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

I cross paths with the bison herd no more than 40 minutes from the ranger station.  There are roughly 20 animals grazing and lounging in the center of the trail.  As instructed, I start beating a wide path around them.  I estimate my separation at 50 yards, rather than the recommended 100.  Several of the animals start watching me, and two of them stand up and stare as I pass by them.  After a tense but uneventful moment, I am on my way.  A couple hours later I drag into the parking lot, exhausted.  The parking lot has been packed since my arrival, but I saw only 2 others out hiking.

After wolfing down a bag of raw Brussels sprouts, I head toward home.  On the way I take a detour through the town of Elmdale.  On one side of the street sits an abandoned two-story house, perhaps 1900 square feet, flanked by an ample lawn.  The second story of the house is collapsed into the first, and all the windows are either boarded or visibly broken and clouded from age.  Most of the paint seems to have worn off the exterior, revealing splintered, sagging siding.  A few dustings of chipped white paint accent the otherwise gray and faded wood.  Directly across the street, I observe someone making dinner in an only slightly less dilapidated home.

These are not the prosperous small towns I remember from childhood, when my Dad took me pheasant hunting in farm country.  From eastern Colorado to Eastern Kansas, rural towns are hurting.  The only notable exception is Ness City.  I contemplate how fortunate and grateful I am to be in my given situation.

The small and unbalanced meals I’ve subsisted on for the last 2 days cannot support 13 miles of hiking, and by the time I pull into the Pizza Hut in McPherson I am desperately hungry.  The restaurant is run by high school kids who demonstrate an impressive degree of professionalism, organization, and hustle.  Other diners stare at me as I rapidly consume large amounts of pizza from the buffet.  Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I cut the feast short and hit the road.

Pulling into Goodman State Fishing Lake for the second time in as many days, I notice a shiny white Chevy pickup with its hood open.  Approaching to offer assistance, I find the truck abandoned.  Again, I have the whole lake to myself.

Early on Thanksgiving morning I pull onto the highway for the last few hours’ drive home.  One of the towns just inside the Colorado border has a large display of Christmas decorations, and I stop to look closer.  There are waist-high painted wooden sculptures, trees with ornaments, lights.  Several signs list the businesses that sponsored the setup.  The area does not look dilapidated, it looks prosperous.  This is more like it, I think to myself.  A few hours later I was home, enjoying Thanksgiving with my family.

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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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