Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Afternoon in Washington County

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to take a "Dare to do Dirt" loop around a portion of Washington County in North Central Kansas.

I entered the county in the south and headed to Palmer where I had a buffet lunch at the Palmer Cafe. While in town, I also went to the grocery store for a few items, then drove around town. This small town had several businesses downtown and the elegant St Paul Lutheran church. I was impressed to see that such a small town was still vibrant and well.

Then I went on to Linn to see another small town. I noticed several churches, a unique clothesline mural downtown, a nice city park, and another local grocery store, Jack's Food Store. I purchased some polish sausages and pork jerky from Jack's to take home - both were good.

Next up was the town of Greenleaf. I noticed a mix of older abandoned buildings and newer structures and some nice residential areas. The farmer's COOP was active, and there were several churches and a nice downtown area. The two limestone WPA community buildings were very striking.

From Greenleaf, I headed east, then north to the Little Blue River valley. I headed up a hill to Pine Hill Cemetery, where I found the grave of Ezra Perkins, a Pony Express Rider in 1860 & 1861. The views from this cemetery were great all around.

I headed north thru Hanover, then west across central Washington County, noticing great views in the hills. This area is in the Smokey Hills psysiographic area, but other parts of this county are actually in the Glacial Hills and Flint Hills regions. I eventually ended up in Morrowville, where I stopped to see the replica of the world's first patented bulldozer in the city park. I was also struck by the elegant old concrete water tower structure.

After leaving Morrowville, I headed south then west to visit two former town sites. First, I went through Enosdale, where I found some crumbling wood structures and an active Friends Cemetery. Then I headed west on K-148 and stopped at the monument to the former townsite of Strawberry.

I enjoyed my visit to Washington County and need to go back to see more.

To see more of my photos from Washington County visit my gallery at the following link:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dare to do Dirt - Miami and Linn Counties, Kansas

Last week I had the opportunity to travel some backroads in Miami and Linn counties in eastern Kansas.

I had made a loop around most of Miami County on a past visit, but wanted to see the easternmost part of the county, so I entered Miami County in the northeast corner and visited the community of Bucyrus for a few minutes, then headed east and found the beautiful Queen of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church at Wea. I also visited the cemetery out back.

Then, I headed southeast around the town of Louisburg, then south to visit the wood deck pony truss bridge over South Wea Creek. I continued on south into the southeast corner of Miami County and stopped to view the pony truss bridge over an arm of LaCygne Lake on 399th Street. This was a very beautiful area that I would have liked to see a few weeks earlier in full fall color.

I then went on south into the northeast part of Linn County. First stop was the town of LaCygne, the city of swans. There were swan statues all over town. I had a good hamburger steak with great grilled onions at the Family Cafe just east of town.

From LaCygne, I traveled southeast to the Marais des Cygnes Massacre historic site, where in 1858, 11 free state people were rounded up by pro-slavery ruffians, lined up along a ravine, shot and left for dead. Interpretive signs help tell the story about this incident. The beautiful stone Hadsell house used as a museum was closed for the season.

Next up was a visit to Trading Post Cemetery. Settlement in this area began with French traders in 1825. The museum was closed for the season, but I saw evidence of many early settlers in the cemetery.

I continued on south past Pleasanton and visited the Rainbow Arch bridge over Mine Creek. I did not visit Mine Creek Battlefield Park on this visit, but intend to do so on another trip. The next town was Prescott, where I noticed the school which has been converted into the town library, and the beautiful brick elementary school which in now City Hall. Not far southwest of Prescott, I found a beautiful triple arch stone bridge over East Laberdie Creek.

After going on west across the southern part of Linn County, I turned north and visited the communities of Centerville, Goodrich, and Parker. I was happy to find the active Matthes Farm and Field store in Centerville which obviously served the farms in that area. In Goodrich, I noticed the stone church at the south end of town and visited the elegant Five (5!!) arch stone bridge at the end of the lane. The bar and grill in Parker is now closed, but I did see a couple of churches there and a large Christmas lights display at one house.

All in all, I had a great day exploring parts of two counties. To view more of my photos see the following links to my galleries:

There is Still a Rural Johnson County

Last week I made a trip to northeast Kansas. While there, I took a couple of loops around the western and southern parts of Johnson County in order to complete my "Dare to do Dirt" quest for the county. I found that suburbia is fast encroaching as it is in Sedgwick County around Wichita, my home. I was pleased to still find some rural areas in Johnson County.

I began by entering the southwest corner of the county and stopping at the Edgerton Cemetery, then heading into town. I admired the architecture including the historic Grange Hall, and the public library, with it's sign "Bank of Knowledge", along with several churches.

After leaving Edgerton, I drove out to the Lanesfield School site which is on the National Register of Historic Places. This school, dating back to 1869, has been restored to it's 1904 version. I also enjoyed visiting the museum building to learn about the one room schools all over Kansas over the years.
I then continued north into the western part of Johnson County near the border with Douglas County. I visited a beautiful pony truss bridge over Captain Creek on west 127th Street near the Sunflower Army Ammunition plant. Then, I went around the corner and up the hill to visit the somewhat remote Prairie Center Cemetery, which was on a hill with mature cedar trees.

On another day, I made a loop across the southern part of Johnson County. I found a number of horse farms in this area and saw one dairy farm too. I did go east to State Line Road to the Missouri border for a few miles then headed back west across the far southern part of the county. A couple of gems I found were a low water bridge giving a great view of Camp Branch Creek on 175th Street near the Missouri border and a unique wagon wheel fence along a sod grass farm not far from Stillwell.

For a gallery of my favorite images and videos from Johnson County, please visit the following link to my Smugmug gallery:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Some Great Cuisine in Northeast Kansas

This past week, I had the opportunity to take a 3 day trip to northeast Kansas. During this time, I had some memorable meals.

I had a smoked chicken meal at Smokey's BBQ in Wellsville in northeast Franklin County. I ordered my meal with potato salad and baked beans. The chicken was wafer sliced, contained a very generous serving and was well smoked. The baked beans contained chunks of ham and were very good. I enjoyed the chunky medium sauce on the chicken. They also serve a good apple bread that is the consistency of cornbread. Smokey's is open daily at 510 Main in Wellsville. Phone 785-883-4119.

Based on a recommendation of Keith Stokes restaurant guide for Olathe, I had a meal at Chapala Mexican Restaurant. I ordered my favorite tacos de carne asada, and they were good, comparing favorably to any I've had at other Kansas restaurants. I did enjoy the salsa and chips too. Chapala is located just off I-35 at exit 218. See Keith's extensive guides at the following link: 

Keith Stokes Kansas Travel, Tourism & Restaurants

I visited Hillsdale Bank Bar B-Q, located in a 100 year old red brick bank building in Hillsdale, northern Miami County. This facility also features a caboose which has been converted with dining areas. I've had their smoked meats on previous visits and enjoyed their fine sauce at home. This time, I tried a pizza with smoked chicken, red onions, banana peppers and tomatoes. The 8 inch square pizza was cooked in a wood fired oven and served on a pizza stone. It was sliced on a diagonal into 8 pieces. The pizza was excellent with a thin crispy crust, fresh toppings and good sauce. I would highly recommend it.

For more information, see the following link:

Hillsdale Bank Bar B-Q

Also, I had the opportunity to visit Guy and Mae's Tavern in Williamsburg in western Franklin County to try some of their famous pork spare ribs. This family run business has been operating since 1973, and serves half and full rack ribs on foil and newspapers. I found the ribs to be very tender - they almost fell off the bone. The mild sauce was good, although not really needed on the ribs. The atmosphere was friendly in the tavern too. Guy and Mae's tavern was voted as one of the 8 wonders of Kansas cuisine during the contest coordinated by the Kansas Sampler Foundation.

For more information about Guy and Mae's Tavern, visit the following link:

Try any of these fine restaurants.

No "Dare to do Dirt" in Wyandotte County

I've been on an Explorer Quest for 3 1/2 years now. My stated goal is to drive at least 25 miles of unpaved roads in each of the 105 counties in Kansas. These can be earth, sand, or gravel, just not asphalt or concrete.

Last week, I had the opportunity to get to a rural area in extreme southwest Wyandotte County. This area is bounded by 142nd Street on the West, the Kansas River along the east and south, and up to the city limits of Bonner Springs on the north. Loring Drive is along the east.

This area is still rural, but I found no unpaved roads. Every road even in this area is asphalt. I found active farms in this area and one farmer was cutting his soybeans. I saw a couple of UP trains passing while I was there and noted that the Little Kaw Creek passes through this area.

This area was the last bit of unincorporated area that was shown on my KDOT map for Wyandotte County. Therefore, I'm not optimistic that I can find any unpaved roads in this county, and I will probably not search further unless anyone reading this can direct me elsewhere.

For a few photos I took in this area, please see my gallery at the following link:

Wyandotte Rural

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Some Dirt Road Exploring in Southeast Kansas

Recently I had the chance to take a day trip to explore parts of Labette and Cherokee counties in southeast Kansas.

I began by following the Neosho River valley in far eastern Labette County. I headed south from the small town of Strauss and crossed Litup Creek a number of times. Shortly, I arrived at Oswego.

I spent some time exploring around Oswego noting some of the murals, the 1867 log cabin, the Labette County Courthouse, John Matthews park, and the Carnegie Library. I noted that Commercial Street was wide enough for people to park in the middle of the street.

Also in Oswego, I was amazed at the view off the bluff above the Neosho River in Riverside Park. This is one of the most picturesque spots for a city park that I've seen.

After leaving Oswego, I headed over into the southwest corner of Cherokee County to finish my Dare to Do Dirt loop. I had made a previous trip around the northern, eastern, and southeastern parts of the county in 2007.

This afternoon, I visited three old cemeteries, and the communities of Faulkner, Melrose, Treece, Neutral, Sherwin, and Hallowell. This will perhaps be my last visit to Treece, as the residents are now eligible to receive buyouts of their property and be relocated out of this area that is contaminated from the former mining activities. Then the town will be closed.

During the afternoon, I found two (2) low water bridges that I photographed. The Cherry Creek bridge southwest of Hallowell was flowing a substantial amount of water; so much so that I didn't try to cross it.

In the extreme southwest corner of Cherokee County, I came upon a low water bridge over Fly Creek. The most interesting aspect of this site was the remnants of an Iron Truss bridge left there beside the concrete slab of the low water bridge.

I finished my loop around Cherokee County, then headed west on US-160 back across the rolling hills of Labette County.

I decided to stop in Independence for dinner at the Brothers Railroad Inn. I had tried their Italian food the last time I was there, so this time I tried a steak dinner. I was very impressed with the filet mignon. It was very tender and cooked just right. It was well worth the wait on a Saturday evening since I didn't have a reservation.

Then, I had a 2 hour drive back home to Wichita. It was a long daytrip of about 380 miles that ended at 9:45 PM, but was very satisfying anyway.

For more information:


My photo galleries:

Labette County:  Labette County Dirt

Cherokee County: Cherokee County Dirt

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Trip to the Glacial Hills

From October 15 - 17, I made a trip to the Glacial Hills psysiographic region of northeast Kansas. During this time, I was able to complete "Dare to do Dirt" loops of Atchison and Doniphan counties.

In Atchison County, I visited the communities of Arrington, Larkinburg, Muscotah, Lancaster, Cummings, and Huron. I noticed a well kept stucco house in Arrington and actually met the woman who lives there while in Larkinburg admiring the Christian Church. She showed my the interior of the church and I was impressed with the wall art decorating the church.

Muscotah was the birthplace of Joe Tinker, a baseball player with the Chicago Cubs from 1902-1912, who played shortstop. Joe was part of the famous double play combination of Tinker to Evers to Chance, and there is a monument in the city park commemorating this.

There was some beautiful fall foliage in Lancaster, a nice school in Huron, and the small town of Cummings still has a post office.

In Doniphan County, I visited the communities of Doniphan (ghost town), Elwood, Wathena, Iowa Point (ghost town), White Cloud, Leona, Denton and Purcell. Both Doniphan and Iowa Point contain a mix of abandoned and new buildings and homes. I stopped a bit at the Ft Luxembourg visitor center in Elwood, and viewed the historic downtown district in Wathena.

White Cloud is in a very scenic area along the Missouri River and served river boats beginning in the 1830's. There is a monument along Main Street to Wilbur Chapman, the boy who started the piggy bank by donating his pet pig to a needy boy suffering from leprosy.

Purcell is the home of the beautiful St Mary's Church, now celebrating it's 150th anniversary. Denton seemed to be a nice town with very brilliant fall foliage and the unique hand operated water pump in the center of Main Street. Sadly, Leona appeared to be slowly decaying.

As always, I'm on the lookout for interesting historic bridges and I found a number of iron truss and stone bridges in these two counties. Check my photo gallery links below for some photos of these.

I visited several cemeteries in each county, and due to the hills in this region, cemeteries can be very picturesque. Especially interesting to me were Round Mound Cemetery and Muscotah cemeteries in Atchison County. Round Mound has a layered limestone fence surrounding it and Muscotah cemetery has large mature trees. In Doniphan County, I found Doniphan and Iowa Point cemeteries to both offer fantastic views of the surrounding hills and countryside.

I travelled a couple of scenic dirt road drives in Doniphan County. The first was the route from the ghost town of Doniphan up to the Wathena area. This followed closely the Missouri River and the fall foliage was beginning to get colorful in the forests in this area. Also, I took a route north from Wathena up to near the Missouri River, then back south again to just east of Troy. This route offered forests, hills and the bottomland near the Missouri River. Again, the fall foliage was striking.

I enjoyed several memorable meals during my trip. I had dinner one night at Pete's Steakhouse in Atchison. While the hamburger steak with grilled onions was good, the highlight of the meal was a number of homemade salads on their salad bar. My favorite was the Copper Penny salad, a cold salad with cooked sliced carrots and onion slivers in a sauce of sugar, vinegar and oil. I do not see this salad at restaurants very often.

Another night, I had dinner at Paolucci's Restaurant in Atchison, a great place that has been serving Italian food for many years. I had a very good order of lasagna, covered in a rich marinara and meat sauce.

After I finished my last loop in Atchison County, I travelled west into Jackson County to the small town of Whiting where I had lunch at the recently restored Whiting Cafe. The restoration of this cafe was done in June, 2009, and was a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation. In addition to good food, this cafe is known for their fresh pies made daily. I can attest to this, since I had a piece of coconut meringue pie that was easily among the very best I've ever eaten.

All in all,even though the weather was cool and cloudy and misty sometimes, I truly enjoyed my journey to Atchison and Doniphan Counties.

For more information about the Whiting Cafe makeover, visit the Kansas Sampler Foundation blog at:

To view my photos of Atchison and Doniphan counties, visit my northeast Kansas Dare to do Dirt galleries, then open the appropriate county gallery:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Weekend in St Louis

On Friday Sept 25, I drove to St Charles, MO, and met my friend Karen. We spent the weekend exploring in the St Louis metro area, and sharing our mutual interest in photography.

Friday evening, we went to downtown St Charles, and first visited Frontier Park along the Missouri River. This area is the eastern terminus of the 225 mile long Katy Trail State Park. Hikers and bikers are welcome on the Katy Trail which makes use of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad grade from Clinton to St Charles.

We then walked Main Street in downtown St Charles enjoying the shops and historic architecture. St Charles was the first Missouri state capital from 1821-1826. We stopped for dinner at one of several garden cafes and enjoyed the outdoor atmosphere on a pleasant evening. Several squirrels entertained us as we dined.

On Saturday, Sept 26 we drove to Faust Park in Chesterfield. We explored the Historic Village with it's homes, barns and other buildings. Numerous flower gardens were here also. We stopped to see the St Louis Carousel, now housed inside a building for protection.

Next we went to the Butterfly House in Faust Park. After watching a film about butterflies, we entered the Tropical Conservatory, which contains nearly 2000 butterflies in free flight. The butterflies were in constant motion, so it was difficult to photograph them, but we did manage some good shots. We also walked through the outdoor garden here.

Then, we travelled east to Forest Park, site of the 1904 World's Fair. Forest Park, at 1371 acres, is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. After stopping at the visitor center for some guides, we drove to the Boathouse for lunch. We enjoyed some baby back ribs while waiting out a rainstorm and watching the ducks on the lake.

During the early afternoon we visited several areas in Forest Park, including the Jewel Box greenhouse, the pagoda area with the bandstand and Muny Theater, the World's Fair Pavilion and fountain, the Art Museum exterior and Grand Basin Pool, and finally the Cascades waterfall. There were several areas of this huge park we did not see.

After leaving Forest Park, we drove to west midtown St Louis to see the beautiful Cathedral Basilica. This cathedral interior is covered with 83,000 square feet of mosaic tile art with over 41,500,000 pieces of tile in 8000 shades of color. The designs were elaborate and very striking.

Just down Market Street from the Cathedral, we stopped at Union Station. After photographing the exterior, we went inside and looked through the railroad museum, then photographed some of the ornate interior architecture elements, including stairs and stained glass windows. We stopped into the Station Grille for a nice dinner.

To top off a long day of exploring, we went down to the Mississippi waterfront at the Gateway Arch, before heading back to our rooms for the evening.

Sunday morning turned out to be beautiful, and we headed across the Mississippi River at Alton, Illinois, then followed the river road, first stopping at some locks to view some barge traffic. Then we pulled off at a state park to view the confluence area of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Finally we stopped at the historic Route 66 Chain of Rocks iron truss bridge over the Mississippi. We walked across the bridge and back, enjoying the views of this huge bridge and the Mississippi River.

After lunch, we headed for our homes, each having hundreds of photographs to help us remember the weekend.

To view some of our favorite photos from this trip, see the seven galleries at my Smugmug page:

Monday, September 7, 2009

Howard and Elk Falls

On Saturday, Sept 5, I spent a day in Elk County in the towns of Howard and Elk Falls. The Kansas Sampler Foundation had arranged another of the special "Bring Your Own Lawn Chair" events in Howard.

I arrived in Howard about 10:15 AM and checked in on the courthouse square and began meeting many of my Kansas Explorer friends. Then, I walked over to the downtown area to do some shopping and exploring.

At 11:30 AM, the event started on the courthouse square. We gathered our lawn chairs to hear speakers share about the local museum with it's doll collection, from the Batson's who operate the local drug store/grocery and soda fountain, about Poplar Pizza, which has operated since 1995 in Howard, about the recently opened Traci's Trends which offers wedding dresses and tuxedo rentals, as well as alterations and Kansas gifts, and about projects for a new clock in the courthouse tower, for a new Veteran's Memorial, and for renovation of the historic Howard National Bank building.

I then headed for Poplar Pizza for lunch and shared with some other Kansas Explorers there. While enjoying my New York style pizza, I shared with my friend Bonnie Dainley about my "Dare to do Dirt" quest and her quest of photographing at church in each Kansas County.

Before leaving Howard, I checked out the new Veteran's Memorial and Hubble's Rubble, a unique collection of "creations". I then headed southeast to Elk Falls by the backroads.

A group of perhaps 25-30 gathered at Elk Falls Pottery shop at 2:30 PM and were welcomed by Steve and Jane Fry. Then we were treated to an impromptu demonstration with Steve Fry helping Marci Penner make a bowl as we watched.

Then, Steve took us over to another property they bought 5 years ago and have been renovating. After they began removing the overgrown vines from the yard they found an amazing rock garden which we all explored extensively. The Frys' plan to eventually move their living quarters and shop to this location and open another bed and breakfast here.

Before leaving Elk Falls, I did make a stop at the falls, then headed west on US-160, which is always a beautiful drive thru Moline, Grenola, Cambridge and Burden. I stopped in Douglass, in southwest Butler County for some a Mexican food dinner on the way into Wichita.
Elk Falls Pottery Shop:
My photo gallery of "Bring Your Own Lawn Chair - Howard":