A trip to Kansas

I’ve recently returned from a trip to Kansas for a lovely family wedding. Two (pandemic) years have passed since I’ve seen my relatives and it was well worth the drive. En route to the wedding, and on the return to Minnesota, I carved out some time for exploring and visiting some of my favorite areas.

Near the center of the state, running from north to south, are the Flint Hills of Kansas. This is the largest expanse of tallgrass prairie that remains in the world. Most of this area has a very shallow soil with a subsurface of limestone, all of which made the area uncondusive to agriculture and spared it from being plowed. It is a landscape of big vistas, rolling hills, and grasses.

The Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse sits on a hill within the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City, Kansas. Built of native limestone in 1882, classes were held in the single room from 1884 to 1930. Before arriving at the schoolhouse I had been following an old stone fence line and photographing a white church that glowed in the sunlight under a blue sky, all the time being serenaded by a herd of cows. Within twenty minutes the sun disappeared behind gunmetal gray clouds and the temperature starting dropping. When I arrived at the schoolhouse the flag clearly displayed the howling of the westerly wind. The setting took on a bleakness that I hadn’t experienced before, yet I’m sure was familiar to the early settlers that had tried to sustain a living in this area.

Kansas Flint Hills

KS Flint Hills at sunset_Staats 13167There is a section of central Kansas known as the Flint Hills.  This area is the last large expanse of tallgrass prairie in the country.  During the westward expansion in the 1800’s, the settlers found the land was not good for their traditional crops because of the outcroppings of limestone and flint.  Cattle ranching became the main agricultural activity, so the land was not ploughed over and remained intact.  Due to the abundant rainfall the past few months, everything is wonderfully green.  The hills undulate and roll slowly across the countryside, and at sunset they take on a golden hue.  It is an area where the horizon is a long way off, and one can revel in the beauty of the expanse in an almost 360 degree vista.