Trekking through the Sandhills Surrounding Double R Guest Ranch
By Maria Nazos, Ecotourism Project Team, UNL Graduate Student (English), Center for Great Plains Studies
After two peaceful days of walking through the Nebraskan Sandhills while staying at Double R Guest Ranch, I could finally hear myself think. With my chatty mind, any kind of silence is an achievement. It’s one thing for me to be a proponent of Great Plains ecotourism (and I am), but it’s quite another to experience firsthand one of our coalition member’s guest ranches.
Pat Bridges, the proprietor of Double R Guest Ranch, located outside of Mullen, Neb., was kind enough to answer some of my questions after I had spent a glorious two days walking through the surrounding Sandhills.
Double R Guest Ranch provides a series of charming, hospitable guesthouses nestled near Mullen and Valentine, Neb. The cabins are well appointed, complete with a gas grill, microwave, air-conditioning, and plenty of puzzles and cards. Guests may choose to bird watch, hunt, or fish. There is also a historical landmark situated on the ranch’s property: a sod house dating back to 1908 which guests are free to visit. Once I dropped my bags on the living room floor, I wondered why I don’t get out of the city and the office more often.
To say that the next two days were peaceful is an understatement.
It would be a more accurate statement to say that the time that I spent listening to the coyote’ baying and, for once, actually paying attention to my own thoughts. That was my strongest memory of the Nebraskan Sandhills: my mind felt as calm and inviting as the sweeping expanse of the prairie itself. As my partner Andy and I explored the golden braids of grass and partook of grilled sausages outside beneath diamond-encrusted skies, all I could think was, “Why don’t people come visit the Great Plains more often?” I thought that Pat would naturally be the ideal person to ask.
Pat said that although she regularly entertains many enthusiastic guests from all over the world, that not everyone needs to know about this special region. “It’s not for everyone,” she explained. “But it’s quiet here. I like it. I wake up every morning feeling happy.”
After two days at Double R Ranch, with my cell phone blissfully knocked out of reception, I could only agree.
When asked how she would describe the Great Plains region, Pat said that it’s the Last Frontier. Once people actually experience this terrain, they appreciate the landscape, she said. Unlike some other destinations, however, the Great Plains is not always advertised—and sometimes that is a good thing. “But you don’t want everyone in the world coming here,” said Pat.
When I asked Pat about her experience running an ecotourism business, she said her endeavors as a business owner have been quite positive.
Although some people are apprehensive about starting up an eco-touristic business that the experience for her was well worth it.
“People think it’s difficult,” she said. “And it does take a certain person.” Nonetheless, Pat said she feels positive about her experience. “Try it, take a chance,” she urged.
I could not help but feel those words could be advice for me: I had left my life of frenetic rushing, copious amounts of caffeine, and spin classes back in Lincoln to explore a successful Great Plains ecotourism business. I also knew that Pat was right: not everyone needs to know about The Great Plains, but those who want to find out about it ultimately will—and like me, will be very glad they did.