Usually, there isn’t much to say about Nebraska. At least that is always what I have thought. There is corn, it’s hot and humid and lots of smelly feed lots. It’s also home to much of my family. Reason alone to go and visit whenever we can! Last time I was there, it was 2015 and I had my grandbaby Abby and son with me. At that time, we traveled through the width of Nebraska in the Eurovan headed to California. I was surprised by the green rolling hills, picturesque windmills and general beauty of the State. This trip has been no different. This Spring has been filled with tons of rain, so the hillsides are covered in long fresh new grass. The lilacs were still blooming when we arrived as were many of the trees. I know I will shock people when I say, it has really been quite beautiful. The heat and humidity haven’t hit yet – they will sooner than later I know – but early May this year, it has been idyllic.
Our route to Norfolk from Colorado Springs took us through many of the county roads and small state highways. As a result, I saw parts of Nebraska I hadn’t seen before. Pretty cool. Norfolk itself was in fine form. We spent quite a bit of time at Ta-Ha-Zouka Park. I have fond memories of that park as a kid and bringing Xander to it now seems fitting; as if we have come full-circle. What I didn’t know is that Ta-Ha-Zouka Park boasts a lovely dog park. There are two fully enclosed play enclosures so you can separate the dogs a bit. Both sides have some funny features. Like a bus stop in one and a fire hydrant in the other. Both sides are grassed and have tall mature trees offering some nice shade. They also each have a nice picnic table where you can sit while your dog(s) run around excitedly smelling all the other dogs that have come before. Ta-Ha-Zouka is also the start of the ‘Cowboy Trail.’ Beginning in Norfolk and spanning 321 miles west to Chadron, this is the largest Rails-to-Trails project in the United States. The beginning of the trail runs right next to the Elkhorn River. Xander and I walked about the first 2 1/2 miles of the trail and loved it! The trees were green and lush, the river was full, the dandelions were going to seed so it was like walking on a trail of wishes just waiting to be made.
Of course we had to take advantage, and make a few wishes ourselves!
You walk under a railroad trestle and then emerge into a new wetland project while the river runs the other direction. We found turtles and frogs and millipedes on the trail. It was awesome!
There is also a camping site at Ta-Ha-Zouka where RV’s are supported. Power only in-season rate of $18 with concrete pad and off-concrete/off-season rate of $12.00. 7-day maximum, restrooms with showers, large rigs OK, picnic tables, barbecue grills and free wifi! Perfect location to visit family or friends in Norfolk or any of the surrounding towns and wonderful place to hang your hat for a day or two. Lots to do and won’t break the budget.
We headed out to Stanton to see my grandparents old place and go visit them at the cemetery. I spent many happy hours at their house on the top of the hill. It was my sanctuary. My grandparents were the most amazing people! It’s nice when visiting dad in Norfolk to head out and check out our old stomping grounds in Stanton. See what flowers are blooming at the house, how the trees are doing, etc.. I am happy to report that the house is being well cared for and is obviously loved. We went to Lake Maskenthine Recreation Park, which is located behind my grandparents old house to spend an afternoon. I remember going out there with Grammi and Po. Po would talk about the history of every tree. He knew when it was planted, how old it was, etc. My mom reports that she and Grammi would go out and swim at the lake for their daily exercise. Reflecting and sharing these memories, Daniel, Xan and I had our picnic in the arboretum. Established in 1976, the trees are now tall and blooming. There is a lovely covered picnic area with power right next to the flowering lilacs where we enjoyed our lunch. After spending some time walking around and looking at the trees, we went over to the beach area. To our great surprise we found camping and RV spots. Power only – water and restrooms with showers are available after May 1st. Daniel walked over and asked how much and was told $20 a night. It’s a beautiful recreation center with a playground for kids, mountain biking, a swimming beach, fishing and more!
It was a great way to spend a day. It’s still a bit too cold in May to swim but we had fun getting our feet wet.
My final Eastern Nebraska review will be about the amazing Henry Doorly Zoo. Dad tells me that I have been there before when I was younger but I don’t remember. I have been reading about the ground-breaking African Grasslands project since it started back in 2014. 28 acres of land dedicated to giving the animals a safe place to move and live. The zoo is already famous because of it’s Desert Dome – the worlds largest glazed geodesic dome and the Leid Jungle exhibit; a living jungle you walk through! All set for a day of excitement, dad, Xander and I headed south to Omaha and the zoo. First let me share, there is no way you can see everything in this zoo in one visit. Maybe if you just run through and don’t look at anything you might be able to do it, but then what would be the fun in that?! Happily it turned out that wasn’t the case. We got to do most of everything we wanted to do. 🙂
If you haven’t been and are in the region – go. No, seriously. Go. Looking for a nice place to walk? The zoo. Want to check out animals OUT of cages? Go. Want to see happy penguins? Go. I think you are getting the point. If driving your RV, get there early and fight for parking. Maybe leave your RV at the RV park and drive your car in or take the metro. Honestly I wouldn’t recommend driving your rig here. Although there is bus/RV parking 15 miles away from the entrance (joking – but that’s what it feels like after a long day at the zoo) , we found it full of buses. I would hate to drive my rig there through Omaha traffic only to find there was no-place to park and little space to turn around.
In short, I found Eastern Nebraska to be beautiful and green with tons of things to do outdoors. There are trails, and lakes, and fishing and golf. Lots and lots of golf.