Palo Duro Canyon State Park

 

We headed south and west from Kansas, through Oklahoma and into Texas. We saw bill board after bill board advertising a free 72 ounce steak to whomever could eat the whole thing in one sitting. We didn’t give it a try but we did see this Texas sized sign!

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We visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is the second largest canyon, at 129 miles long, in the the country. It’s pretty amazing to drive through miles of flat land and then come upon this big hole in the ground. It’s like it appeared out of nowhere!

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Even though it is much, much smaller than #1 (The Grand Canyon), we loved the color and light of this place. Every hike offered a different view of the red, brown and orange landscape. The energy was big, strong and soothing which served as a perfect antidote for much of the news that we have been reading.

 

 

Down in the canyon, we didn’t get any cell phone service, so we drove up ‘out of the hole’ to keep in touch with family and friends. Most importantly, we needed to hear how Connor was doing on his first week in day care! We think he had fun.

Connor day care

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We also had to keep “leaving the hole” to call our mail service in Livingston, Texas for Larry’s absentee ballot. Ginny, our town clerk back in Brookfield, had to send out a 2nd ballot since the first one did not show up. Some how between our mail forwarding service and the USPS, the ballot was nowhere to be found. To this day Larry has not seen either one. Alas!

Swope Park

Sue and I want to give Swope Park a mention. Swope Park is a fairly good size county park located 5 miles from the entrance to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.

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It has 5 RV sites with electricity and water for $15 per day with clean, well maintained showers and bathrooms, multiple fields for baseball, a deluxe Frisbee golf course and a section to honor our veterans.

We have been amazed at the size of the county parks in the midwest and by the amount of community involvement that surrounds them. Everyday there were people in the park. After school, kids were screaming and playing in the playground. In the mornings, Grammys pushed toddlers in strollers. Every evening at dusk, a dad caught softballs pitched by his teenaged daughter. People of various sexual orientation and national origins walked the frisbee golf course. We could hear the occasional ‘ka-chang’ as the frisbee hit the chains.

County employees were in and out often and local law enforcement made regular passes through so we felt very safe. Everybody we encountered was friendly and helpful. We met a retired ranger from Tallgrass Prairie who was working at the park when the buffalo arrived in 2009.  He was very interesting to talk to. He told us how difficult it was to get the buffalo herd started and where the best hikes were at the preserve.

We used Swope Park as are home base as we explored Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

Don’t worry Dick and Winnie, I did not let Susan get any closer to those beasts. 🙂

We also explored the surrounding area. Council Grove, Kansas is home to the Custer Elm which was interesting to me at least. I at first thought “how do they know this” but the retired ranger told me it was true.

Our time at Swope Park was lots of fun and we would definitely come back.

 

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

SignI told Larry, when we were in Iowa City, that I wanted to go the Tallgrass Prairie. I don’t know why. It just called to my imagination. Boy oh boy, did we like this place! Tallgrass Prairie is a gem in our book. This preserve was established in 1996 as a result of much collaboration and compromise between local ranchers and the Forest Service, according to our Ranger and Wikipedia.

“Legislation introduced in 1991 called for the creation of the Preserve, but local interests objected to the condition that the National Park Service would own it all. From 1991-1994, U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum-Baker convened a group of stakeholders, many with opposing views, to seek agreement on the formula for a tallgrass prairie park. The group began work in January 1992, and a different model for a national park emerged; it would be a public/private partnership, managed by the National Park Service, but the land privately owned.” – Wikipedia

It was wonderful to think that people with such opposing views and interests could come together and create such a gift.

Tall grassSo, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is what remains of the original tallgrass prairie, of which less than 4% remains today. The other 96% got tilled into farm lands and now feeds our country. This little parcel of land is intact today thanks to our friend, limestone! This area was saved from the plow due to the large deposits of limestone and flint which made it too difficult to plow. The prairie is in a section of Kansas called Flint Country.

The preserve has miles of walking trails and we enjoyed hiking on terrain that was very different from our home in New England. We had a lot of fun spying the magnificent Bison. We made sure to stay the recommended 100 yards away from them. They are the largest land mammal in North America. I did not know that!

WarningBuffalo musclesField of BuffaloWe highly recommend that you add this Preserve to your bucket list. We greatly enjoyed our stay in Cottonwood Falls, but that, my friends, is another post!

Till next time, stay curious!