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Old 09-08-2015, 10:02 PM   #1
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Boondocking Trip to the Black Hills and Western Nebraska

This past summer, our good friend, Ray Eklund, offered to share some of the special locations that he has discovered in the Gila National Forest of New Mexico with folks here on the forum. Part of his stated goal was to provide people that typically don't venture "off the grid" an opportunity stretch their wings into dispersed camping (boondocking, or rockdocking as Ray calls it) with the assistance of experienced boondockers.

That goal was not entirely successful, in that weather conditions forced us to camp in a Forest Service campground. However, the adventure was successful in the fact that everyone who participated had a wonderful time, met great people, and saw some beautiful country. In fact, the trip was so successful that we decided to do it again, and we put together a boondocking caravan in Wyoming next August. We had to set a limit on the number of participants in order to keep things manageable, and that limit was quickly reached. This led Ray and I to begin discussing a second trip next year with similar objectives. We came up with the idea of a Spring trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Fort Robinson area of western Nebraska.

The adventure would begin in the Black Hills where we would set up a dispersed camp. We would treat this location as a base camp, and we could all go exploring on our own, or together as a group. From the location Ive got in mind, within a 40-50 mile radius, weve got Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, Spearfish Canyon, Lead (pronounced Leed), Deadwood, Hill City, Pactola Reservoir, Black Hawk, and Rapid City. Ray may have some information on geology, and maybe he could guide us to a rock. Trail rides and ATV rentals are available nearby if that would be of interest. Im thinking wed spend about 3-4 days here.

After the Black Hills, wed head south to Fort Robinson near Crawford Nebraska. Ray has done extensive geological work in the area, and I grew up nearby, so we can navigate the region pretty well. We may camp at the State Park while here, but there are opportunities for boondocking nearby as well. The State Park campground offers both primitive campsites and sites with electricity, water, modern restrooms and showers. The area is very interesting from a historical perspective, and I believe Ray may know where there are some agates similar to those we found in New Mexico. Nearby points of interest include Agate Fossil Beds, Pine Ridge National Recreation Area, Toadstool Park, Nebraska National Forest, Oglala National Grassland, Chadron State Park, and Museum of the Fur Trade. One could even head west to Valentine to canoe the Niobrara River. I was thinking about another 3-4 days in this area.

Being a spring trip, weather is a concern. Were thinking late May or early June. Id prefer late May, but I want to avoid the Memorial Day weekend. That would require being in the Black Hills around May 20th, and Ft. Robinson around the 23rd or 24th. However, this early in the season, moisture is a big concern, particularly in the Black Hills. If this winter brings significant or late snow to the area, the primary site Ive got in mind could be too soft to use, or the road could be impassable. Although highly unlikely, it is possible it could still be under snow. I know of some alternative sites that are likely to be dryer, but there are no guarantees there either. Alternatively, we could use one of the many Forest Service or commercial campgrounds. If we waited until June, wed probably be looking at June 3rd in the Black Hills, and the 6th or 7th in Nebraska. The extra couple of weeks would alleviate most of the snow related moisture concerns, but the last few years have had extraordinary rainfall conditions in the region at that time. So conditions could easily be as bad, or worse than in May. Therefore, regardless of when we go, we may be forced to adapt and overcome, just like good Marines. Even if the weather is poor, we won't be in extremely remote areas, so we're unlikely to turn into the Donner Party. Civilization is nearby.

We will limit the number of participants to ten rigs, as the locations we have in mind can't handle many more than this. We do not care if you're in an Airstream, SOB, tent, or just a bivy sack. This will be very informal; come and go as you please. There won't be planned activities, and we'll all cover our own expenses. I'm confident that we'll have a good time and make plenty of new friends.

If you're interested in participating in this trip, or have suggested changes, let me know. Ray is on a bit of a self imposed hiatus from the forum, but I'm sure he'll be keeping track of the proceedings, and I can pass messages on to him if necessary.
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Old 09-09-2015, 04:24 AM   #2
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Hi Brent!

Would love to join you all in the Spring, but August is the best I can do.

Have a great time.


Maggie
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Old 09-09-2015, 12:48 PM   #3
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We will be delighted to be with you all on BOTH trips, that will give me a chance to acclimate to the altitude. Hopefully we will not have anyone with attitude, but it is a free country, just be polite. Jan and I will look forward to this with "minnow on lip " (baited breath), thank you for all your planning time and expertise. Jan really learned some new driving techniques and may bring her driving-firesuit with her this time.

Either May or June would work for us at this time, I just hate being on the road with IDIOTS over long holidays, so like to stay stationary at those times.

Thanks, Ed
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Old 09-09-2015, 12:58 PM   #4
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Hopefully my last reply won't be removed by a moderator like any of the other boondocking or rockdocking replies have been when I mentioned R-- E----- before.

I just don't know what will get censored and nothing negative about anyone was ever been said. Very CONFUSING.
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Old 09-09-2015, 01:08 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by unifreck View Post
We will be delighted to be with you all on BOTH trips, that will give me a chance to acclimate to the altitude. Hopefully we will not have anyone with attitude, but it is a free country, just be polite. Jan and I will look forward to this with "minnow on lip " (baited breath), thank you for all your planning time and expertise. Jan really learned some new driving techniques and may bring her driving-firesuit with her this time.

Either May or June would work for us at this time, I just hate being on the road with IDIOTS over long holidays, so like to stay stationary at those times.

Thanks, Ed
I promise that we'll keep all four wheels on the ground in all future travels.
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Old 09-09-2015, 01:48 PM   #6
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WHY? She said it was one the "best experiences with her clothes on".
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Old 10-12-2015, 05:11 PM   #7
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Fort Robinson, Nebraska: Something for Everyone

Fort Robinson, Nebraska... just west of Crawford, Nebraska. Locals sometimes refer to it as Crawdad, Nebraska, if they are from Harrison, Nebraska.

Fort Robinson, Nebraska is Independence, Missouri to the Midwest. Lots went on at both locations, but few people are aware of any.

This area is Sioux & Cheyenne Indian country and still remains important. There are, or were, Pow Wows just west of the Fort in the Summer. I was too busy climbing the Tertiary Badlands north of Crawford, that I just slowed down on Highway 20 to see what was going on. By the way, Highway 20 takes you to Cody, Wyoming which is also a great place to explore on the way to the Yellowstone.

The early days at the State Park they hired college kids to wear clothing like the US Calvary of the 1870's. A cannon would go off in the morning, do not remember the time, but it told you the Fort's restaurant was open for business. And a fine restaurant it was, as the meals were oversized for a 15 1/2 year old with a driver's learners permit (with a friend who was 16 and licensed, of course). All the milk or chocolate milk you wanted to drink and pancakes big enough to be tires off of a 14" Airstream Safari. Well, they were big.

Today the seasonal help dress more modern as they complained about the blue long sleeved shirts and yellow neckties being too hot. Hopefully they hire locals who can handle being outdoors and get back to the Calvary dress code. It was striking to see Calvary on horse back and working outside.

You can Wikipedia Fort Robinson. It is virtually unknown outside the Black Hills region. I had posted a Thread about the area somewhere on the Airforums and also did a short history of the Badland fossil collecting and the old ranchers I met to gain access to their lands. Now much is corporate ranching and even the grown up kids of these ranchers finally sold out for big prices and moved on...

It was the Indian Wars and the Vertebrate Fossils of the Badlands that made this area so magically for me. Fifty years later and I still return to the area, while the ranches today are leasing their Badlands to professional collectors. Which makes sense to me. They wash out when it "rains" and will be totally decomposed by the next wet season. I did enjoy over a decade of free access to the ranches and knew every square foot of fossil producing exposures. Fossils included Saber toothed Cat, true Cats, Rhinoceros, Horse, Camel, Rabbit, Deer, Mouse, Bats, modern Birds, snakes, lizards, tortoises, etc. Found them all. Not at one time, but had a museum at home by the age of 20.

With this trip going to see the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills, this is where I tie in Fort Robinson. There is now a permanent monument to the exact spot where Crazy Horse was murdered in 1877 (Soldiers said he was trying to escape from the jail house.) with a rebuilt jailhouse where he had turned himself into the Fort and held prisoner.

There are many original buildings at the Fort that people rent for the day or week. Most can hold thirty people at a time. It would take several days just to look the fort over. You need a Nebraska State Parks window sticker or the Park Patrol will... politely remind you. Even if you camp at the RV Park or tent campground... you have to have the sticker in your window.

To the south of Fort Robinson is Agate, Nebraska. Captain Cook was a friend on the Sioux and Cheyenne and Red Cloud among others stayed at his ranch. The Cook Ranch is still there and to the East is the Agate Fossil Beds with museum of Captain Cook's collection of Indian Clothing and goods. Out in nowhere and the best Indian display of clothing in this part of the country. My ex-wife's grandmother's father was a cook at the Cook Ranch in the 1870's/1880's (Orleans was there last name). So I felt a little connection there at one time.

Toadstool Park is north of Crawford. It is part of the wall of Badlands that is weathering into the Pine Ridge and Grasslands. You can wander around and be amazed at what water can do to soft sedimentary rock. You will fossil skulls, teeth, bones and tortoise washing out in the canyon walls. You are prohibited to take anything out, but can look as closely at them as you want. This is about 20 miles north and just a bit East of where I want to take any survivors of the Black Hills to camp up on top of the remaining grasslands to camp a night or two. To the north you will see the Black Hills on the horizon... and they indeed look Black. This is located at what are called Government Pastures and leased by the local ranchers if needed.

It was not unusual in the mid-1960's to find loose Indian Head cents along the sidewalks. Just tanned and looked freshly minted. Today I would have to avert my eyes to avoid the temptation of picking up a Barber Quarter Dollar from the 1900's... This was occupied from 1873 to the present. Lots of junk was dropped and long forgotten.

This is to inspire those who think this is some kind of hole at the end of a paved road. It is not. Captain James Cook wrote a book Fifty Years on the Frontier in 1925. I read an original copy and wasted no time to finish reading it, but wanted to get back to Northwest Nebraska. You will as well. The books run $6 to $20 used, or a library may have a copy. I found 302 copies for sale. His son was a well known Paleontologist and found many unknown Badland Fossils in the area. So do not confuse the two.

The days can be warm/hot and the evenings cool and dry. The "White River" is white from the Badland runoff... but is about the width of a riding lawn mower to even be considered a River of some kind. Lots of hiking trails to the north of the Fort. Crawford and Harrison do not have too much to offer, but both have Rodeos. Fort Robinson, as well for younger cowboys and volunteers from the... visitors for sheep bucking.

Well. I hope this makes you curious. This area you can walk any time of the day or evening and never give security one thought. Horseback riding to an Olympic Swimming Pool. What else could you ask for....? Someone to show you what no one else knows about? Yep... this is the trip to understand that some spot on the map... is actually one you will return to more often than you expected.
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Old 10-12-2015, 06:22 PM   #8
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Continued employment, blessing that it is, prevents me from accepting.

I would however really enjoy reading a chronicle of this adventure. Would you and the others please consider doing a blog, either here or on a hosted file share site?

My mother grew up in Alliance and Scottsbluff.
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Old 10-12-2015, 07:23 PM   #9
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We're interested in participating. I'm working on our 2016 calendar and this outing may fit. Late May is better for us but early June is a possibility. We'll keep an eye on this thread to see how things shape up.

Please count us in for now. Our trailer is 29 ft. - will that be a problem?

Lucius
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Old 10-12-2015, 08:24 PM   #10
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Sorry about the typos. I read my last post and saw a few. Read around them and you will know which word(s) were meant. This spell check on the software updates changes words faster than one can type. Cannot figure out how to turn it off... There / Their, you know those kinds of words.

Piggy Bank:
Scottsbluff, Nebraska... check it out. Great Oregon Trail history. Find Buffalo Bills Ranch a few towns away, North Platte. Interesting self tour of his former Ranch. Then go to Fort Robinson, Nebraska and keep heading west on Highway 20 to Cody, Wyoming and see the real Wild West Show!
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Old 10-14-2015, 03:18 PM   #11
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List of Participants?

List of interested parties to date...

Thalweg
unifreck
Ray Eklund
nvestysly

Did I miss anyone?

We put this on our calendar for 2016. I hope it all comes together. Thanks to Thalweg and Ray Eklund for organizing this outing.
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Old 10-14-2015, 04:48 PM   #12
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List of interested parties to date...

Thalweg
unifreck
Ray Eklund
nvestysly

Did I miss anyone?

We put this on our calendar for 2016. I hope it all comes together. Thanks to Thalweg and Ray Eklund for organizing this outing.
Happy to have you along. I'm Streamin' in Rogers Arkansas right now. I'll add you to the spreadsheet when I get home in a week or so. I think we're up to six or seven attendees now.
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Old 11-10-2015, 03:11 PM   #13
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I sent Brent three photographs made of the Crawford, Nebraska Badlands OtG for those who want to experience camping "on the Moon". It will forever affect how you think of Nebraska. Nobody I have taken to this area have ever returned home... normal. Although they being geologists, were not normal to begin with. You will become a totally different human bean. These are on the Oglala National Grasslands.

I do not think I can post any additional photographs as a regular browsing member. I will try, but if Brent gets time, he might. This is our 23 foot trailer on the grass mesa.

Sorry... if Brent can add them, great. I have illustrated too many posts.
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Old 11-10-2015, 03:24 PM   #14
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I sent Brent three photographs made of the Crawford, Nebraska Badlands OtG for those who want to experience camping "on the Moon". It will forever affect how you think of Nebraska. Nobody I have taken to this area have ever returned home... normal. Although they being geologists, were not normal to begin with. You will become a totally different human bean. These are on the Oglala National Grasslands.

I do not think I can post any additional photographs as a regular browsing member. I will try, but if Brent gets time, he might. This is our 23 foot trailer on the grass mesa.

Sorry... if Brent can add them, great. I have illustrated too many posts.
I'll post the pictures when I get home tonight.
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