By Alex Lohrmeyer
The Wildcat Hills at Gering, Nebraska is a piece of ground south of Gering that is 1,094 acres running along next to Highway 71. It has a lot of steep hills that are covered in pine trees. I did some research on the park and the Wildcat Hills in general. The park has over four miles of hiking and biking trails as well as some camping spots. These hills were formed at one time by ancient river deposits carried down from the Rocky Mountains. The Game and Parks Dept. got the first piece of the Wildcat Hills back 1929. The types of wildlife that call the Wildcat Hills home are whitetail and mule deer, turkey, bobcats, coyotes, elk, and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. Some of the largest stands of Mountain Mahogany in Nebraska are found in the Wildcat Hills. The Wildcat Hills are where short-grass prairie and ponderosa pine woodlands meet up. Some fossils have been found in the open hill sides. Now that you and I both know a little more about the Wildcat Hills and its history let us get to the main part of our blog which is about my trip to the Wildcats Hills and what I saw and what I thought about what I saw.
The day I went to the Wildcat Hills was a cold and windy day, and it was an overcast sky. Once I got in to the park I drove along a road that ran up and around the park. There were not many people in the park and I only saw one other person in there besides me. Unfortunately the Nature Center was closed when I got there, so I was not able to take a tour of the center. When I made my first stop I got out of my pickup and looked around. I saw rolling hills and steep bluffs all covered in pine trees but when I looked back towards Gering, I saw how flat the land was around out there. Yet when I looked the other way all I could see was hills and more hills all covered in trees (Figure 1).
As I looked down into the valley I could see all kinds of different grasses, bushes, and some flowers. I was very surprised to see as far as I could when I was on the top of the hill I was on. As I got back into my truck and started back down the road to the next view point I noticed some other different types of plants growing along the road like Prickly Pear cactus and some others that I did not know and I was kind of curies about what they could be.
Once I got to the next stop I walked down a small path that ended up bringing me to one of the three large stone picnic shelters that I later learned were built in 1930 by the Civilian Conservation Corp. I still cannot get over the amount of trees that were growing out here when if you would drive only a couple minutes and be in flat treeless land (Figure 2-3).
When I checked out the inside of the picnic shelter it was by far the biggest one of the three in the park. It looked like there was a big fire place on each end of the shelter so I can imagine that it would get nice and toasty warm inside there since it is all enclosed. I can not guess how much hard work those guys who built it had to do because there are some big rocks in this shelter. I hopped back into my truck and went on to the next stop. This ended up being at another one of the three picnic shelters. It was not big as the first one, but it was still pretty cool. On one side of this lookout shelter, it was almost a straight drop off (Figure 4).
I tossed a rock over the edge to see how far it would go and it went a good ways before I saw it hit the bottom. I took a few more pictures from this view point before we moved on. I did not get out to walk around again. Instead I just drove around the rest of the park. During that time I saw the third of the picnic shelters next to some primitive camp sites. These sites were all empty and I could not help think that this would be a very fun place to camp for a weekend and maybe do some hiking or backpacking. Unfortunately I did not get to see any wildlife except for some birds flying by. I did see some tracks that looked like a small group of deer had walked along the road.
As I left the Wildcat Hills I thought that it is incredible that in a state like Nebraska in which everyone thinks that it is so very flat and just covered in corn fields with nothing else to see. When actually Nebraska has a lot of cool places like the Wildcat Hills, Chimney Rock, Hudson Meng bison dig, Ash Fall fossil beds, and the Homestead National Monument. All they would have to do is hop in the family car and hit the road for a couple of days and see what Nebraska has to offer. It is just crazy to think that some place that I had never heard of would end up being such a cool place to visit, and I think that I would love to go back to look around and see if I can see something new that I did not see before which should not be hard to do since there is just so much to go and see in the Wildcat Hills. I would highly recommend to anyone that if they asked if the Wildcat Hills would a fun I would say yes absolutely without a doubt it is a fantastic place to visit and I wish that the weather would have been nicer and that I could have stayed longer.