Here We Go…To Kansas

Original Post: July 21, 2015

In the beginning of the trip, I would take a photo of our next destination  from wherever we were when we started that day.  This habit didn’t last long…

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Kansas was not on my hotspot list.  I mean, other than Dorothy, who have you ever known to actually WANT to go to Kansas?  (I think even Toto would have opted out if he’d been given the chance, but dammit…Dorothy just had to ask “Toto, too?”  Poor dog.  He not only came from Kansas, but he had to go back!)

Shortly, before we left for vacation, I had taken a quiz on one of those ridiculous internet sites to see which state I should live in, as if answering 15 questions online could actually be a legitimate determining factor in where I’ll hang my hat.  And the result – you guessed it – was Kansas.  How on earth I could answer that I loved the ocean and still get a state smack-dab in the middle of the country as a result was beyond me.  The last thing I’d want to do is end up in any part of “Tornado Alley.”

I believe my exact words just a few days before we left were, “If I thought I could actually make it from St. Louis to Aspen in a single drive without going insane, I would definitely try.  But since we need to sleep at some point, Kansas it is.”

The drive through eastern Kansas provided endless views of slow rolling hills that eventually flattened into plains that went on for miles.  By the time we reached western Kansas, we’d seen more corn and more oil pumps than I had realized could exist in one state.  Our only saving grace?  The time of year we chose to travel.  Had we booked our trip just a few months later, those miles of landscape (though long and unchanging) would not have been visible at all.  Instead, higher and heartier corn would have meant stunning views of – wait for it – corn.  For 9 hours.  Corn and sky.  Thank goodness for June.

I was a bit hesitant when we stopped at a rest area and found a piece of molted snake skin.  I guess I hadn’t really thought I’d see any snakes.  Did I know they were out there?  Sure, the same as I knew rattlesnakes inhabited Hawk Mountain in our part of Pennsylvania, but since I don’t encounter evidence of their existence 99% of the time, I can keep them filed away in the “imaginary monster” files of my mind.  Suddenly, they had become much more real.

This surely came from the belly of a fairly good-sized snake.  Glad I didn’t get a chance to meet him.

When we finally arrived at Cedar Bluff State Park, I was impressed.  I had not expected to be at all intrigued with this strange land in the middle of the country, but there was actually a serene beauty in that tall grass which swayed like waves in the wind.  And wind there was.  With no mountains or tree lines to block it, the wind was constant.  I would be the last person to complain, however, since it meant we had some relief from the 102 degree heatwave.

We checked into our cabin, aptly named The Jumpin’ Catfish.  (Yes, I’d had Nate in mind when I booked that one.)  It was adorable.  From top to bottom, it was cute as can be – and covered with walking stick bugs (on the outside…not in – thank goodness!).  Funny how some bugs can creep you out completely and others are, for lack of a better word, cute.  Walking sticks definitely fall into the latter category.  So, if you happen to stop in Kansas and need a place to stay, Cedar Bluff State Park is it.  A great camp!

Nate fished the reservoir (of course) and we both enjoyed spending the evening on the porch of our cabin, watching the sun set and the lightning bugs buzz through the grass.  Perhaps the most memorable part of Kansas was the incredible birdsong.  I have never heard birds sing like the ones we heard there and it just added to the serenity that was the prairie.  If I didn’t know that tornadoes frequent the state every year, I could have contemplated buying a little cabin of our own in the area. Birdsong aside, I think I’ll pass.

We spent the evening experimenting with our cameras and scopes, practicing for the nights we knew we wanted to get some great dark sky shots, and despite the lack of geographical contrast to use against the sky, we got some pretty decent photos.

We headed to bed fairly early, knowing that we’d be up early and on the road to the “real” vacation tomorrow.  (Are you sensing a pattern, yet?)  Aspen, Colorado and Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.  Finally, a change in landscape!  

And we survived Kansas.  Nary a tornado in sight.