Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Genuine Kansas Hospitality

This past weekend, I made a day trip to Montgomery County in southeast Kansas. Before long, I found myself at White Cemetery northeast of the town of Elk City. I visit many cemeteries during my travels - they are fabulous sources of information.

I pulled into the cemetery on the gravel drive, parked and walked around looking and taking photos of some of the stones. After I finished, I got back into my truck and proceeded towards the back of the cemetery with the intent of turning around and coming out the same drive I had entered.

I had not gone far when I hit a soft wet spot in the grass, and before long I was stuck but good. After realizing I could not get out, I walked about 1/3 mile down the road to the nearest farm. After explaining my predicament to the farmer and his son, the farmer said to his son without hesitation: "Get a chain and help him out. Take the truck, tractor, or whatever you need".

We rode back over with a 4 wheel drive truck, but this could not pull me out. As the young man went back for the tractor, I snapped a photo of the situation. Soon the young man returned with the tractor, and we hooked the chain under my truck's frame and pulled me out. I thanked him, and as I already suspected, he would not accept any money for the 30 minutes time he had spend helping me.

My point in sharing this story is to emphasize that, Kansans, almost without exception, are congenial, helpful, and willing to share about their towns, communities, etc, especially when you show interest. Try stopping into a local cafe and talking to the locals, attending a local event, visiting a town or county museum, and you will probably find, like I have on many occasions, that one of Kansas' best assets is her people.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Exploring Geary County

Recently,I had the opportunity to explore the rural areas of Geary County, mostly south of I-70 and Junction City.

Geary County lies within the Flint Hills physiographic region. I have not explored the northern Flint Hills nearly as much as the southern areas and enjoyed the chance to take in some new areas.

While in the county, I visited at least 10 historic bridges: 3 Truss bridges, 3 Concrete Rainbow Arch bridges, and 4 stone bridges. I followed roads along most of the major creeks, including Lyon Creek, Clark's Creek, Humboldt Creek, and McDowell Creek.

I visited 9 rural cemeteries and noted there were many Scandinavian settlers in the area. I visited 2 beautiful Lutheran Churches: St Joseph's (now closed) and St Paul's (active).

Finally, I can heartily recommend Stacy's Restaurant in the Grandview Plaza area. I had an great Sloppy Joe sandwich and potato salad meal there.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tips for Photographing Streams

One of my favorite subjects to photograph are streams, creeks and rivers of all sizes. I continue to take photos during all seasons of the year, and would like to offer some tips that I have learned over many years.

In spring and summer, the trees will of course have most of their full green foliage, and there may be other green vines, shrubs, etc along the water. I have found during these seasons, that it is best to expose a photo either on gravel/sand along the stream, or in the upper canopy of the trees where there is less full green color. If you expose on the deep green colors, it is likely there will be areas of your photo which are washed out.

During fall there will likely be some intense colors in the leaves, some of which are still on the trees and some likely will be on the ground. Again, don't expose on the darker colors, but use some lighter color such as gravel / sand or the lighter tree limbs, but not the darker tree trunks.

Winter photography can present some challenging conditions, especially if snow is on the ground. If there is snow with bright sunny conditions, either reduce your exposure by 1 to 2 stops, or use a snow scene setting on your camera. During cloudy and snowy conditions, it is best to expose on some yellowed grass or lighter branches in the trees. These photos may require some adjustment with a photo editing program to bring out the contrast and brightness.

In summary, it is best with all landscape photos to expose on areas which are medium light - your camera is usually set to get the best exposure with an 18% gray color. In fact, many photographers carry an 18% gray card to use to set the proper exposure.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More Ford County, Kansas and Family Reunion

On Sunday morning Nov 9, 2008, I left Dodge City to explore some areas in northeast and eastern Ford County.

I visited the town of Wright (with the "Right" Coop), then continued on northeast to Spearville. I had not seen the windmill farm here for awhile and also noticed the architecture in town, including St John's Catholic Church and the limestone bandshell downtown.

Then I traveled on southeast for the highlight of my day, to visit the fabulous Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at Windthorst. What elegance! - both outside and inside! I went on east into Edwards County, then north thru Kinsley and onto Lewis for lunch and a reunion with some of my Hornbaker cousins and aunts and uncles. This is always a great gathering.

Finally by midafternoon it was time to head east and south back to home in Wichita.

For more information:

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church: http://www.visitdodgecity.org/index.asp?nid=92

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Dare to do Dirt Loop - Ford County, Kansas

On Saturday Nov 8. 2008 I was able to complete a 150 mile loop around Ford County. I headed southeast out of Dodge City thru Ft Dodge, thru Ford, then east and south to Bucklin. I continued on westward across the southern part of the county thru Kingsdown and Bloom, then on west and north up the western part of the county. Finally I traveled across the northern part of the county before returning to Dodge City.

I visited 8 cemeteries: Bloom, Bucklin, Concord, Ford, Ft Dodge, Pleasant Valley, Ridenhour and Sodville. I crossed the Arkansas River several times during the day, and also enjoyed driving along Duck Creek and Sawlog Creek in the northern part of the county.

At the end of the afternoon, I was treated to a glorious colorful sunset, and I finished up the day with a great meal at El Charro Mexican Restaurant in Dodge City.

Tomorrow, I look forward to finishing exploring the Northeast part of Ford County on the way to Lewis in Edwards County for a family get-together.
For more information about Ford County:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Back On The Road Again

After spending several weekends at home for health reasons, it was good to get back on the road exploring again today.

I left Wichita mid-afternoon and traveled to Dodge City for a couple nights stay. I went out to dinner to Casey's Cowtown Steakhouse. The combination of the atmosphere (stained glass and much framed art), friendly staff, along with a fabulous fillet steak dinner made for a very pleasurable experience I would recommend to anyone.

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to a "Dare to do Dirt" journey around Ford County. Sunday, I will be traveling back east to Lewis in Edwards County for a family reunion.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

First Sesquicentennial Sunflower Barn Logo

On Saturday Oct 18, I went to Dexter in eastern Cowley County, Kansas for an event sponsered by the Kansas Barn Alliance and Kansas Sampler Foundation. This event, part of the BYOLC (Bring Your Own Lawn Chair) series, saw the completion of the first sunflower logo put on a Kansas historic barn.

I arrived in Dexter about noon, drove downtown and enjoyed a good meal at The Gathering Place restaurant. I had their Riley sandwich with pumpkin pie for dessert. I shared the meal with an Explorer friend, Bonnie Danley, from Kansas City.

After lunch, I drove 1/2 mile north of Dexter to the historic barn, owned by Grady and Shannon Martin, housing the Stone Barn Mercantile. Here, we set up our chairs and watched Kenny Unrein, an artist from Augusta, put the finishing touches on the sunflower logo on the roof.

While Kenny was painting, we heard about the barn logo project from Sally Hatcher, president of the Kansas Barn Alliance. Shannon Martin told about how she and Grady came to own this historic barn, came to participate in the logo program, and about their new rental cabins on the property. Kenny finished the painting and was gracious enough to take some of us up on his lift to see the logo from above the roof.

I left Dexter and decided to follow a route north and east generally following Grouse Creek to the extreme northeast part of Cowley County. I visited one of my favorite stone bridges, the Fox bridge northeast of Cambridge, then found an iron pony truss bridge I had never seen before, before finally stopping at the lonely Glen Grouse Cemetery in far northeast Cowley County, which is overgrown with prairie grass. Finally, I continued on north to Latham, in Butler County, then west and on home.

Links: Kansas Barn Alliance: http://www.kansasbarnalliance.org/

Kansas Sampler Foundation: http://www.kansassampler.org/

The Gathering Place: http://www.dextergatheringplace.com/

Stone Barn Mercantile: http://www.stonebarnmercantile.com/

My Photo Gallery: http://ke2013.smugmug.com/gallery/6307153_X8GMy#397749498_AhRjg

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Shopping, Railroad Photography, and Nature Trails

On Saturday Oct 11, I decided to make a shopping trip to several of my favorite locally owned food stores.

My first stop was at the retail outlet at Yoder Meats. I picked up a package of Dutch Mill cinnamon rolls, some Amana dill mustard (goes great in baked beans), a jar of wild huckleberry preserves, and some cinnamon candy.

Then I went into Hutchinson for lunch at Roy's Hickory Pit Barbeque. Their smoked turkey is my absolute favorite barbequed meat I have yet found - it is always tender and their sweet tomato vinegar sauce perfectly compliments the meat. A meal at Roy's includes their ranch style beans, your choice of several salads, and their grilled toasted bread.

Two of my favorite small town grocery stores are the Hometown Stores in Buhler and Inman. Today, I stopped to shop in both of them. In Buhler, I bought a 40 oz bottle of Grannie's Sweet and Spicy Mustard, made near Hillsboro, and about 2 lbs of the great locally made German rope sausage. In Inman, I bought an 84 oz bottle of Knackies Bear-B-Que sauce. This is my favorite all round barbeque sauce - I always have some in my refrigerator. I was pleasantly surprised to see these stores now carry MarCon pies, baked in Washington, Kansas. I bought a strawberry - rhubarb pie in Inman.

As I was leaving Inman, I noticed a southbound Union Pacific train parked on the siding waiting for a northbound train to pass. I headed south on K-61 to the 43rd Avenue bridge to wait for this train, and took several photos of the train passing underneath me. It's a great spot to watch trains in the tunnel of trees.

Finally, I decided to stop at the Dillon Nature Center near Hutchinson and take a leisurely stroll along the nature trails. Fall is a favorite time for many people to visit this oasis of animal and plant life, but I have visited the center in all seasons and taken many photos here.

Some links:

Dillon Nature Center: http://www.hutchrec.com/dnc/
My photo gallery of Dillon Nature Center:

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Naturally Limestone Tour - Cowley County, KS

On Saturday, Oct 4, 2008, I went to Arkansas City to take a bus tour sponsered by the Arkansas City Area Arts Council.

Our group left Ark City and headed east for a drive thru of the Docking Estate, where we viewed the historic limestone buildings on this property. Then we headed to the town of Silverdale for a guided tour of the Born Limestone plant. We saw what operations are done to the raw limestone from the quarry to make it into finished stone. We then drove just south of Silverdale to view the historic Goff Ranch limestone house and barn.

We then headed for Dexter, following the scenic route along Grouse Creek Road and made a stop at Henry's Candies for some shopping. From there our route took us back west for a visit to the historic Andes double arch stone bridge. A local artist completed a sketch of the bridge and it was given to a lucky tour participant by a raffle.

After that, it was on to Cambridge for a good chuckwagon lunch with some music performed by local artists. We then headed west around Winfield City Lake to the town of Floral. At Floral, we viewed the old limestone Baptist Church and were treated to some violin music by another local artist.

Next, on to the Magnolia Ranch, which has six limestone buildings and is on the National Register. The owner graciously explained the history of the ranch and let us enter the horse barn for a tour. Finally we drove on to the historic Long House before returning to our starting point at the Burford theater in Ark City.

For more information, contact the Arkansas City Area Arts Council:

(620) 442-5895 or thru the Convention and Visitors Bureau at the following:


For some of my favorite photos of the trip visit the following gallery:


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Two "Dare to do Dirt" Loops in One Day

On Saturday, Sept 27, I was able to finish exploring rural areas of both Comanche and Kiowa counties in Southwest Kansas. I had made previous trips this year to both counties, but still wished to explore further in each.

I left Wichita heading southwest on K-2 to Kiowa and then Hardtner. Then I continued west on a favorite drive along Hackberry Rd across far south Barber County and entered Comanche County in the extreme southeast corner at the Oklahoma border.

I followed a route thru the canyon areas of southeast Comanche County, stopping to view the areas around Cave Creek, Red Fork Creek, Mustang Creek, Salt Fork Arkansas River, and Nescatunga Creek. The Red Hills and canyons were vivid on the bright sunny day.

I ended up in Coldwater for lunch at Dave's Pizza Oven. Dave makes a great pizza and I enjoyed chatting with him during my meal.

After lunch, I headed north into Kiowa County, and followed a route from the south border on west, then north thru Mullinville, and across the northern part of the county before ending at the eastern county line at Wellsford.

Highlights of my journey in Kiowa County include the marshy oasis along the East Kiowa Creek at the Kiowa/Comanche county line, the Fromme-Birney round barn near Mullinville, visits to Hillcrest Cemetery at Mullinville and Haviland Cemetery, and driving thru the sand hills near Rattlesnake Creek across the northern part of the county.

I then headed home thru Pratt, Cunningham and Kingman. It was a very satisfying 335 mile day trip.

For more information about Comanche County, see the following link:
For more information about Kiowa County, see the following link:
Some of my favorite rural Comanche County photos are at the following link:

Some of my favorite rural Kiowa County photos are at the following link:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Shawnee County Dare to do Dirt

Saturday, Sept 20, I left for a day trip to Shawnee County, Kansas for a "Dare to do Dirt" journey. I stopped in Burlingame at the Santa Fe Trail Cafe for lunch and had an excellent hot beef sandwich with real pot roast beef chunks, followed by a good piece of coconut cream meringue pie for dessert.

I entered Shawnee County from the south and followed a 78 mile route around the south, east and northern parts of the county, beginning near the town of Wakarusa, then east and north around the east edge of Topeka, then thru the Elmont and Grove areas before ending at Rossville. Here, my route met a previous route I had finished in the western part of Shawnee County.

Along the way, I visited two cemeteries and passed over at least 4 historic bridges, two rainbow arch, a pony truss, and a beautiful concrete bridge built in 1914 over the Wakarusa River. I did especially enjoy driving along the Wakarusa River in the southern part of the county.

For more information about Shawnee County, see the following link:


For a gallery of my favorite Shawnee County rural photos, following this link: