Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An Afternoon in Great Bend

On Saturday, July 25, I made a trip to Great Bend to do some exploring. Even though it was a cloudy and rainy day, the trip was enjoyable.

Along the way, I pulled off the highway south of Lyons to follow Cow Creek south and west of town. I followed sand roads till I found a pony truss bridge. Also, I visited the historic sites of Buffalo Bill Mathewson's well and the Father Padilla's Cross along US 56 before heading on the Great Bend.

After arriving in Great Bend, I decided to visit the Barton County Historical Museum south of town on US281. This is an extensive facility which includes a number of outbuildings. After viewing the exhibits in the main building, I moved outside and dodged an occasional shower while going through the buildings. I had been here before and remembered some of the exhibits, but one new feature I hadn't yet seen was the fully equiped Lustron home on the property. Lustron homes are all steel panel homes inside and out with a porcelain enamel paint. I had not seen one up close and throughly enjoyed the experience, especially the interior.

Next, I started an auto tour of the Murals of Great Bend, following a downloaded guide. These murals were painted by a wide variety of people and express many different scenes. I didn't quite make it to all the murals, but enjoyed each one I visited. What a nice selection of art!

Finally, I drove back downtown around the courthouse to view the Kansas Quilt Walk. Formed into the sidewalks in this area are 7 quilt patterns dating back to Santa Fe Trail times and early settlers in Barton County. It is a unique art exhibit.

On the way home from Great Bend, I made a quick pass through the Stafford County town of Hudson, home of the Stafford County Flour Mill and the famous Hudson Cream Flour.

Finally I stopped at the Dutch Kitchen Restaurant southwest of Hutchinson for dinner. This restaurant, a sister restaurant to Carriage Crossing in Yoder is well known for cinnamon rolls and good food. I always find the atmosphere to be quiet and relaxing.

Great Bend CVB: (Download brochures of Mural Project and Kansas Quilt Walk). Also access the museum site from here
My Great Bend Photo Gallery:
My Photo Gallery of the Barton County Museum:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Weekend in Wallace and Logan Counties

This past weekend, I spent 2 1/2 days exploring a historic part of northwest Kansas in Wallace and Logan counties.

On Friday, July 10, I left Wichita and arrived in southern Logan County north of Lake Scott State Park. I stopped at the Keystone Gallery near Monument Rocks for a visit. Then I followed a route across the southern part of Logan County past the Little Pyramids, Lone Butte, and the Smoky Hill River valley before arriving at my destination, Sharon Springs, in Wallace County.

On Saturday morning, July 11, I explored the northwest quarter of Wallace County, including a trip up Mt Sunflower, elevation 4039 ft, the highest point in Kansas. I visited Weskan and a few cemeteries in this region.

Saturday afternoon, I met a few Kansas Explorers at the historic Clark-Robidoux House in the town of Wallace, for "The Happening". We had some refreshments and were given a guided tour of this restored Victorian house by the current owners. Then a group of Explorers were treated to a special tour of a significant geologic site in Wallace County called Hell's Half Acre. After saying my goodbyes to the other Explorers, I went out on my own again late Saturday afternoon and explored the southern half of Wallace County.

On Sunday, July 12, I explored the rest of Logan County. I followed a route near US 40 across the northern part of the county and visited the small towns of Winona, Page City, and Monument and each cemetery too. After lunch in Oakley, I headed south to visit the historic town site of Elkader before heading west across the Smoky Hill River valley to Russell Springs. I enjoyed a visit to the Butterfield Trail Museum in Russell Springs and visited the cemetery high on a hill west of town.

Finally I went back to the small town of Wallace for a visit to the Fort Wallace Cemetery with re-created wooden gravestones from the days of the fort and the stone monument there. I then had a fabulous one-on-one guided tour of Fort Wallace Museum by the volunteer, Ernie Poe, before returning to Sharon Springs for the night.

I headed home on Monday, July 13 and had a great lunch at Delgados Mexican Restaurant in Great Bend. Their flour tortilla chips were some of the best I've ever had - so fresh and they melted in your mouth.


Butterfield Trail Museum in Russell Springs:

Fort Wallace Museum:

My photo galleries:

Kansas Explorer's Club, "The Happening 2009":

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Journey to Blodgett

On Friday July 3, I made a short trip east of Wichita to far southwest Greenwood County to visit the historic site of Blodgett(sometimes called Derry). I had visited this area several years ago, and wanted to return.

According to the Greenwood County Historical Society, Blodgett was founded on a railroad in 1880 and disappeared in 1930 when the railroad changed it's location. This area of southwest Greenwood County, northwest Elk County, and eastern Butler County is a geographic high point. A number of creeks and rivers have their headwaters in this area, including the Elk River, Otter Creek, Grouse Creek, Timber Creek, Rock Creek and the Little Walnut River.

The drive back to the Blodgett area begins at Road F, just east of mile marker 325 on US-400. Turning south and following the stair-step road for about 3 miles gets you to the abandoned railroad grade where Blodgett was located. I saw no evidence of a town site anymore. The "road" is almost non-existant, and mostly only two tracks over very rocky ground the entire way. Several draws must be crossed, which could be flooded during wet weather. Also, a durable vehicle with good ground clearance is a must to clear all the rocks of considerable size.

So why did I take this journey again? To get a sense of true unspoiled Kansas. Along the way, I saw cattle, at least 8 species of wildflowers, insects, and breathtaking vistas. I went on south past the Blodgett area with the intent of continuing on into Elk County, but a serious mudhole made me turn back rather than risk getting stuck without any help nearby. Most of the way, I was in first and second gear in my truck. I enjoy this unhurried type of exploring. My journey in and back the same way took about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

After leaving this area, I traveled on some more gravel roads thru Piedmont, then south into Elk County. I decided to stop at Poplar Pizza in Howard for dinner. I had one of their New York style pizzas. The owners opened the first Poplar Pizza in Buffalo, NY in 1982, and opened this location in 1995 after visiting this area.

Finally I left Howard, traveled north and west to the Elk River Wind Farm near Beaumont before continuing back home to Wichita. Listen closely to the video of the wind farm to hear the sounds of nature.

For more about Blodgett: contact Greenwood County Museum at

Poplar Pizza: Wabash & Adams Streets, downtown Howard, open daily 620.374.2525

My Greenwood County Photo Galleries:

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Ride on Amtrak

I just returned from a trip to San Diego and rode out and back on Amtrak's Southwest Chief and Pacific Surfliner. I had been wanting to ride Amtrak for a long time, and when the opportunity to be a delegate for my church at our national conference came up, I jumped at the chance.

During daylight hours, I spent much time in the full window observation car watching the scenery go buy. My photo taking in this car was not ideal as the windows were extremely reflective.

We passed a number of historic places including Raton Pass, Glorietta Pass, and followed the route of the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

I found this method of travel was great for meeting all sorts of people. I enjoyed chatting with all sorts of travelers, even some foreign folks who were on a multi-week train trip.

We were able to get off the train long enough at several stops to allow me to explore around the depots. This was especially true in Albuquerque, where I had over an hour to explore going both ways.

The only negative aspect was the fact that I could not sleep effectively in the coach seats, but I was not alone in this respect.

If you have time for a more leisurely trip, consider Amtrak. While they might not offer the same level of travel as in the heyday of passenger travel, it is neverless a great way to travel.