Cherry County High Point Trip Report

Baldy Hill

Date: July 2, 2000
Author: John Mitchler

This treasured HP is one of the 50 largest counties in the USA, and of all the sand hills I've hiked in CO, KS, and NE, this one's the biggest so far. It took us two attempts because my first attempt found me driving the wrong ranch roads late in the day. The second attempt was highly successful as we drove right to its base. All in all, I drove 25 miles through cattle grassland and passed through 15 fence gates. The correct route requires only 6 miles with 4 gates, one way.

The HP is a 300' sand hill in the heart of the world's largest cattle grazing region, the Nebraska Sand Hills. As such, it isn't completely grass covered. Wear gaiters. I'm serious! Wear them unless you like picking countless seed, pricks, thorns, and slivers from your socks. Long pants aren't needed but your socks and shoelaces will take a beating. The HP is 6 miles due west of a paved county road so be prepared. This is sand country. Watch out for ruts that could suck you down to the axles. Most of the road is two track but some stretches are just indentations in the grass so go slowly and pay attention. Always leave gates as you found them, whether open or closed. Do not bother the livestock, do not drive cross country, and do not collect anything. As with most ranchers, the owner Winnie Roby probably would like to know you're there otherwise her ranch hands may assume you're rustling or hunting. I don't like to speculate what they do to those caught without authorization. She allowed us to go back in there and even told us which ranch road to take, but I did not get a blanket approval for the hordes.

In general terms, reach the HP from NE 2 at Ashby by going 7 miles north on a paved county road and then 6 miles west on ranch roads.

You can reach the unsigned ranch road turnoff from the north or the south. If coming from the south, go 7.2 miles north of Ashby on the paved one-land county road. Ashby is a very small town with a several businesses, some extinct. The county road looks like an old paved driveway as it passes some residences and immediately plunges into cattle grasslands north of town. Because this is a one lane road, be very careful when approaching hills and curves. Slow down and get over to the right. You most likely will meet someone coming the opposite direction. Drive north of Ashby 5.6 miles to the Cherry-Grant county line. When you cross this line, peel your eyes for a two track road off to the left (west), about 1.7 miles north of the line. If you come to a yellow diamond winding-road traffic warning sign, you've gone too far north.

If you're coming from the north, you're most likely coming from nearby Morton HIll in Sheridan County. >From this cohp, go 4 miles north on NE27 and turn right (east) on a paved one-lane county road. It really is one lane and you'll need to go off the road when meeting on-coming traffic. Go slowly and stay right on hills and curves!! It's quaint but dangerous. After 9 miles of this foolishness, the Cherry-Sheridan county line is signaled by the road turning to a good gravel. Continue to mile 11.6 and turn right (south) on another county road. After 3.5 miles on this road, it will make a sharp right turn. Continue to Alkali Lake (at mile 9.0), a huge private fishing lake. Continue south, noting that the county road is paved for long stretches. About 1.5 miles south of this lake is the JHL Ranch which does not have access to the HP. Neither do the Graham or Egan Ranches. The Beck Ranch (as noted on the DeLorme) is the ranch of the owner, Winnie Roby, who is a staunch cattle rancher (i.e., don't mention sheep or bison). She knows that the HP is on her ranch and that it's not Indian Hill (near the Keller Ranch). The HP is called Baldy Hill because once it was barren sand. But now it's grass covered. Go to mile 20 and you should see the two track ranch road off to your right (west) although I'm a bit unsure of this mileage because I had to back calculate the number from two separate odometer readings. It may be wise to continue on to the Cherry- Grant county line and turn around and go back north for 1.7 miles.

From the paved county road, zero out your odometer and follow the sandy two-track west.

At mile 0.5, note the "road" splitting off to the left. Stay right.
At mile 0.9, note the lake/wetland depression to your right.
At mile 1.1, note the road splitting off to the left. Stay right.
At mile 1.3, pass through the gate.
At mile 2.3, note the road splitting off to the left. Stay right. This road goes to the HP via Keller Lake but has more gates and is fainter.
At mile 2.6, pass through a gate. I did not get a good odometer reading at this one so don't freak out if the mileage is not accurate.
At mile 3.1, reach the abandoned Keller ranch site, a tree oasis in a sea of grass. Indian Hill is to the left (south). Bag it on the way out for extra credit.
At mile 3.9, pass through a gate. I did not see the ranch road (shown on the topo) that peels off to the right (north) just before the gate. It is too faint.
At mile 4.2, take a hard right (north). This ranch road goes up and over a sand ridge.
At mile 5.1, reach the windmill. Note the fence and gate to your left (east). This is the access to Keller Lake. Go left (west) towards Baldy Hill.
At mile 5.5, watch for a gate to your right (north). The sand ruts are deep here so be careful not to get stuck. The HP looms to the northwest. Pass through the gate.
At mile 5.9, stop. Baldy Hill is to your left (west). Walk up.

The BM Hazel is definitely the highest spot. It is marked 1946 and has an arrow pointing to 220 degrees. About 10 yards in that direction is the uprooted cement post of an old BM. The crescent-shaped summit of Badly Hill has 6 areas above 4200' but only one (second from the north) comes even close in elevation to the Hazel BM. Just to be sure, I hand-leveled and backsighted. It's obvious. From the HP, Keller Lake and Indian Hill are easily identified. Try to locate the various windmills shown on the topo. Usually there's a group of cows milling about the water tub which will help make the windmills standout in the rolling countryside.