Sand Creek/Tallgrass Prairie Part 2 of 3: Travel Date Nov. 2012

The first hour into Kansas is more of the same:  idle, brown, deserted short grass prairie occasionally punctuated by a few sagging buildings with chipping paint.  Shortly before dark I arrive in Ness City, an oasis of bustling civilization that I seemed to have left behind forever ago.  It is a small town, but the streets are bustling with cars and people.  The main street is paved entirely with red cobblestones from one end of town to the other.  There are hotels and restaurants, but I decide to make camp at Goodman State Fishing Lake 7 miles south of town.

After setting up camp in the dark the preceding night, I awake to find a lake perhaps 100 yards across ringed with brown grass that towers over my head.  I wonder if this is what awaits me at the Preserve later today.  I had the lake to myself for the entire stay; not bad for free admission.  I drive back to Ness City through green farmland.  A number of commuters are heading to work at the various ag-related businesses.  A short, muscular man and I waived to each other as he stood in the parking lot of a tractor repair facility.  Everyone waves here, and the town feels safe and friendly.

Approaching Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, my primary destination, I stop at a gas station.  An adjoining restaurant is shuttered and out of business.  The cashier is a young blonde woman over 6 feet tall.  I can’t help but notice her wedding ring, as it is one of the biggest and showiest I have seen anywhere.

A week before my trip, I spoke to an enthusiastic young ranger over the telephone who confirmed that the preserve would be open for me 24/7.  He seemed eager for people to experience the park under his charge.  We talked about the proposed cuts to the National Park Service budget.   He thanked me for coming to the Preserve and urged me to “keep showing up” to parks around the nation, as that is their best lobbying.

A different ranger helps me get oriented upon arrival.  He warns me about the aggressive bison herd, from which I should stay at least 100 yards at all times.  The Preserve’s boundary is drawn in the shape of a t-square, 7-12 miles long on each side.  I hike a combination of several trails to form a loop approximately 13 miles long.  The grass, conspicuously, is only knee high in most places.  The ranger says this is due to the drought now several years on.

About Jerry
Working in Corporate America for many years, I wanted to break free of the office walls for a bit and explore the world. Having put the pieces in place, I am first exploring the USA by road. Colleagues and friends expressed interest in my travels, giving rise to Office Escape. It is my honor to share my adventures.

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