Day 235 – Missouri and Kansas


Jefferson City, Missouri

It was impossible to miss the capitol building in Jefferson City.  It dominates the skyline of Missouri’s quaint capital.  I spent a little time poking around, both inside and outside, and came up with another type of restroom available to me – government buildings.  Parks, Wal-Mart, restaurants, rest areas, and gas stations generally serve the purpose, but churches and government buildings have recently been added to the list! Continue reading “Day 235 – Missouri and Kansas”


Day 119 – Kansas East and West Part 2

Day 119 – Kansas East and West Part 2, March 26, 2011

Given I had heard of Dodge City but not Council Grove, I expected Dodge City to have significantly more historic sites.  I have to say, Council Grove’s tour provides a much better depiction of the Wild West, despite Dodge City’s acquired nicknames including Wickedest Little City in America, Buffalo Capital of the World, and Queen of the Cowtowns.

We started the morning out at Daylight Donuts.  It looked like a local place, and it was packed; most of the tables inside filled, a line at the counter, and a line at the drive through.  The “Chocolate Butterfly” seemed to be a popular choice among fellow patrons, so I ordered one of those, a standard glazed, and a cup of coffee to go.  My breakfast packed so many calories that I wasn’t even hungry again until almost 4 p.m., and I generally graze several times a day!

A few blocks behind the donut shop, which I now think might be a chain given I passed by one in the Texas Panhandle, was the old boot hill cemetery site.  Between 1872-1876, 32 men and one woman were buried here, many of their names unknown as they died without friends or money.  The custom was to bury gunfighters with their boots on or behind their head, thus the name.  The graves were moved to a newly created cemetery in 1878.  Now the hill is home to a few statues and plaques recounting Dodge City’s history including the fact that Wyatt Earp was called to the City in 1876 to establish law and order.  One of the statues is home to a micro cache as well.

VANilla bounced along the brick streets to a few more historic site and hidden cache locations.  One of the sites I particularly liked, though I didn’t find the nearby cache as too many muggles were at their Saturday morning hair appointment across the street, was the old movie theatre.  According to the post on the geocaching site, the theatre was built in 1929 and its biggest feature was the world premiere of the movie “Dodge City”.  It is estimated that 60,000 to 100,000 people descended on the City for the event, including national media.  Time Magazine even published a photo spread.

The cold, overcast morning encouraged Petey and me to keep moving.  Before heading west, we drove east of town to take a quick auto tour of Fort Dodge.  The old fort once protected the wet and dry route of the Santa Fe Trail.  Some old buildings survived and appear to be the center of a small community.

We U-turned and started southwest toward Texas’ Panhandle.  About 9 miles outside of town, we briefly visited a roadside display of wagon wheel ruts from the Santa Fe Trail that have survived the last 130 years of wind and weather.  Here we also logged a virtual cache.  In addition, in between the town and the roadside display, I spotted the elusive prairie chicken!  I stopped, turned VANilla around, pulled up by the grouse, rolled down the window, and by the time I raised my camera, the bird escaped…UGH!

Petey and I spent the rest of the day making up our own scenic tour as Dodge City marked the end of Reader’s Digest’s Drive 69.  We turned south to Meade, KS and toured the Dalton Gang Hideout.  The Dalton Gang consisted of Bob, Grat, and Emmett Dalton as well as a few other men.  Bob, Grat, and another brother Frank all served as U.S. deputy marshals out of Fort Smith, Arkansas before the younger brothers turned to crime with their brother Emmett.  After their brother Frank was

tunnel orginally a dirt crawl space, improved for visitors

killed while trying to arrest whisky runners in the Indian Territory, the gang left the Oklahoma Territory to join their older brothers in California.  Soon thereafter, they began robbing trains.  The men were considered so dangerous that a $5,000 reward was posted for each one.  The gang left the more crowded areas to hideout in Meade, KS where their sister, Eva Dalton Whipple, resided with her husband John.  The boys hid in the barn and tunneled a pathway to the house to pass between the two structures without being detected.  In October 1892, the gang attempted to hold up two banks at the same time in Coffeyville, KS.  The citizens of Coffeyville heard they were in town and open fired on the gang as they left the bank killing Bob, Grat, and two other gang members.  Emmett was badly injured and sentenced to life in prison though he was pardoned after serving fourteen and a half years.  Eva and her husband had to abandon their home and settle in Arkansas.  While much is known of the gang and their two year crime spree, little is known of the rest of the family which includes a total of ten brothers as the law abiding members of the family didn’t want to be associated with the outlaws.

The barn where the gang hid serves as a museum to a variety of items and animals from Kansas.  I couldn’t resist snapping photo of this two-headed cow.

VANilla rolled across the plains to Liberal, KS next.  We made a quick stop at Dorothy’s house and the yellow brick road which was also a site of a geocache which turned out to be “muggled”.  The last several caches posted a “Did Not Find”.

While I wasn’t hungry, a friend told me to try out the Pancake House which he claims makes the best pancakes in the world, so I stopped by for a pancake lunch around 2 pm.  I missed out; they closed at 1 pm.  In the meantime, I tried completing a mystery cache.  Yes, another type of cache.  Clues are posted on the geocaching website and cachers have to figure out the coordinates for the hidden cache.  I didn’t spend much time trying to figure out the coordinates, but post named “Flapjacks Anyone” with a picture of pancakes made me think the cache might be hidden at the Pancake House.  I thought I would look around, but I noticed the staff inside cleaning the restaurant.  I figured I’d look a bit suspicious wondering around the covered porch after hours.

My only other guess where the cache might have been was at the church that serves as the finish line for the International Pancake Race.  Yes, that is right, the International Pancake Race.  The other half of the race takes place in Olney, England.  The Pancake Race takes place on Shrove Tuesday, the day preceding Ash Wednesday.  In Old England, it was customary for housewives to drop whatever they were doing and hurry to church at the tolling of the bell to be “Shriven” for their sins.  In 1445, a housewife began cooking her pancakes too late.  Instead of burning them, she carried griddle and pancakes to the church at the sound of the bell which led to the event in England.  The event was brought to Liberal after a WWII American soldier from Liberal learned of it from an English soldier.  Now dignitaries from each town travel to witness the race, compare times, and declare a winner!  While I didn’t find the cache, I did learn of a fun three day event in Liberal.

Rather unsuccessful in my eating and caching attempts, I turned toward Amarillo, and as we crossed the Kansas State Line, I turned to my traveling companion and claimed, “Petey, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”.  We spent a nice evening with Irene, Leonardo, their little girl, Emilia, and their three cats.  Emilia’s favorite color is pink, and she carried a purse as big as she is full of items she needed at the Italian food restaurant.  Irene and Leonardo have a one room cabin on the edge of Palo Duro Canyon where I crashed for the night.  The stars were magnificent.  I’m looking forward to exploring in the morning. ETB,

Day 118 – Kansas East and West

Day 118 – Kansas East and West, March 25, 2011

I got a late start to the morning…my sleeping bag was warm…VANilla wasn’t!  Petey and I spent the morning taking the historic tour around Council Grove.  Council Grove played a key role in the growth of the Santa Fe Trail when a treaty signed in 1825 between the U.S. Commissioners and the Osage Indians resulted in free passage for Americans and Mexicans through Indian Territory in exchange for $800.  We intended to take a walking tour, but after about five minutes in the cold, windy elements, my frozen feet turned back to VANilla for a toasty warm drive.  We first stopped at the Kaw Mission State Historic Site & Museum where the curator provided me all sorts of information.  The Kaw Mission, built in 1851, was a school for boys from the Kaw or Kansa American Indian tribe from which the state of Kansas takes it name.

From here, visitors may follow the riverwalk to town to visit historic buildings, bell, council grovebut as previously mentioned Petey and I opted for a motorized transport.  We passed through town to see an old bell, first erected on a wooden tower in 1866 to serve as a school and church bell as well as an alarm for Indian raids.  The bell later capped the current stone monument which was constructed in 1901.

hermit's cave, council groveJust down the street, geocachers can find a cache and historians can find the Hermit’s Cave.  This cave served as shelter to a religious mystic, locally know as Father Francesco.  Born in Italy in 1801, the Italian priest, Giovanni Maria de Agostini, was forced out of Italy for falling in love with a young woman.  He spent a few months in this cave in 1863 before he left Council Grove in the company of a wagon train, walking over 500 miles to Las Vegas, New Mexico where he lived in a cave that became known as Hermit’s Peak.  It is reported that he performed miracle cures that drew large crowds.  Eventually, the citizens of Las Vegas built him a small cabin where he carved religious emblems in exchange for cornmeal.  The hermit left for southern New Mexico and the Organ Mountains in 1867 and was mysteriously murdered in 1869.

We also visited the Terwilliger Home which currently operates as a café and terwilliger housemuseum.  The owner invited me in to look around.  He said, originally the house was the last house in Council Grove that Santa Fe freighters passed as they proceeded west.  Over time it was used as a service station and eventually fell into ruins until it was recently restored.  One of the doorways even showcases Indian pictorgraphs.

We continued to zig-zag around town to see numerous sites.  The Last Chance last chance store, council groveStore, built in 1857, as the name suggests was the last chance for journeymen to pick up supplies before heading west to Santa Fe.  Its advertising slogan read, “Last Chance for Beans, Bacon, and Whiskey”.

The M-K-T Depot shortened from Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad Depot and also known as the Katy depot is one of only two Katy deports remaining on oak mailtheir original sites in Kansas.  It turns out “caching” took place as early as 1825. We visited the remains of a 270 year old oak that served as an unofficial post office for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail from 1825-1847.  Passing caravans left messages for future travelers in a cache at the base of a tree.

Another old oak (the Council Oak) that toppled in a wind storm in 1958, is the oak under which the council was held to sign the treaty mentioned above between three U.S. Commissioners and the Osage Indians.  It was at this time that Council Grove got its name.

The only jail on the Santa Fe Trail, which housed many bad men and bootleggers sylvan park depot, jailsince the 1880s, was reconstructed in 1998 and now stands at a nearby park along with the Sylvan Park Depot and other historic attractions.

madonna of the trailOur last stop in town was at the Madonna of the Trail statue erected in 1928 by the Daughters of the American Revolution.  The statue depicts a pioneer woman with two children.  These statues were placed in communities on the National Old Trails Road in 12 states.

At the suggestion of the curator I met earlier this morning, I drove 3.5 miles kanza heritage trail, allegawaho memorial parksoutheast of town to the Allegawaho Memorial Park, owned by the Kaw Nation a self-governing tribe of 2,900 members, to walk the two mile Kanza Heritage Trail with Petey.  Even with directions, it was hard to find as VANilla carried us across two different gravel roads to the remains of a Kaw Agency Building which sat a few hundred yards south of the trail.  I probably wouldn’t have been so diligent to find this area except there was a cache hidden nearby, that by the time I got my GPS out on the trail, I had already passed by – bummer!

kanza earth lodge, allegawaho memorial parkThe trail wound past a replica of a Kanza earth lodge which represents the traditional Kanza life style, through the Little John Creek Valley, and atop the highest point in the park which affords a lovely view Ke La Lah Heo's Hut, allegawaho memorial parkof the surrounding Flint Hills.  In addition, visitors can explore stone ruins of three huts built by the U.S. government for the kanza warrior monument, allegawaho memorial parkKanzas in 1862.  The Kanzas chose not to live in them, but instead used them as stables for their horses.  The park is also home to the Monument to the Unknown Kanza Warrior.  The monument, erected in 1926 by local citizens, entombs the remains of a warrior found in a nearby streambed and his burial paraphernalia.

Petey and I finally left Council Grove after lunch and headed west to Marion maxwell wildlife refuge, bisonReservoir.  After an unsuccessful search for a micro cache, we continued on to Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, another place that proved difficult to find along the dirt roads of Kansas.  As I drove down the road, an older, tanned couple waived me down.  The gentleman, sporting a long, white beard asked if I thought the roadside fire was a controlled burn or a wildfire.  While I figured it was a controlled burn, I didn’t really know and said so.

He asked, “Well, do you see many fires here?”

I responded, “I’m from Texas.”

“We’re from California”, called out his wife.

Judging from their appearance, I’m guessing they were hiking across the USA.  In hindsight, I should have asked more questions, but I was preoccupied with being lost regularly, trying to get cell reception that continuously cut off during my conversation with a friend, and seeing one of only 200 bison that wander the 2,200 acre property.  Once we saw some farmers attending the fire, I moved on to an observation tower nearby and watched the bison grazing on the plains!

Cheyenne BottomsI probably should have found a campground in this general area, but since I heard snow might be in tomorrow’s forecast, I kept going.  VANilla carted Petey and me along another dusty road at Cheyenne Bottoms, sometimes called the Jewel of the Prairie. owls, cheyenne bottoms Some 41,000 acres of cattails and marshland serve as a way point for migrating birds in the spring and fall.  We saw a variety of ducks, pelicans, and even two owls as the sun began to set.

sunset fort larned national historic sitePressing further southwest, we briefly stopped at the closed gates to Fort Larned National Historic Site.  I presumed I’d arrived too late, but it provided a decent stop to snap a photo of the sun falling below the horizon.  The neatest part of watching the sunset is that it looked like it was setting above the treed horizon, perhaps because the area is so flat.  Hopefully the picture will work as an explanation as I am at a loss for words to describe it.

We continued on through surrounding farmlands while spotting a few

Bottom of sun above trees

pronghorn and some giant turkeys.  After nearly a 12 hour day, we finally pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot in Dodge City.  I plan to tour Dodge City’s historic downtown in the morning.  Until tomorrow…ETB


Day 117 – Flint Hills Highlights

Day 117 – Flint Hills Highlights, Kansas – March 24, 2011

Today seemed incredibly busy…I hardly know where to begin…OK, how about this morning. After a restless night at Wal-Mart, Petey and I went for coffee and oatmeal at McDonald’s. I’m not sure why sleep escaped me last night, as I was coleman theater beautiful, will rogersexhausted. Perhaps I started out a little hot, and it was a little bright and noisy in the parking lot relative to yesterday’s campground. On the plus side, my internet connection was MUCH faster and I got to pick up a few provisions before we took a three hour drive to El Dorado, Kansas.

On the way out of town, we swung by the Coleman Theater Beautiful built in 1929. One of its star performers was Will Rogers, part Cherokee.

old gas pump, eldorado state parkAs we zigzagged across the back roads of Kansas passing by croplands, grazing cattle, and even a few oil wells, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d ever see a hill. The frontiersmen with their horses and wagons must have been happy to find Kansas…only flat prairie land to traverse. I also wondered why there weren’t any wind turbines around. The windy plains seemed like an ideal spot for them. I’ll leave that up the wind powered energy engineers.

Petey and I made our first stop of the day (after lunch) at El Dorado State Park eldorado state parktoo explore the Walnut Ridge Hiking Trail which connected to the El Dorado Linear Trail. Petey liked the linear trail which was wide and paved with lots of smells and no thorns…he’s a city boy. I eldorado state parkpreferred the hiking trail that weaved through the bare trees and crossed a dry creek. We watched the birds flutter from place to place and even picked up a “micro” cache called Walnut Ridge Bridge. Given the name and its categorization as “micro”, I expected a small magnet stuck to the metal bridge. I was wrong and made the grab much harder than it should have been. Of course it would have been easier if the trees weren’t interfering with my GPS signal.

On my way to Cassoday, the Prairie Chicken Capital of the World, I needed gas. I referenced Gina, my GPS, to find a station just off I-35. Yes, that is an Interstate in Texas, but a turnpike in Kansas. I wondered how much I’d have to pay to drive five miles for gas and return to the same location. As I pulled through the entrance, I glanced at the ticket with the printed fees and exits. After a few choice words, I hoped and prayed I didn’t have to drive 40 miles to Emporia before I could turn around! Luckily I was able to U-turn through the service station and return to Cassoday for only 25 cents.

Between Cassoday and Cottonwood Falls, Highway 177 offered a scenic view. I flint hillshad to pull off. I couldn’t imagine what I’d see beyond rolling grasslands. Posted around a sidewalk roundabout, were five signs describing different attributes of the Flint Hills region. I must be entering the “hilly” part of Kansas. According to the signs the limestone, shale, and chert that make up the Flint Hills were once a sea bottom. Purple, orange, yellow, and white wildflowers grow on the hills. While large herds of buffalo no longer roam freely, the prairie is still home to pronghorn, deer, coyotes (in fact I saw one earlier in the day), prairie dogs, and small creatures. Over 200 types of birds have been spotted in the hills. And finally, sometimes the tall grass isn’t tall because cows eat it, the nutrients might not suffice, or it might be mowed. No joke…I read that on a sign!

Cottonwood Falls has been the Chase County seat since 1859. The first log cabin chase county courthousecourthouse was replaced by an enormous building of limestone and walnut and capped with a steep red roof and cupola. It is the oldest Kansas courthouse still in use. The interior walls are decorated with framed black and white photos of the small, surrounding town. Many photos falls of cottonwoodcapture residents wading through the main street in a flood. The courthouse seemed grand enough that I thought it might be a virtual cache. It wasn’t, but another cache was hidden at the other end of the three block town at a bridge overlooking the Falls of Cottonwood. The bridge has an interesting history. Cottonwood Falls was passed up by the Santa Fe Railroad. Instead it stopped two miles north in Strong City. This twin city

santa fe depot
Santa Fe Depot

situation led to a trail to connect the two cities first via horsecar and later with a motorized vehicle. The bridge, constructed in 1914 for $13,400 was used be vehicles until the 1970s until it was closed. The bridge was restored and reopened in 2007 to foot and bike traffic only. If it weren’t for geocaching, I would have passed right by and missed the area’s history…another example of why I like caching.

national tallgrass prairie preserveWe continued a few more miles up 177 to the National Tallgrass Prairie Preserve previously the Z Bar/Spring Hill Ranch. According to local legend, S. F. Jones came to Chase County from Colorado in 1878 “with money sticking out of every pocket”. national tallgrass prairie preserveJones constructed an elaborate limestone mansion as well as a three story barn, one of largest in Kansas at the time. He wanted his cattle to graze on the fine prairie land. Petey and I took a 1.75 mile walk barbed wire, national tallgrass prairie preservethrough the grasslands. As I meandered along the winding trail through the field, I thought it surely would have been fun to randomly weave through the pasture on a riding mower, plow out a path, and say, “Okay tourists, here’s the 1.75 mile nature trail”. There truly didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the path except to allow people to pass through waist high grass on either side of them.

We ended our day’s journey in Council Grove, some 15 miles north. On our way, hays house 1857we passed by a yard sale as noted by the bright pink sign and purple balloons attached to the mailbox. There wasn’t another house within three miles of the yard sale. I wonder how many patrons looked for a deal. After a fried chicken dinner at Hays House 1857 Restaurant, named for Seth Hays, a great-grandson of Daniel Boone, who began a business serving food and trading goods on the Santa Fe Trail in Council Grove, I located a campground at Council Grove Lake where I met Joe.

Joe braved the lightning filled sky, rain, sleet, and snow flurries to fill me in on the campground. RV’s were parked at four or five campground slots. His son parked next to him and his in-laws were next to his son. I parked in an empty space between Joe and his cousin. His son and in-laws live in Topeka. Joe lives in Paxico between Council Groves and Topeka. He and his extended family spend every spring break here at the lake. He comes down here to fish quite often in the summer, but it is too cold now.

Anyway, if the weather warms up tomorrow morning, I plan on taking the historic tour through Council Groves. It looks very interesting. For now, I’m signing off. It sounds like the recent rain storm in LA has made it to Kansas. Hoping the rolling thunder will lull me to sleep. ETB