Tyler Bertsch from Norfolk on 4/30/2018 10:04:19 AM:
Backpacking Cowboy Trail
On Friday morning 4/27, we began our hiking trip from Norfolk to Clearwater with 80 pounds of equipment split between the two of us. We started out at the trailhead in Ta Ha Zouka Park just south of Norfolk. We left at 8:00 am and hiked until we reached Battle Creek around 12:00 pm. We had a quick lunch and left Battle Creek around 12:20 pm to head towards Meadow Grove. The section from Norfolk to Meadow Grove was pretty scenic with grass meadows and picturesque alleys of trees. The trail also follow the Elkhorn River for quite a ways too. In this section, we came across various different animals such as: cardinals, blue jays, garter snake, bullfrogs, deer, and many more. The trail was clear from Norfolk to Meadow Grove. There was a tree down about a mile east of Meadow Grove, but there is a enough room to go around it.
From Meadow Grove to Tilden was the roughest part of the trip due to the lack of trees. There wasn't as much shade to take advantage of when we were looking for a break. We reached Tilden around 6:00 pm. After hiking 22 miles it was refreshing to finally get to the Tilden Campground. That was about as far as was humanly possible without being severely fatigued. The Tilden Campground has a really nice setup with a heated bathroom, a shower, and water hydrants to drink from. This is the best place to stop along the 1st part of the trail.
The next morning we awoke to near freezing temperatures, so that heated bathroom was a god send. We had a hearty breakfast and resumed the hike at 10:30am to head towards Neligh which was 13 miles away. Neligh was the next spot on the trail that has camping. Oakdale and Clearwater do not have campgrounds.
Just outside of Oakdale there is a nice grove of trees where you can take a break. Once in town there is a picnic table next to the gas station Mr. S.'s that you can rest at as well.
From Oakdale to Neligh was another part of the trail that was really scenic. Just outside of Oakdale the trail veers off into the wilderness away from the highway. In this little stretch there were lots of new critters to see. Many turtles, ducks, and beavers were spotted. The Elkhorn River runs right through this section as well which added to the vista.
Once we were to Neligh, we decided to make camp at the Riverside Park Campground around 5:00pm. It is a really nice campground right along the trail, but just be aware that you can not have open fires at this campsite. There are restrooms and a shower.
The following morning we left around 9:00 am to Clearwater. The landscape on this part of the trail starts to change into more of a grassland area. This trail follows the highway up until about halfway to Clearwater, where it veers off back into the countryside. A little past halfway to Clearwater our journey ends as the trail was closed and detoured onto the highway. From there our ride came and got us and we were driven back to Norfolk.
The trail was clear and open all the way up unto that point. We averaged about 20 minutes a mile with 40 pounds on our backs. Definitely a good time and worth the trip.