Following two days of rest at home after my hike on the Cedar Creek Trail, I headed out with my oldest son Wesley and my friend Barry and his son Alex on a 15-mile, two-day hike at Indian Cave State Park just North of Fall City, Nebraska. It was spring break for the boys so we were hiking on a Tuesday and Wednesday.
After stopping at a Subway we made it to the park a little after 1PM. We had to pay $5 for parking and a total of $13 for camping. We drove through the state park stopping along the way to check out one of our road crossings. We arrived at the backpacking parking lot in between Trailhead 8 and Trailhead 9/10 and loaded up our packs.
We started the hike at Trailhead 8 at 1:50 PM. A few minutes down the 8 trail, we came across the first of many intersections to come. We turned right and went down the 8A trail, which followed along the river.
There had been a controlled burn in this part of the state park recently. Some of the fallen trees were still still smoldering. Even though it was mid April, there were still no leaves on the trees. The 8A joined the 8 trail and we were headed towards Trailhead 6. We came across an intersection not marked on the map and had to use a map and compass to determine the right way to go. We chose to go right which turned out to be the right turn.
Trailhead 6 opened up to the road. We went right and walked along the road to Trailhead 5.
The map showed at water source by this trailhead and we found it but….the water that came up out of the pump was rusty. As I filled up my clear water bottle it looked like bad orange juice. I ended up taking it to camp to use as water to cook with. I ended up straining it through my pack towel as I poured it into my pot!
Trailhead 5 is the beginning of the Hardwood Trail and it is the best hiking in the park. The trail has been cut wide, presumably for horses. Speaking of horses, it looked like they have blazed a few new trails for horses but have not put up signs. We hit quite a few intersections where we had to stop and figure out which way to go. I do not mind sharing the trail with our equestrian friends but c’mon peeps give me some signage!
We hiked down the Hardwood Trail until we got to an intersection for 5A. The 5A trail eventually re-joins the 5 trail, but it adds a mile or so to the hike, so of course we took it. 5A took us along two open meadows. We walked along the tree line until we entered back into the woods.
We stopped at the first shelter we passed on the Hardwood Trail, but decided to press on to the next shelter about a mile away. After the 5A rejoined the 5 trail in the woods, the trail had us going up and down the bluffs. Parts of the trail were muddy. It was sunny while we were hiking so the trail was dry (but soft). If it had been a rainy day, the trail would have been a muddy mess.
We made it to the second shelter about 7PM. It had a fire ring and a few flat spots for about 2-3 tents. Barry and I went to work setting up our tents while the boys collected fire wood. It was going to be too cold to sleep in the hammock bit I set it up to lounge in before supper. As the sun went down, the temperature started to drop so we lit the fire and started supper. Wesley and I had stove top stuffing with summer sausage bites.
The fire turned into a disaster. Some of the large logs we put on the fire were obviously waterlogged, because they began to smoke terribly. We cleaned up as fast as we could and retreated to Barry and Alex’s tent to play pitch, the older men versus the young men.
The young men won. Grrrr….
It was a windy night. I slept warm in my 20 degree synthetic bag, but getting out of the tent and into the cold wind at 7AM caused me to start shivering. I put on all may layers including my rain jacket to break the wind. I grabbed my sleeping bag and made my way to the back corner of the shelter. I sat on the bench back there and covered my legs with my sleeping bag. I lit my alcohol stove and enjoyed warming my hands while the stove was priming. I heated up some water for coffee and quickly warmed up.
I was up eating breakfast at 7:15 or so, everyone else rolled out of their tents at 8:30. They ate and we packed up camp and hit the trail by 9:30. We continued to go up and down through the bluffs. I enjoyed challenging myself on the ascents, setting a swift, but steady, pace, digging in with my trekking poles. On one ridge we could see through the leafless trees and we spotted a shelter at the top of another bluff.
We have stayed at the shelter before. It is on Trail 9/10 and has a great overlook. We continued hiking until we reached on intersection. The boys wanted to go left on Trail 10 to go back to the parking lot where we started. Barry and I wanted to go down Trail 11 to the cave. We decided to split up.
Barry and I hiked the final 2 miles or so to the cave, which is just a rock outcropping. It does have a few ancient petroglyphs, which are hard to spot with all the modern graffiti and defacing that has taken place.
I wanted to shoot video at the cave so Barry dropped his pack and jogged down the road to the truck where the boys were waiting. After my video shoot I carried Barry’s pack on my front and headed down the road.
They picked me up and we changed into clean clothes and left the park. We ended the trip eating some pretty good Chinese food in a nearby town.