From Fort Robinson we were faced with a 26 mile trek all the way to Toadstool Geologic Park, which is part of Oglala National Grassland. So on the day before, we took a “day off” to do some things in town, and also shortened our trek about three miles by taking the very pleasant White River Trail from Fort Robinson into the fine town of Crawford, Nebraska. That left us with 23 miles to go . . .
We started early headed north from Crawford through open croplands with nice views of the bluffs. Although we were hiking a road for 20 of the 23 miles, we saw very little traffic, and only had one short conversation with a Nebraska game warden. We weren’t sure if he randomly found us, or if someone had called him, perhaps a bit suspicious of two guys walking along and maybe hunting out of season. It’s possible because later we saw a number of “No Hunting” signs posted along fences and gates. We explained that we were just walking a portion of the Great Plains Trail, to which he seemed mostly indifferent. He bid us a “Good day” and we carried on through some really nice scenery. Dry hills with the steepness of mountains rose to the south, while to the west and north, the “Pine Ridge,” Nebraska’s answer to the Black Hills, awaited in friendly repose.
After our encounter with the warden, we saw no one else for the rest of the day, but walked the remaining 16 or 17 miles in relaxed conversation, all the while, the road dropping into wooded hollows, and then rising into breezy pine covered hill tops. The final three miles were all on what is known as the Bison Trail, a spectacular badlands and open prairie trail that connects the aforementioned Toadstool Geologic Park to Hudson-Meng Bison Bonened. The bonebed is the site of a 10,000 year old bison kill site by early humans in the area. It was not open when we passed through there, but it is a unique spot and well worth the visit.
We dropped into Toadstool exhausted, but really, it was one of the best days of hiking I’ve ever had, and is right now my favorite section on the Great Plains Trail!