Travel trials, tribulations and tidbits

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This is the final segment to wrap up the first chapter of our RV travels.  The previous segment with our statistics is here.

As we reviewed the 422 posts that we published along the way, we recalled many fond memories and also came up with some fun tidbits that we thought were unforgettable, surprising, scary, stressful or fascinating experiences.  Compiling this collection made us pause and reflect on how many wonderful experiences we’ve had while on the road.

We faced our first major challenge just as we started the journey at Pleasanton, CA.  A hydraulic failure left our jacks and slides extended, and we learned a lot about that system during the next 3 weeks that it took to get it fixed (under warranty, fortunately).  Since that time we’ve dealt with many minor water leaks, a dead video camera, an intermittent engine cooling issue, refrigerator problems and other things that we consider part of the joy of moving around in a big complicated box.

Here’s some upper-body exercise – over 300 turns to manually retract our hydraulic rams, then the same thing on the other side!

Most exasperating experience – Intense itching and a month of discomfort due to chigger bites.  I had never heard of chiggers until they attacked me as I sat in the grass for a picture in Peru, Indiana.  Here are the details of that nightmare.

Chigger Bites

Just part of one area – itch, itch, itch

Scariest moment – When I slipped and fell, hurting my knee – not while hiking, but just walking on level ground!  No hiking for a month!

Lowes Travels

Ouch!

Most stressful incident – We got locked out of our RV during a tornado watch while camped at La Grange, GA.  Surprisingly, this particular post has more hits than any other we’ve written.  Maybe the bad guys want to know how Steve broke into the RV?

Holiday Campground

Only one other camper was there that day at Holiday Campground, La Grange, GA

Most frightening night – Hunkering down at Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama provided a sleepless night, as a long line of violent thunderstorms passed over us and dumped a record-breaking 15 inches of rain and over 7,000 lightning strikes per hour in the area.  We’ll never forget that night.

Gulf Shores State Park

The morning after the storm.  The water had risen from 50′ away from Betsy to 10′ away

Most nerve-wracking drives Due to bad GPS data and heavy traffic on the I-10 causeway approaching New Orleans, we missed our exit and got lost.  Then panic set in as we had a close call with a locomotive while crossing train tracks.  Not a fun drive!

Another hellish drive was on I-95 S coming  from Connecticut and passing thru the Bronx, New York to the New Jersey turnpike.  Here‘s that story.

Atchafalaya Basin Bridge

This hours-long jam at the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge was the beginning of a bad day near New Orleans

Then there was the time when Steve heard a loud hissing noise coming from the back of Betsy as we drive into Halifax, Nova Scotia.  We couldn’t find the source of the problem and had to have our first repair in a foreign country.

Checking the cooling system

What the heck is making that noise?

Another scary drive occurred near our last stop in Kansas, at Sabetha.  We very nearly got stuck in mud as we approached the campground, then the owner directed us into a site where we got totally stuck.  Fortunately, the owner pulled Betsy out of the mud with one of his tractors when we left.

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This guy owned a bunch of tractors and just had to pick the right one for the job

One of our most stressful drives was the stretch between Salem and Bend, Oregon.  Not only was it a narrow and mountainous road, but a huge storm hit as we drove, sending rivers of water down the road as high winds tried to push us over.  And nowhere to pull off the road.  It was intense!

Bend, Oregon

A leak in the windshield required a towel during this nerve-wracking drive toward Bend, OR

Most spectacular drive – This one has to go to the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff, Canada.  None of the 14 All-American roads we’ve driven can quite stack up against this one, and it should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Ice fields Parkway

Its a wow driving on Ice fields Parkway

Proudest moment – Steve is quite the handyman, doing not only all of our coach repairs but also making changes and upgrades to improve our life on the road.  I was very proud of him when he completed the installation of our residential refrigerator, by himself, during our stay in Bonita Springs, Florida.

installing a residential refrigerator

Out with the old, in with the new

Most fascinating underground tour – Who knew there’s a huge salt mine 650′ beneath the plains of Kansas?

Strataca, Kansas

Most sobering historical guided tour – Having learned the Gettysburg address in school many years ago, we were amazed to actually be where Abraham Lincoln delivered the speech. Here’s a glimpse of our 24-mile, two-hour tour of the historic fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Most distinctive waterfront – There is no other colorful waterfront town that we’ve seen like Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia .

Old Town Lunenberg

The “I’ll never do this again” experience – I learned that one while Halibut fishing in Ninilchik, Alaska.

Halibut Fishing

Deep-sea fishing with the other tourists/anglers.  Do I look like I’m having fun?

We’ve hiked so many trails that at this point we can’t really pick favorites, but we agreed these stand out:

Most challenging – Among the many trails we followed around the country, our climb to the top of Picacho Peak in Arizona may have been the most challenging.

Longest – Sometimes we get in over our heads when hiking or walking, and the one to Hoover Dam in Nevada from our campground at Lake Mead clocked in at 14.1 miles.

Most exhausting – Hiking on a rainy day is never in our plans, but when we’re halfway through our trek and the clouds open up we just have to grin and bear it.  Our hike on the Flat Top Summit Trail at Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina was one of those.  We looked like a couple of drowned rats when we got back to the car.

Extreme points we’ve reached in North America

Farthest north – Arctic Circle, Alaska.  To get here we endured a 19-hour guided bus tour, and what an adventure is was during our many hours on Alaska’s Dalton Highway.

Pose at the Arctic circle sign. We made it!

Farthest south – Key West, Florida, lots to do here and what a party town it is!

Southernmost Point of USA

Farthest East – Louisbourg, Nova Scotia  and we happened to be there on its 300th anniversary of its founding in 1713.

 Fortress of Louisbourg

French guard at the Fortress of Louisbourg

Farthest West Anchor Point, Alaska, what a great time we had here on the Kenai Peninsula.

Anchor Point, AK

Northwestern-most point in the contiguous U.S. – Cape Flattery, Washington.

Cape Flattery

Highest point in North America – we landed on the flanks of 20,320′ Denali Mountain on skis, a totally thrilling trip not to be missed!

Glacier landing

Steve chats with the pilot after a glacier landing on Mount Denali

Lowest point in North America – One of the lowest places in the world at 282′ below sea level, Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park was fascinating.

Death Valley National Park

Largest National Park in the U.S. – At more than 13,000 square miles, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park requires a plane ride just to get to the middle of the park in a reasonable amount of time.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Yukon Alaska

We flew into Wrangell-St. Elias NP, it could take a lifetime to explore it all

Largest lake in the U.S. – Lake Superior made us feel like we were on the shoreline of an ocean!

Most awesome gondola ride – We took a thrilling ride aboard the Peak2peak Gondola in Whistler, Canada, which holds two records; the longest free span between ropeway towers at 1.88 miles, and the gondola with the highest point above ground, 1,430′.

Peak2peak Gondola

The 1.8 mile gondola is the only one in the world that connects two mountain peaks

Just for the heck of it fun tidbits – Mile zero’s

Ice field Parkway

Mile 0 of Highway 93 – Jasper, Canada to Wickenburg, AZ

 

Mile 0 of US 1

Mile 0 of US-1 in Key West, Florida

And the beginning and end of Alaska Highway.

And that wraps up almost five years of our RV travels!

What’s next?

We’re opening a new chapter in our RV life in 2017.  After visiting all of the states, our goal will now be to narrow our search to one or more places where we’d like to stop and park Betsy for long periods of time.  Our travels will be more laid back and less structured, likely focusing more on the western states.  At least that’s the plan as of today, but who knows?  Our blogging will taper off somewhat, and we’re pondering a format change or something for our site.

As we look forward to another year of adventures, we want to THANK YOU for “jamming on down the road” with us!



 

Wrapping up our three-week sojourn in Kansas

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Scissor-tailed flycatcher

As of this writing we have already departed Kansas.  I got behind on my blogging, because for the first time we used up our monthly data allocation on our Verizon plan.  I’ve been surviving on campground WiFi service, but that’s what I get for downloading a huge Mac OS upgrade and eating up all of our data!


We are on our last stretch out of Kansas, inching toward the northeast corner of the state and making our final stop at Sabetha.  As if to remind us again that Kansas is not all flat, our GPS, “Randy”, took the fastest route to our campground and we darn near got stuck in the mud on a hilly dirt road that had been rained on the night before.  What was Randy thinking?  With no traffic in either direction we unhooked the car so I could search for our campground while Steve recovered from the experience of sliding sideways down a hill in a 17-ton motorhome.

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Hey, that road doesn’t look too bad, does it? Wrong!

Fortunately the campground was only a mile away, and the owner had spotted us and came over to escort us to our spot.  Steve was very skeptical when the owner guided us into our site, but he drove in and Betsy immediately sank into the mud!  Well, with the rear tires sunk 3 inches we were perfectly level, so we put out the slides and decided to worry about it later.  We were actually laughing about the whole thing, and Steve came up with:

You might be in Kansas if…your campground host says, “Hey, looks like you’re stuck there, I’ll go fetch a tractor and pull you out.”

And that’s exactly what he did when we left 3 days later, as you’ll see below.

The campground turned out to be quiet and beautiful, but a bit crowded over the weekend (Steve’s review is here).  It’s certainly one we’ll remember!

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Better times as the sun comes out and the ground dries

We ventured out of the campground and walked up a dirt road to see if there was anything interesting around.  Steve stopped on a bridge and was excited to see a beaver swimming along Pony creek.

Beaver

On the way up the hill, we spotted a lone deer walking on the road:

Deer

The top of the hill rewarded us with a vista of rolling countryside covered with cornfields and occasional dense forest.

Sabetha, Kansas

Sabetha, Kansas

The campground is behind those trees to the right

When Steve left me behind, this beautiful Scissor-tailed Flycatcher flew up and perched on a wire.  It just made my day – this bird has been on my watch list since Dauphin Island in Alabama!

Scissor-tailed flycatcher

Check out that long forked black and white tail!

Back at the campground we enjoyed a non-stop symphony of birds singing and male cicadas serenading the females.  Their buzzing and clicking noises, amplified by the thousands, turned into an overpowering hum.  It got me curious, so I went searching for them in the grasses.

Cicada

Cicada checking me out

When we weren’t exploring we just sat outside amidst the humming of the cicadas.  It was during these moments that we looked back and contemplated all of our experiences here in Kansas.  We felt fortunate to have seen parts of the state that many travelers never do.  We’ve met friendly people here, visited inspiring natural hidden treasures and experienced historical and educational places.

The state has a sampler of things to do, called the 8 Wonders of Kansas.  It’s meant to help the world get to know the state and to encourage the public to explore it.  We were happy to learn that we had experienced 3 of the 8 wonders, and if you missed our posts they are the Monument Rocks, the Underground Salt Museum, and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

Some other wonders of Kansas are architectural and art related; we admired the architecture of the Chase County Courthouse, and the Keeper of the Plains statue in Wichita.  We also enjoyed the John Steuart Curry Murals at the state capitol.  He was a famous Kansas artist whose depiction of abolitionist John Brown was seen as too fierce, as he depicted him holding a bible in one hand and a gun in the other.

Tragic Prelude by John Steuart Curry

Tragic Prelude – interpretation of John Brown and the anti-slavery movement in the Kansas territory

The Keeper of the Plains sculpture in Wichita  honors the region’s original citizens and has become a symbol of Wichita.

Keeper of the Plains

Keeper of the Plains – Wichita

The five-ton sculpture was placed at the confluence of the Little and Big Arkansas Rivers, which is considered a sacred site by Native Americans and was home to the Wichita tribe for many years.

Keeper of the Plains

Little and Big Arkansas Rivers converge

There were other uncommon structures that we saw along the byways:

Grains elevator in Hutchinson, Kansas

1/2 mile long, this grain elevator is the second largest in the world – Hutchinson

Welcome to Emporia

Porta-potty welcome sign – hey, we’ll do some “business” here!

We still can’t believe we spent three weeks exploring Kansas.  And it sure helped that we didn’t hear a single tornado warning siren!  We won’t complain about the heat and humidity, it’s just a fact of life here.  Our initial plan of making 2 stops morphed into 6 great discovery stops.  So, next time you’re traveling through Kansas, get off that featureless interstate and discover the unexpected pleasures of the state!

Kansas

Divided regions of Kansas, according to physical geology.  Our stops are marked by the yellow stars

OK, back to our drama of leaving the park.  Even after 3 days of sunshine, Betsy was just too deeply rutted to get out by herself.  True to his his word, the owner got one of his tractors and made quick work of pulling us back onto terra firma.

We’re used to getting helped into our site, but this was the first time we had help getting out!

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This tractor had no problem pulling us out

We noticed a lot of very noisy pickup trucks while in Kansas, so Steve wanted to share one other observation:

You might be in Kansas if…the luxury model pickups are the ones that come with an exhaust system!

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…and off we went to continue the adventure!

Up next:  Heading into the Cornhusker State!



Of buildings and architectural beauty – Topeka, KS

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Looking down from the balcony
Eastern Bluebird

Eastern bluebird with his snack

From the tall grass prairie we moved closer to civilization and made Lawrence, Kansas our next home base.  The ongoing heat and humidity caused us to limit our outdoor activities somewhat.  We toured a university and the state capitol, enjoyed some Kansas-style barbecue and briefly crossed state borders into Missouri.

Lawrence, Kansas

The University of Kansas, Lawrence campus is located high atop Mount Oread, which earned it the nickname “The Hill”.  Founded in 1865, this major public research and teaching institution is home to 26,000 students.  The University of Kansas (KU) is a public research university.

Fraser Hall

Fraser Hall – KU’s landmark academic building

I learned here that the mascot is the Jayhawk, and the mythical bird with big yellow shoes got its name from the pre-Civil War border wars between abolitionist Kansas (Jayhawkers) and pro-slavery Missouri (Bushwhackers).

Jayhawk, KU mascot

Who has the best pose, the tourist or the Jayhawk?

The university is host to several museums, including the University Natural History Museum.

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum- of limestone blocks

Kansas University

Beautiful architecture of the Natural History Museum

While at Lawrence, we managed to squeeze in an early-morning hike at nearby Clinton Lake State Park before the heat came on.  Things got off to an exciting start as we encountered two snakes within the first moments of entering the trail.  We were beginning to think this wasn’t going to work out, but there were were no further scaly encounters although we walked through a lot of spider webs, being first on the trail.

Copperhead Snake

Steve nearly stepped on this venomous Copperhead!

Clinton State Park

Using my “web whip” to clear any webs that Steve missed

Clinton State Park

Warding off a swarm of dragonflies

Independence, Missouri

The following day we drove across the state border into Independence, Missouri to visit the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.  We were disappointed to see a “closed” sign upon our arrival, and were told some sort of environmental issue had just occurred.  So instead we watched a short movie about the 33rd President at the Visitor Center, then viewed his home from the outside (tours of the home were booked for the day).

Truman’s hometown legacy was ever-present on the streets of Independence, where his silhouette sporting a hat and cane adorned the street signs.

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As we were driving around town, something gleaming on the skyline caught our attention – a twisting silver spire peaking out above the trees.  We drove to it and learned that it is the Community of Christ Temple.  It was one of the most unusual landmarks we’ve seen – the temple supports a ceiling shaped like a nautilus seashell.  We wanted go inside for a look, but it was still closed that morning.  Wow, we were really striking out today!

Community of Christ Temple

Community of Christ temple spire

Community of Christ Temple

Open , open, open!

To salvage the day, we headed back into Kansas City for some finger-licking good barbecue.  Of course, there are hundreds of barbecue joints here, but we wanted to sample a delicacy known as the “burnt ends”.  We shared a burnt ends sandwich and a more traditional pulled pork sandwich.

But my favorite is beef ribs, and this place didn’t have them.  So, off we went to another place known for its beef ribs, and we got an order to go for dinner.  And ohh it was delicious!  I have no pictures because I didn’t want to get barbecue sauce on my camera.

Topeka, Kansas

On another day we drove to the state capital of Kansas to tour the magnificent capitol building.   Taking both the Statehouse Tour and the Dome Tour helped bring life to the story of the construction and architectural history of the place.  From floor to floor we heard colorful Kansas history, and took notice of the array of dramatic art and sculpture.  There are so many beautiful facets to this building that I have far too many pictures to fit in this post 🙂

Kansas State Capitol 1887

Construction of the capitol took 37 years, costing $3.2 million.  It was completed in 1903

The Statehouse Tour covered the first 3 floors of the building.  The recent major renovation to restore it back to its 20th century appearance occurred between 1999-2014, costing $332 million (10 times the original cost for the whole place).

Kansas State Capitol

The lobby, built of local limestone blocks, feels like a catacomb

Notable Kansans who made a significant impact on the state and the nation had a separate hallway near the lobby.

Kansas State Capitol

More copper than we’ve ever seen in one place, including these massive columns that support the dome

Kansas State Capitol

Allegorical murals on the ceiling and pink columns in the state House of Representatives

Kansas State Capitol

Skyward view from the center of the rotunda, looking at the dome chandelier

Kansas State Capitol

The ornate Senate Chamber – decked out in cherry wood, bronze and copper columns

Kansas State Capitol

A mural depicts typical Kansas symbols – a hereford bull, wheat fields, a grain elevator and cornfields

Kansas State Capitol

Bronze balusters

The Dome Tour was an exciting climb to the top, walking along the inner and outer domes connected by a series of stairs and landings.  We scaled the 296 steps, with stops along the way to admire the elaborate architecture.

Kansas State Capitol inner dome

The top of the inner dome has a platform with a winch that lowers the chandelier for maintenance

Kansas State Capitol

Those spiral stairs at the top lead to the outside of the outer dome, and fresh air. It was very hot in here near the top

Dome Tour

Topeka, Kansas

View of Topeka from the cupola balcony of the dome

The statue at the top of the dome is of a Kanza Indian warrior aiming an arrow at the North Star. It is named “Ad Astra”, taken from the state motto – Ad Astra per Aspera – meaning “to the stars through difficulties.”

Cupola balcony, Kansas State Capitol

Ad Astra sculpture at the top of dome – 300 feet up!

Kansas State Capitol

The capitol building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971

Kansas State Capitol

The workers who worked on the original building in 1888.  Hey, where are your hardhats?

Kansas State Capitol

The restoration crew – ok, that’s more like it!

The narratives from both tours and the historic pictures, beautiful murals and relevant artifacts gave us a good glimpse of Kansas’ past.  These are absolute “must do” tours if you’re ever in the Topeka area, and they’re free – as is the parking under the capitol!

I intended this to be my final post about Kansas, but it got so long that I have to stop here and do one more final installment.

 

Next up:  Wrapping up our three-week Kansas sojourn.



Exploring the Flint Hills – Strong City, KS

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My mom gave me a book titled “America the Beautiful”, and one of the intriguing places marked on the map that I really wanted to visit was the Flint Hills of Kansas. Our earlier route planning did not include this stop, as we had thought our drive through Kansas would be quick.  But I was glad that we were able to include this interesting area, which runs north to south in the heart of of the state and spills into Oklahoma.

Flint Hills, Kansas

The tall grass prairie used to cover 170 million acres of North America, but most of it was developed and plowed under during the past couple of centuries.  Today, less than 4% of the original tall grass remains, and much of it is here in the Flint Hills.  The region’s sweeping native prairie grassland remains as the last great preserved area of tall grass in the country.  To find out more, we first drove the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway, then visited the Tallgrass National Preserve and hiked the Overlook Scenic Trail.

Flint Hills

We learned some notable facts about the tall grass prairie –

  • The underlying rock strata of the Flint Hills are from the Permian Age (299-251 million years ago).  The layers of limestone have numerous nodules of chert (flint) within them, giving the area its name.  It was Zebulon Pike, the explorer and surveyor, who coined the term “Flint Hills” in reference to these rugged, rocky stair-stepped hills.
  • Because of the presence of flint under the topsoil throughout the hills, the ground is impossible to plow.  As a result, the Flint Hills region remains as the largest unplowed remnant of tall grass prairie in the world, suitable for ranching rather than farming.

Flint Hills

  • We might think it’s just grass and weeds, but the tall grass prairie is actually an endangered ecosystem.  On November 12, 1996, legislation created the 10,894 acre Tallgrass National Prairie Preserve to protect a small part of a once vast tall grass prairie ecosystem.

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  • Each spring the Flint Hills go up in smoke when ranchers burn the prairie, a practice dating back to the earliest human occupation of the Great Plains.  Fire controls invasive plants because their shallow roots are damaged by its intense heat.  Native grasses, on the other hand, are protected because of their deep root systems (up to 12 feet long in some cases).  In short, fire is vital to a healthy prairie ecosystem.

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  • After the burn, the hills quickly recover and turn a wonderful vibrant green with splashes of purple, yellow, pink and white or orange wildflowers.

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Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed

Leadplant

Leadplant

Showy evening primrose

Showy evening primrose

  • From May to July the Flint Hills are visited by thousands of four-legged tourists.  Herds of cattle are brought here from as far away as Texas to graze on the new green shoots. This grazing activity serves to stimulate tall grass prairie to grow stronger, which in turn helps to preserve it.  The cattle are rarely moved during their 100-120 day stay, which maximizes their weight gain – up to 2 pounds per day!  You’ve heard that happy cows are from California?  Not all of them!
Flint Hills

Ready – set – graze!

  • Fall is the best time to see the tall grass when it’s really tall – up to 8-12 feet tall!  In this region are mostlybigandlittlebluestem grass, switch grass, and Indian grass.  Trees are rare, usually seen along streams and river bottoms.

    Chase County Grass artwork

    A display of tall grass

2015-06-21-KS-1100371We drove the north-south Flint Hills National Scenic Byway along highway 177.  It stretches 47.2 miles across the Flint Hills between Council Grove and Cassoday.  We made several stops at historical places and buildings along the way.

One stop was at the Chase County Courthouse in Cottonwood Falls.  It was built in 1873 from native Flint Hills limestone that was quarried and hand-cut right here.

Chase County Courthouse

Some early roads and streets in Kansas were made of brick, and they have such a cool look

Chase County Courthouse

It cost $40,000 to build the courthouse in 1873, and it was placed on the National Historic Register in 1971

The moment we stepped inside, our attention was grabbed by the original three-story black walnut staircase.

Chase County Courthouse Staircase

This is the oldest operating county courthouse in Kansas, and the courtroom had a beautiful embossed tin ceiling.  But the most interesting feature, and the one that really brought a smile to Steve’s face, was the jail.  He was totally excited to see how everything worked in this old place.  What a find!

Chase County Courthouse Jail

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But I’m innocent! Really I am! Oh well, what’s for dinner?

Continuing down the Scenic Byway, we traveled over the hills for more panoramic views of the ranches in the area.  According to the locals these endless vistas have remained unchanged for thousands of years, and a variety of people, plants and wildlife call the Flint Hills home.

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Next we stopped at the north end of the byway, in the town of Council Grove.  It received its name on August 10, 1825, when several U.S. Commissioners met with chiefs of the Great and Little Osage Indian tribes beneath a tree later named the “Council Oak”.  They signed the first treaty establishing the right-of-way for the famed Santa Fe Trail.

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Council Grove was once a bustling point of rendezvous on the Santa Fe Trail.

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Council Grove, Kansas

Taking a break on quiet Main Street in Council Grove

The open sky, open land and unobstructed vistas can give one the perception of the Flint Hills as nothing but lots of cattle fodder with copious views.  For me, having seen and experienced everything here as it’s been for eons, I think maybe Dorothy had a pretty good thing going before she was swept away!

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Next up:  Hiking at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve



 

Under the spacious Kansas skies – Scott City, KS

Comments 9 Standard
Dragon Fly

Kansas Welcome sign We left the rocky mountains of Colorado behind and moved out onto the open plains of Kansas. What a stark difference it was from the air of the high mountain elevations to that of the lower western plains.

Highway 83, Kansas

Wide-open skies as far as the eye can see

As we continued to drive, I was amazed to see a broad prairie under a big sky with nary an obstruction.  This is our first time in Kansas, and it has really lived up to its reputation for wide-open spaces and uncrowded landscapes. After seeing the prairie vistas for several miles, we drove into surprising scenery as we headed toward our home base.  A valley with deep wooded canyons, craggy bluffs and a lake awaited us at Lake Scott State Park.  It made me realize that Kansas is not totally flat after all, and this was a beautiful state park.

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Highway 95 lead us into Lake Scott State Park

Lake Scott State Park

Sculptures at the top of a hill in the park

Lake Scott State Park It turns out this state park is rich in history, and it provided us with an inside look at two historic areas.  One was a preserved Indian pueblo ruins dating back to the 1600s, called El Cuartelejo – meaning “old barracks or building.”  This archeologically significant site dates from 1650 to 1750 A.D. and is the north-easternmost pueblo ruin in the United States. The interior rooms of the pueblo ranged in size from 10‘ x 14‘ to 16‘ x 18‘.  The total structural area measured 32‘ x 50‘.  What struck us after reading the plaques is that there were no windows or doors in the structure, meaning entry was gained via a ladder from the roof. This lead experts to classify the dwelling as a pueblo-type ruin.

El Cuartelejo Indian Pueblo Ruins

This reconstructed El Cuartelejo achieved National Historical Landmark status in 1964

Also nearby was the site of the Punished Woman’s Fork / Battle Canyon.  The plaque at the historic marker indicated that Chief Dull Knife and Little Wolf of the Northern Cheyenne escaped from a reservation near Fort Reno, OK in 1878.  Along with other men, women and children of the Cheyenne Nation, they fled to western Kansas and made a stand on the bluffs of Beaver Creek. It was at this location on September 27, 1878 that Lt. Colonel William H. Lewis, the commander of Fort Dodge, was dispatched to capture and return them to Oklahoma.  The women and children were hidden in a cave during the ensuing battle, and that cave is still visible today.

Battle Canyon, Scott City Kansas

The cave where 120 women and 141 children hide during the battle

Lt. Colonel Lewis was mortally wounded and died while en route to Fort Wallace for medical attention.  He was the last military officer killed in action within the state of Kansas.  The Cheyenne escaped by night, crossing the Smoky Hill River and fleeing to Nebraska.

Battle Canyon, Scott City

Battle Canyon, a beautiful and peaceful place near Lake Scott

Back at our site, we considered our stop here the perfect setting to unwind and relax.  Having stayed at a busy and cramped RV park back in Colorado, we relished the peace and quiet here. Watching and listening to the birds put me back in my element, and I got pictures of ones I had not seen before.  Even if it was hot and humid, we enjoyed sitting outside and hanging out with our feathered friends.

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Now this is more like it!

Wildflowers also flourished here, with Purple Poppy Mallow blanketing the ground and Yuccas standing abundantly on the hillsides.

Purple Poppy Mallow And that was just the beginning of our discoveries of some lesser-known gems here in Kansas!

Western Vista Sunset

Sunset, Kansas style

Next Up:   Chalk Pyramids