We spent the last bit of our road trip in Valentine, Nebraska, where we got up early and went off to Smith Falls State Park. This was a place we’d visited years earlier on one of our friend Jenny’s many camping trips, but somehow Vivian had never realized that we could access the state’s tallest waterfall by any means other than canoe (or inner tube).
We walked the kids down through the park and across the 110 year old Verdigre Bridge to get to a short boardwalk leading up to the falls. It was warm and humid on this side of the state, so it wasn’t long before the kids and I were down at the foot of the falls getting thoroughly wet and cool in the constant spray of water. I hadn’t brought any swim trunks, of course, but that hardly seemed to matter as Aaron splashed about and Hannah climbed on the rocks seeing how close she could get to the falls. I eventually went all in and got a brief shower under the torrents of water — which was honestly quite refreshing.
We headed on back to the car, but not before Vivian spent a few extra minutes finding Hannah a “gooey.” Hannah had been hoping on the entirety of our trip to encounter a small frog like she had on our camping trip to Two Rivers a year ago.
Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be too many frogs hopping around places like Lake McConaughy, Roubaix Lake, or the Pactola Reservoir. Vivian found one right along the Niobrara, though, so we let Hannah hold it for a minute before heading home.
And a long trip home it was — a little over five hours of driving, plus at least another hour for lunch, dinner, and bathroom breaks. The kids handled it all quite well, though we did manage to provide a tablet and handheld video game to keep them occupied during the drive. Hannah also wanted to see Harold the guinea pig at my parents’ house before we even returned home, who had been keeping busy doing work, exercise, and playing Scrabble while we’d been away.
And thus ends the grand 2020 Johnson Family Road Trip! It was a long, fun adventure, and a chance to “unplug” from the “real world,” particularly since we had zero cell phone coverage west of Lincoln. I hope it was a week Vivian and the kids will look back on fondly for years to come.