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June 4, 2011
While moving from Tennessee to Wyoming, Andra and I and Henry and Makenzie stopped for a short visit to this park, principally because it was on the way, and also because the dogs had been in the car for 2 days and were about to pop. We arrived early in the day, having spent the night in Salina, and consequently the heat had yet to gear up, especially given the high clouds that dominated the sky.
We parked as soon as we crossed the Hell Creek Bridge, and all got out to begin the hike. Two ladies who were walking by with their dogs noticed our TN license plates and asked us where we were heading. We told them our story, and one of them asked incredulously, ďYouíre heading from TN to WY and you found this place??Ē Well, the power of the internet is not to be underestimated.
We hopped on the Switchgrass Bike Trail, one of two trails in the park, and began walking. The trail is advertised as 20 miles, but the park at its widest is only 1.1 x 1.2 miles, so to fit a 20-mile trail in this little spit of land, it has to lay like a spaghetti noodle. Without any trees to block the view, you can see exactly where the trail runs, back and forth, sometimes passing by only 20 feet from the section of trail youíre on (see the picture below). In short, itís definitely not a trail that goes anywhere. Itís just there to enjoy walking, which is fine. I don't fault it for that, but it's worth noting. The area appears to at one time supported a healthy scattering of junipers, but these are burned up now, and the area is almost 100% tallgrass prairie.
Wilson Lake was surprisingly interesting, with layered cliffs dropping into clear water. I expected a sandy-beached, shallow reservoir, but this was much more entertaining than that. Both dogs took a dip, and the trail that ran alongside the water offered easy access. I wouldn't mind haveing a few hours to paddle my kayak around the shore, examining the cliffs from the comfort of a silent watercract on smooht water.
We strolled along the trail
for about 20 minutes, then flipped directions and strolled back to the
car. We explored the south side of the road, where a trail we picked up
wound around through a shallow gulley, then over a broad hill and into
more of the same terrain. It was pleasant, and a fantastic break from the
monotony of interstate driving. After spending about an hour in the park,
we were obliged to return to the pavement and speed on west.