foot lengths (bricks) before they were loaded onto a wagon and taken to the site of the sod house construction. This type of construction was typical of housing used by homesteaders on the treeless plains. The sod construction offered warmth in the winter, cooler temperatures in the summer, and would not burn. (Information taken from a sign posted outside of the home; it was damaged so I couldn't just post a photo of the sign.)

Inside the house

It was cozy; I'll give you that. I bet the woman of the home did a lot of sweeping!

I hope you enjoyed the tour of Toadstool Geologic Park. We sure did!


Anonymous said...

wow, never been there b4...loved it. The grass lands pic looked magical...and you, flexing those mucsle holding up that rock...wowsers :)

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Gorgeous pix! Love the way you travel. We'll be looking for some new things to look at between Florida and Oregon. End of next month.

Unknown said...

That was really interesting. But I think I would have been a little spooked to be the only ones staying in the campground!

KaLynn ("MiMi") said...

I love the guided tour! The pictures were awesome! I could almost feel the hot wind blowing on me. Made me feel like I was home. (I grew up in New Mexico) Thanks for the tour. I loved the rocks! I thougth the toadstools (that you thought looked like skulls), looked like groups of people! HAHA!! Love the heart! It was all good!

Ami said...

Thanks for the tour!
Love the hearts!!

The Uncommon Willow said...

that was awesome! you see the neatest things, but thanks to your wonderful photography skills, we get to see them, too!


Gorgeous place, although I'm not sure I'd like to be that far from civilization down a 20 mile gravel road. You are courageous and brave. I'm a sissy.
Thanks for sharing this as I'll never be near the place myself.

Brian Miller said...

that is so wicked cool...if you have not figured it out i have a love affair with rocks...and rock structures...gorgeous country...

becky said...

I'm with you, Pat, I thought they looked like toads, too!
VERY cool geologic formations. You guys do get to see the coolest stuff~ I admire your adventurous spirit!

Snowflake said...

Another fascinating stop on your trek north!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

Valerie said...

Amazing country, Pat. Loved the way you held up that rock...

Rae said...

You really were out in the middle of nowhere. Looks kinda lonesome out there. Nice photo tour.

Ed said...

I'm headed that direction myself soon.

Probably won't get much time for sight-seeing since its a work trip.

Thankfully I have your blog to show me what I'm missing.

Fungi. Great.

Allen said...

You and your hubby goes to some of the coolest places. I love this post, I dont know about walking the mile trip though. I hope you took your cell phone with ya on your walk. Always think safety. =o)

Betty Manousos said...

i'm so grateful, Pat, for this lovely pictorial tour of fantastic places you shared here.

what mazing places. a must-see.

betty xx

Lynda said...

You and Jim sure have some great adventures. Did you ever think you would do this mid-way through your marriage - - I mean, was it ever a long-range goal? When did the idea come to you to travel?
I love the pictures and also that you and Jim are out in the middle of no-where - - alone - - - and it doesn't bother you.
The sod house - - our pioneer families were amazing, weren't they? We are so blessed.

labbie1 said...

Beautiful!!! I LOVE the sod house. It does look cozy for sure. Looks like fun!