Kansas

We left Kansas City (which, for the non-Americans reading this, is in Missouri, not Kansas) around 8:30 this morning, crossed from into Kansas soon after…and are still in Kansas late this afternoon. Kansas 1My first time in the state. As expected, it’s largely rural, mostly pretty flat. But the landscape is more varied than I expected with rolling hills, occasional bluffs, small stream beds supporting clusters of trees–mostly cottonwoods, I’m told. Black, black soil and some very green new growth–winter wheat?

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And the longest trains I’ve ever seen.

We’re aimiing for Albuquerque New Mexico,or close, for Christmas Eve (tomorrow). We’d planned to drive through the mountains and stop near some nature preserves and hiking areas, but there’s apparently a big snow on the way, and a more southerly route seemed safer. While we were busy consulting and arguing with the GPS, we drove right past a sign telling us to turn right for the Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve (or something like that).

We backed up, turned right, checked in at the information center, and took a two-mile walk in a freezing wind to the top of a rise overlooking an expanse of prairie, then down along a stream bed. IMG_1332The grass didn’t seem very tall to us–even for winter. When we asked about it during a quick tour of the 1881 farmhouse, the staff member –a lonely job two days before Christmas!–told us the grass would normally be much longer, but the major drought that’s plagued the area for two years has stunted it. And he gave us a quick lesson on prairie health–grazing and fire are the “two legs” of the prairie, he says; take either away, and the land suffers.

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Reminder to selves: stop on a whim. That’s what the “road trip” is about!

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