Today is Mardell's birthday.
She has always wanted to go to Toadstool National Park,
so I had decided to surprise her for her birthday and take her up.
I jumped at the chance to go a day early since the forecast was for cooler weather.
We packed a picnic lunch, a few of the dogs, and we were off.
Life is good when you have food and dogs.
I fully expected to have the whole place to ourselves
but that wasn't the case at all.
In fact, there was a steady stream of visitors the entire time we were there.
We chose the picnic table next to the soddy so that
we could take pictures to use for teaching Nebraska history.
After we ate, I decided to take the self-guided hike.
Since Mardell broke her kneecap and couldn't hike,
I made a virtual tour possible via pictures.
Of course, I do have to admit that I had to use her camera.
I snapped my first picture and my battery symbol began flashing red.
No problem. I smugly dug out my battery that I had just taken from my charger.
I turned on the camera and once again got the red flashing symbol.
It seems that I have once again completely depleted my rechargeable batteries.
With that said, I snapped a leash on one of our trusty companions and set off.
This was going to be a breeze.
Nice, wide trail.
To one side, we saw this.
Then, on the other side, was a windmill.
There were nine stations and the narrative with
each comes directly from the hiking brochure.
Why is it called Toadstool?
The first visitors here in the late 1800's must have felt they were travelling through a land of giant mushrooms. They fancifully labled the jumble of sandstone slabs resting upon their clay pillars, toadstools. The name stuck.
Toadstools are created by the forces of wind and water, eroding the soft clay faster than the hard sandstone rock that caps it. Erosion eventually collapses the giant toadstools while new ones are forming.
Travel Over Gravel
Volcanoes to the west periodically blanketed this area with ash. Water from rain and snow dissolved the ash and seeped into cracks in the clay, where it crystallized. The width of the cracks is the thickness of the gravel pieces. As clay eroded, the hardened minerals and bone fragments of long dead animals became exposed.
Notice the dark, jagged gravel beneath your feet. This desert pavement is a coarse mixture of silicone dioxide (the same compound as glass) and fossil bone fragments.
Pocks in the Rocks?
No, they're tracks! Tracks are distinguished from other depressions in the rock because they do not occur randomly. These were made by animals living about thirty million years ago. The toes point in the direction of travel. The size and depth of the tracks indicate the size and weight of the animal that made them.
Water's Cutting Edge
Over time rushing water has cut away the underside of this cliff. When the bank is undercut enough, the weight of the overhead mass breaks off in large chunks, crashing into the streambed and diverting the stream flows. These badlands erode away at an average of an inch per yer. How much change has occurred since you were born?
Seasonal flooding filled prehistoric tracks with mud and silt, preserving them.
This hike was such a good idea.
I really enjoyed the scenery.
The trail was nicely marked, wide, and best of all, level.
The trail split and one way kept to the Toadstool Trail
while the other led to the Hudson Meng Bison Bonebed.
I continued to follow the Toadstool trail.
Do you see that little pass?
Yep, that's the trail.
Small incline, but nothing major.
Then I realize that station five is on top of the rock behind these interesting formations.
So much for level. Now it's up, up, up on a narrow path.
Jumbles of sandstone form interesting arrangements.
Finally I reach the top
and the view was spectacular.
Then it was on to Station Six.
As the rock cliff is undercut by erosion, overhanging rocks break off.
We headed to the next set of rocks for station seven.
By now you've noticed two kinds of rock: a light buff-colored claystone and a darker sandstone. The claystone is softer than sandstone. The sandstone was formed as a sandbar in the river that flowed 30 million years ago.
The pamphlet then states that area eight requires scrambling up the rocks and a steep walk back to the trail.
By this time, I couldn't omit one station --- so up we went.
This trackway, extending nearly 3/4 of a mile, documents one of the longest record of prehistoric mammals in North America 30 million years ago. Even though the footprints are not clear, the patterned imprints tell a story of prehistoric migration.
Research on the trackway indicates: the tracks paralleling the streambed belong to two species of rhinoceros that used the stream as a path. A smaller rhinoceros crossed the stream after the larger rhinocros had passed. Splash marks on the rocks indicate the rhinoceros sped from walking to running through sloppy mud, heading downstream.
Following on the heels of the rhinoceros were entelodonts, or giant wild pigs. Their presence is captured in the even-toed tracks. Typical of scavengers, these pigs trailed migrating herds, keeping food within reach.
What goes up, must come down.
We followed the path depicted in white.
It's really not as narrow as it looks.
Okay, so it really is.
The view was incredible.
Then it was back down to where Mardell was waiting.
From there we drove over to the Hudson Meng Bisonbed, but it required a hike to the actual bed and I wouldn't let Mardell try it. Next time perhaps, after her knee is more stable.
We stopped at High Plains Homestead and got root beer floats and then took a leisurely drive back into Crawford where we made the find of the day:
Pine Needles Quilts!
We had no clue there was a quilt shop in Crawford, so we were quite excited.
If you're ever in the Crawford area, be sure to check out Toadstool National Park.
It's worth the trip.