Arbor Day has roots in Nebraska; Tree beauty abounds

Arbor Day

Alaska’s Denali mountain stands in the background of beautiful trees

Warren Buffett is credited with saying “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long ago.” How many of us even think about a tree’s life when we see them or take a rest under the shade? I know I’ve been among the many who complain during the Fall when leaves drop and there is a lot of raking to do.

Arbor Day was traditionally observed April 22nd. It recognizes the movement started by Nebraskan J. Sterling Morton in 1872. At that time, he organized planting about a million trees in the state. Nebraska – like most prairie states at the time – didn’t have an abundance of trees. Today, most states observe Arbor Day on the last Friday of April.

Arbor Day

J. Sterling Morton was the driving force behind Arbor Day

Morton – of the Morton Salt family (his son created the company) – led this movement from his home base of Nebraska City, in southeastern Nebraska. The Morton mansion, built to resemble the White House in Washington, DC, is called Arbor Lodge. By the 1920s, each state had started observing Arbor Day. Today, dozens of countries around the world observe Arbor Day throughout the year.

Arbor Day

Arbor Lodge – home to the Morton family in Nebraska City, Nebraska

Nebraska City is known as the “Arbor Day City.” It’s a moniker the community proudly wears. There are apple orchards – such as Arbor Day Farms – that go beyond just raising apples. Arbor Day Farms has a giant tree house where kids can climb and play. They offer walking trails with cute attractions along the paths, such as rocking chairs. The place is super busy during the apple harvest season in September/October. It’s always worth the trip to the Otoe County seat.

Arbor Day

Nebraska City is home to some great apple orchards

We are fans of nature. We like to visit forests and woods when we travel. We have a membership to our local forest – Fontenelle Forest. The trails are enjoyable to walk, and the views are spectacular.

Arbor Day

A Fall walk at Nebraska’s Fontenelle Forest

Ponca State Park in northeast Nebraska is home to a tree that is more than 360 years old. The tree supposedly started its life in 1644.

Arbor Day

The oldest tree in Nebraska

We visited San Francisco a few years ago. Near the top of my must-see list was Muir Woods. Walking among Redwood trees was awe striking. Giant trees make a human feel really small in the grand scheme of life and our planet.

Arbor Day

Muir Woods near San Francisco

We walked for almost an hour during our tour of the woods. I swear I could have (and probably did) taken a photo of every tree I saw. They rise for hundreds of feet above the ground.

Arbor Day

John Muir supported nature

Another area I love to visit is the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, NM. The mountains are roughly five miles above sea level. The walk about the trees in this area is breathtaking. The trees grow high.

Arbor Day

A walk along the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico

You can even catch some views of wildlife if you’re lucky. We tried several times to get photos of squirrels (since our family seems to be nuts about the creatures), but they were so quick. They didn’t stay in one place very long. However, one squirrel did stop and take a break on a tree stump. I was able to get a couple of shots of him before he scampered away. In Nebraska City, I managed to get a view of a squirrel enjoying some breakfast.

Arbor Day

We love squirrels. Squirrels love trees.

Staying along the western mountain ranges, I’m not sure I’ve seen anything more beautiful than Aspen trees turning color in the Rocky Mountains. On a drive to Estes Park from Colorado Springs, we encountered a beautiful view of thousands of trees as a forefront to snow-capped mountains. Interspersed among the green were patches of golden leaves from the Aspens.

Arbor Day

A drive along the Colorado Rockies

Beautiful trees are not relegated to the western United States. During a business trip to Texarkana, Arkansas and Texas, beautiful trees stood strong and tall in a small woods behind my hotel. I spent a couple of hours one morning roaming among them.

Arbor Day

Beautiful view in Texarkana

You can always see some breathtaking views of trees along major rivers. Dubuque, Iowa, offers some fantastic scenery along the Mississippi River. Mines of Spain state recreation area and Eagle Point Park are great spots to see beauty that trees bring to us.

Arbor Day

Dubuque, Iowa

One more spot I really have enjoyed is Trail of Tears State Park in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The overlook in the park gives a great view of the Mississippi River and the forestation along the waterway.

I’ve seen some beautiful trees during international travel, including The Philippines.

Arbor Day

Amazing view in The Philippines

Lisa’s favorite season is autumn, when the leaves turn color. We have made several “leafing” road trips – short and long drives. I understand her love of the colors. Indian Cave State Park in southeastern Nebraska offers a fantastic view. Niobrara State park in northeast Nebraska is another great Fall leafing trip.

Arbor Day

A Nebraska autumn

Nature has provided us with some great tree viewing. It’s nice that when needed, people – like J. Sterling Morton during his time – can step up and take the lead to help where needed. As you plant a tree this year, or even lean back against one in the shade, give a nod to those who thought to plant trees a long time ago.

For more information on Arbor Day, please visit

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