Every autumn I plan to go down to Nebraska City to take in the fall color. Most years I don’t make it, but this year I did. It’s a lovely little town, very picturesque and full of trees, thanks to J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day. His house and grounds are now part of Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, a lovely place for a picnic and home to more squirrels per square foot than any other place I’ve been, including the UNL campus. There were seven squirrels within my line of sight every time I looked up from my picnic basket. This park also has trees that smell just like Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, which made my day since Oregon is one of my all-time favorite states in the nation and a definite tree-lover’s paradise. This park also has a “whispering bench,” seen in this photo behind the statue of stern J. Sterling. People can sit at each end of the curved stone bench and whisper to the back of the bench. The sound weirdly carries around to the other side with crazy acoustical clarity.
Nebraska City is also home to the Lied Lodge and Conference Center, a gorgeous and thoroughly ecofriendly facility where I attended some great National Writing Project retreats. Sitting in this grand space makes you feel like you are in one of the grand old National Park lodges. The fresh apple cider here is the best I’ve ever had– so fresh it tastes like you stuck a straw in a apple! The pie was also to-die-for. Only an hour from Omaha and maybe a little more from Lincoln. Worth the trip. It’s a whole other side of Nebraska. Brownville is only a little farther and it, too, is quaint and funky and cool and worth the trip. Nebraska has so much diversity and so much to offer. We forget that too often when we spent all of our time in the I-80 corridor running from Omaha to Lincoln.