Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sandhills Road Trip Part 2

As we continued on into the heart of the Sandhills on our road trip to the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey, we traveled along the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway. If you ever have a chance to travel along this byway, I highly encourage it!

North of Arnold, we arrived in the Sandhills community of Dunning.
The community of Dunning now boasts a population of approximately 110, down from a peak in 1920 of 289. It is the home of Sandhills High School, a consolidated school district that serves an area larger than some eastern states.
Downtown Dunning.
The Sandhills Heritage Museum in Dunning. You can find more about the organization on their Facebook page.

Though it is a tiny town, it is rich in heritage, and definitely deserves more than just a quick drive through. We were pretty desperate by this time to find a local pub in which to watch the Nebraska football game, but unfortunately, we didn't find anything open, even on a Saturday afternoon.
The Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway follows along the Middle Loup River valley, and rail fans will enjoy the frequent BNSF trains.
Soon, we made it to our destination - the Nebraska National Forest at Halsey.
According to Wikipedia, "The national forest includes two ranger districts. The 90,000-acre (364 km2) Bessey Ranger District is in the Sandhills of central Nebraska. Encompassing about 63.9% of the forest's total area, it lies in parts of Thomas and Blaine counties. It was established in 1902 by Charles E. Bessey because he believed the area to have once had a natural forest and as an experiment to see if forests could be recreated in treeless areas of the Great Plains for use as a national timber reserve. This effort resulted in a 20,000-acre (80.9 km2) forest, the largest human-planted forest in the United States. Today the forest's nursery supplies 2.5 to 3 million seedlings per year. The Bessey Nursery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places."
The big attraction of the National Forest at Halsey is the lookout tower. One can only imagine the views as the tower can be seen from miles away.
 The views don't disappoint.
There are other draws to the forest, or simply "Halsey" as Nebraskans call it. There are miles of ATV trails, and a 4-H camp that hosts many gatherings throughout the year.

Stay tuned for more of the trip.

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