Saturday, October 14, 2017

AND then Back Home...

I have been feeling pretty tired lately I'm happy to get the last of these experiences down so the history of my adventures are saved.  Now taking things a little slower this week.  Last week I burned up the daylight with catching up on outside chores, cutting grass, trimming hedges, taking 2 trailer loads of tree debris to the dump.  This year I killed my leaf blower and my hedge trimmer so new ones are sitting in cardboard boxes in the van...(birthday presents to self) I was too pooped to even bring them in and unbox them...I went with electric ones again.  I had thought I wanted cordless...but then realized when the battery refuses to recharge that is an expensive item to buy, actually as much as a new one, so I purchased the 2 yr extended warranty for $14 so I'm covered for at least 2 yrs without anymore out of pocket expense...also got a new chain for my chain saw...it's time to start sawing up and splitting some wood for the fireplace. 

Today in the yard along with the last few days of our ruby throated hummers I saw yellow billed cuckoo, and northern parula an adult female.  I'm itching to go check some of the areas south of me for shorebirds, if I wait a couple more weeks I think I'll get a bigger reward, so until then Ill share the LAST post of my trip back from the West.  

bygone era in Kansas

Upon leaving Cheyenne Bottoms, near Great Bend Kansas, Highway 4 takes a slight northern route toward Lindsborg, KS and then East to Council Grove.  The old Santa Fe Trail came right through Council Grove on it's way from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe New Mexico. It was a trail more like an early national highway bringing settlers, goods, and equipment into the unsettled west.  Now Council Grove is a stop over on the Flint Hills Scenic Byway,  Hwy 177.  I turned South.  The Flint Hills regions of Kansas has an under laying rock layer making it unsuitable for plowing so ranching and cattle grazing is the main stay of life in this area....back in the days millions of buffalo roamed these hills, with deer and antelope.   

Farmers and Drovers Bank 1898 Council Grove, KS

The Flint Hills S-Byway passes mostly through tall grass prairie, and a few small towns, Council Grove, Cotton Wood Falls, Strong City , and Cassoday.   Cassoday claims to be the "prairie chicken capital of the world" I didn't see nary a one.  



The Cottonwood Falls Chase County Courthouse 1873

Flint Hills Scenic Byway




Strong City, KS once called Cottonwood Station because the train stopped here, then changed to Strong City  for William B. Strong President of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe RR
(later merged with Burlington RR now known as BNSF RR) 1871

Near the end of the Flint Hills Scenic Byway is the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve...so I stopped.


Unfortunately I got there too late to take the ONE Bus Trip into the preserve, (week days they have one trip at 11 am) It takes you on a 3 1/2 mile ride back into the preserve and to the Bison Herd they have there...and only a few trails allow dogs.


I feel that they could at least do one ride back every hr or so since it's such a short ride and get some electric carts to use... the thing is people want to preserve what they can see and visit...and the other trails into the preserve are long and out in the open with no shade...soooo

I took a short hike on the Bottom Land Nature Trail..



it was one of the 3 trails they allow dogs on...

lots of prairie flowers...


...and some thistles that drew some goldfinch do you see the goldfinch in this photo?? He is pretty well hidden...


On the grounds are the remnants of the Jones Family's 7,000 acre Spring Hill Stock Farm...from which the preserve is made up from...it is now at 11,000 acres in size. 

Spring Hill Ranch House

The Spring Hill Barn

Tours are available of the house, barn and grounds...I was not really interested in touring the buildings I'm way too impatient...so I got my passport book stamped, took the Nature Trail hike with the girls, it was HOT and WINDY...

and then headed on...picking up hwy 54 east at the end of 177  and we stopped near Fort Scott, KS just short of the Missouri State Line.  We camped at the Bourbon Lake County Park, it was free!  Nice lake had a heron pay us a visit...can you find the heron?  All sorts of scavenger hunts in this post...


The dogs loved it here they were able to run around off leash...and we had a quiet night..with millions of frogs singing us a lullaby. 


Next day  it was hammer down to get home in 2 days so an early start to Wednesday...we continued on Hwy 54 and intersected I-49 South and then picked up I-40 East at Fort Smith, Arkansas...and drove through the Ozarks...

I-40 East through the Ozark Mountains

And  we took I-55 South near Memphis, TN  and cut over to I-22/78 in Mississippi,  this route can be a bit weird if you try to get on Hwy 78 back in Memphis it can be one long sit after another as the highways intersect in a busy area....I stay on I-55 south and take one of the roads that cuts over to I22/78 a little farther south after that is is traffic free.   We stopped in Waterford south of Holly Springs, MS and stayed in Wall Doxie State Park, we arrived just at dusk. losing that hour getting back into central time made it hard, then we lost another one the next day!  

the VC of Wall Doxie State Park in Mississippi 

The lake there...


We didn't hang around  next morning after breakfast we got on I-22 East and picked up I-20 East in Birmingham, AL and took it all the way to within 11 miles of home...got home about 9 pm Thursday night on the 21st  of Sept.   This is the last of my scheduled posts.
I ended up according to ebird with a new life list of 412 so added 14 new species overall.  Some of the split ones I thought were counting were not...like that Scrub Jay...apparently.  

I had a great Summer in Colorado!! I really hope I can go back next year and pick up where I left off!!



PEACE
Every day is a new Adventure.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cheyenne Bottoms, Great Bend Kansas

Hwy 4 is very scenic with farms dotting the horizon and some have seen better days... I think of a tornado when I see this type scene, wonder how this small structure is still standing, and the windmill is still in operation. 


If you stop at one of the information centers in Kansas you might learn about the Post Rocks.  There is actually a Post Rock Scenic Byway...but you can see post rock almost anywhere in Kansas...


...and it is exactly what you think it is, rock cut to become fence posts...they are not tall...


I think in the beginning it was just land boundary markers, then later wire was added...


Limestone post last for years...and faced with no trees to cut for wood post the rock served it's purpose..

I have driven on I-70 across Kansas SOOOO many times over the years on trips to visit my sis, so this time I did NOT want to see one single mile of Kansas via I-70.  So taking back roads across was my plan and never going near St Louis Missouri was another part of my plan.  So I studied the map to see what else I might find interesting on the back roads of Kansas.  I saw a little blurb called "Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area" right off hwy 4 just a little bit south...so made a bee line for that.  Awesome huge place!! Amazing amount of wading birds, some waterfowl, and white pelicans.   The dirt roads were very rough other than that it was a good auto tour of about 8 miles.  I drove slow and saw what I could from the van,  the reeds were tall and made it a little hard to view the birds...I entered via Great Bend side and exited the tour on the Education Center side...


Hundreds of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and some Little Blue Herons were spotted, as well as Great Blue Herons, Ibis Glossy and White Faced...

Glossy Ibis

Snowy Egrets 

the water level in the canals can be raised and lowered by a series of dykes...

wood duck 

Waterfowl I spotted included Cinnamon Teal, Wood Duck, Ruddy Duck, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Canada Goose, Pied Billed Grebe, American Coot., Double Crested Cormorant, to name a few..

Cinnamon Teal

young Ruddy Duck

...and way up high lots of white pelican coming in for landings...the shoreline of the lake was 50 ft deep with white pelicans..I estimated 2,000 but I think that is way short of the reality. 


white Pelicans line the shoreline

sooo many, awesome to see... also in great numbers were tree swallows & mixed flocks of blackbirds...and lots of Franklin's Gulls. 

Imm Red winged Blackbird 

Franklin's Gull

and I spotted this Peregrine with a kill, unfortunately a truck pulling a boat passed by so fast it scared the bird and he took off and dropped his kill...hope he was able to retrieve it..



If you happen to be in this area in April they have good Prairie Chicken Lek tours so says the website...
Reservations ONLY so plan early, you can get the info on that link. 


I wasn't as enthusiastic about taking photos on this day I had some problems with my camera, and the day was HOT cruising on those dirt roads with windows down was hard and the dogs were panting so I finally just gave up rolled up the windows put on the AC and left...this would be a great spot to hit about the 3rd week of October!    
I think the miles were catching up with me, so I  traveled only another 40 miles and stopped for the night...found a really great quiet spot...at the Kanopolis Lake Army COE Riverside Park campground a great deal with an electric site costing me only $4. I used the electric to run the fans Kansas was HOT!  The big lake was across the road with a a larger campground, but I just needed a quiet spot to spend the evening and walk the dogs,  a good trail took us down to the Smokey Hill  River, and it had a little waterfall...only about 3 ft high but still it was nice the sound of falling water...
Smokey Hill River

Another cool thing in this campground was all these trees had painted lady butterflies all over the trunks!  Thousands of them..in fact I moved to a site away a  bit to get away from them cause they were getting into the van and everything...



Never seen anything like this...and down along the river, I saw a lot of monarch butterflies fluttering by...Really awesome experience!

In the morning I drove over the dam to see the lake...and saw TONS more Franklin's Gulls...


chattering Franklin's Gulls

Then continued  East to the Flint Hills Region of Kansas. 



More on that next post....


PEACE
Every day is a new Adventure.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Monument Rocks KS

We slept pretty good! I was up very early when you go to bed at sunset you normally get up at sunrise.  I don't mind those hours at all...We made breakfast in our site, the dogs got another good run and we packed up and pulled out.  Drove South and crossed into Kansas.  It's harvest time...


Saw many buildings that have seen better days...



This is really cool, but I think I'd have gone with the "windmill" pattern....

If you're looking for lots of empty space Kansas is the place for you.  This is the typical downtown in small towns...

Gove, KS.  


and the typical intersection...


You can ride for miles and not see another human literally...

3 past souls...

I turned made a turn into a cornfield....and then down this lonely stretch of road...it went on and on and on...


Wilma tried to direct me but a few of those "left" turns were closed off with barbed wire!  I finally stopped listening to her and just used my instincts and finally I found it.   The reason I was in this area in the first place...


Monument Rock, aka the Chalk Pyramids..


This was Kansas's First Natural Landmark.  It is on Private Land, the Pyramid Ranch and Cattle Company, and they allow access across their ranch.  I came in the back way...there is an easier approach south of Oakley.  (off hwy 83) I had a feeling Wilma was wrong from the get go but I humored her...


It started to spit a little rain about the minute I arrived...but it didn't last long so I was able to get out and make a few photos...



The signs say that these chalk pyramids were created when an ancient inland sea drained 80 millions yrs ago.!  One monument fell in 1986 so if you want to see this better go soon...there is "pyramids" on each side of the dirt road...the van is there for scale...as you can see it's huge!


looking through the hole of the needle across the road to part 2 of the "pyramids"
Pyramid Ranch with Pyramids in the distance

On the way out I saw this dead coot in the road it was close to a very small pool of water...can't believe it was hit by a car?? No cars were around...I was amazed by the feet...how often do you get to see the feet of a coot?? 


On the fence I saw Horned Lark... 


And now back on the Eastern side of the Rockies we have Yellow Shafted Flickers...(one is immature)


a very rural cemetery with a beautiful view...


I felt tired so we stayed at LAKE SCOTT SP  not too far South of  this location..

I took only a few photos there one of a Belted Kingfisher near my campsite by the boat ramp..


And the lake, 

 

Clouds moved in ....they cleared out the next day and before we left we visited this landmark within the park...
  the ancient ruins...El Cuartelejo, from 1696  



History here goes way back!! 

OHHH some Wild Turkey showed up just as I was leaving the park..



hello!



In the morning we intersected Highway 4 a Scenic Byway and headed  East ..




PEACE
Every day is a new Adventure.