The Ponca Hills
I talk about my love of the Iowa Mountains - aka the Loess Hills - often, but I don't talk about my other love: the Hills - aka the Ponca Hills. Sure, to be honest, I've talked about the places I go within the Ponca Hills many times, but not the Hills themselves. That ends today.
|I've walked this path towards the forest in Neale Woods hundreds of times.|
Let's start with the most familiar place in the Hills that I haunt: Neale Woods. Neale Woods is my favorite place to take a hike, especially by myself. It's the quietest and serene of all my hiking spots, and even if there are other cars there...rarely have I ever seen another soul as I've trekked the various trails within. It's also incredibly beautiful, and I feel a wave of happiness every time I walk the above path. I know the forest is coming and I can't wait.
|Surrounded by the Ponca Hills within Neale Woods.|
Just as the Loess Hills run along the western border of Iowa (and a part of northern Missouri), the Hills run along the eastern border of Nebraska. In fact, if the foliage isn't in the way, you can see either one from various points of the other. They're almost like sister hills, divided by the mighty Missouri River.
|Round-headed bush clover.|
A recent trip to Neale Woods, albeit chilly, was exactly what I needed to break the seemingly never-ending Winter. Even from this vantage point in the Hills, you can see the Iowa Mountains in the background.
|A pine cone is a reminder of Winter.|
|While the Ranger doesn't live here anymore, the sign still does.|
|Tree roots make for an interesting road border.|
This is a road that meanders through the Hills, and, again, you can just see the Iowa Mountains in the background, off in the distance.
|A staircase (not the haunted ones) at Hummel Park.|
Another place I love to hike and explore within the Ponca Hills is Hummel Park. Just a short drive south from Neale Woods, they both lie just off of John J. Pershing Drive. While not as peaceful, beautiful, or quiet as Neale Woods, there are still some hidden gems to hike within the park.
Unlike Neale Woods, this is an Omaha City Park and is filled with people most of the time, some of them up to no good. It has a reputation for a few things, namely for being haunted and for being a place where nefarious things happen. Honestly, it's a good spot during the day for exploring.
|A ravine in Hummel Park.|
One of the prettiest things about Hummel Park, and this is especially true in the Spring and early Fall, are the gorgeous tree-lined, hilly roads that wind through it. It's gorgeous, honestly, just to take a drive through there if nothing else.
NP Dodge Park, while not situated in the Hills, rests between them and the Missouri River. Here is a shot of the forested area just off the entrance. You can see the Hills to the left. It also lies off of John J. Pershing Drive, just south of Hummel Park.
One of my favorite things about NP Dodge Park, and pretty much the only reason I go there, is that they have a few docks where you can admire the Missouri River.
I've definitely taken tons of pictures in Neale Woods that give a better idea of how beautiful the Ponca Hills are, but I was trying to give you a recent snapshot of them. For other gorgeous pics and stories of the hills, check out a few of my older posts here, here, and here. I'll make sure to go back when everything is green to take more pictures of my second favorite nature spot next to the Iowa Mountains.