9/15 — Free day at the Flint Hills Discovery Center

From noon to 5pm on Sunday, September 15, 2019, it’s a free day at the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan. If you’ve never been, now is the time to go.

It’s an amazing space with interactive exhibits for the entire family. From auctioneering contests to the displays of just how deep the roots are of the prairie grasses.

Plus at the community day event, there will be extra bonus activities around to enjoy. And remember, it’s free! Regular price for adults is $9. No excuse to miss it! Enjoy!

Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing

July 20, 1969 was the day that a man first walked on the moon. 50 years later, the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson is going all out this summer for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

Through the summer

This includes showing the APOLLO 11: First Steps Edition film, watch the trailer below, an Apollo 11 scavenger hunt, a selfie station, and perhaps coolest of all — an authentic Apollo-era Mission Control back room console in the Our Universe Gallery. Designed and built by the Cosmosphere, this exhibit was funded by the NASA TEAM II Grant.

Anniversary Week 7/15 to 7/20

For anniversary week, there are loads of special events with more details here. Presentation and book signing by Rick Houston, author of the book Go, Flight! The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control on Monday.

Tuesday is the world record attempt for most rockets launched in a day, an initiative by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and in the evening, a free presentation on what it was like to be one of the 600 million people watching footage on the moon landing.

Opera Kansas will perform moon-themed songs in the Grand Lobby from 10:30 to 11am on Thursday.

And on the anniversary day itself, Saturday, July 20, at the Cosmosphere, there will be a screening of the Smithsonian documentary The Day We Walked on the Moon, 11:00 am, 1:00 and 3:00 pm docent led tours that are Apollo 11 and Apollo-era focused.

From 6 to 11:30pm on the Hutchinson Community College Lawn there will be a free “Landing on the Lawn” event with hands-on space themed activities, 1969 original moon landing footage, a screening of the Smithsonian documentary after dark.

The grand finale will be moon and planet observations through a giant 16” diameter telescope, led by Cosmosphere Space Science Educators. Learn more about the event here.

The Cosmosphere is a space museum with over 13,000 spaceflight artifacts, the world’s largest combined US and Russian collection of artifacts. It has the Apollo 13 command module, the Liberty Bell 7, the Gemini 10 space capsule, the backup of the Russian Sputnik 1, moon rock from the Apollo 11 mission, and much, much more.

Stay safe with safe sunscreen

Happy 4th of July! I’m hoping that you’re staying safe not just with fireworks but by using sunscreen. There are sunscreens and then there are reef-safe sunscreens. Reef-safe sunscreens, or mineral sunscreens, use non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect people from UV rays, and they don’t use chemicals that damage coral reefs and contribute to coral bleaching like oxybenzone and octinoxate.

So admittedly there are zero reefs in Kansas, but sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate have now been banned in various parts of the world. A lot of that is to take steps to help protect coral reefs, but you should consider using non-chemical sunscreens when you’re in Kansas too. Here’s why.

Impacts of chemical sunscreens

UV filters, the chemicals used to block our skin from absorbing UV rays, have been found in water systems around the world; they can’t be filtered out by waste-water treatment plants. The chemicals have also been found in fish and other aquatic animals. There are studies being done to see what the long-term impacts of chemical exposure are on the wildlife, ecosystems, and in turn humans, who may be eating certain seafood.

Image from Raw Elements

For our own health, the FDA is taking a look at ingredients for sunscreens, and it’s currently in the process of figuring out how sunscreen chemicals impact human health. Oxybenzone, for one, is absorbed through the skin and can cause hormone disruption. Methylisothiazolinone, another common ingredient in traditional sunscreens, can cause allergic reactions. Here’s a link to some of the FDA’s recent published work.

Obviously sunscreen serves a purpose – protecting our skin from harmful UV rays. But if traditional sunscreens are also harmful? Go for natural sunscreens that use non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, the only ingredients the FDA has recognized as generally safe and effective.

Profile and review: Raw Elements, a mineral sunscreen

But do the mineral sunscreens actually work? I had a chance to try products by Raw Elements, a company committed to protecting people from harmful UV rays and also protecting the planet.

Brian Guadagno, who’s an ocean lifeguard, founded Raw Elements. He started by experimenting with different ingredients in his kitchen, and now the line has expanded to include lip balms, a revitalizing skin tonic, and baby+kids products. They use non-nano zinc oxide along with other organic, natural ingredients. A bonus is that many of their products are also in plastic-free packaging. The company was instrumental in spearheading the inaugural World Reef Day, celebrated in Hawaii on June 1, 2019, dedicated to helping people better understand, care about, and protect coral reefs.

Again, I get that as Kansans, we don’t have coral reefs in our backyard. But we do travel! And we have freshwater lakes and rivers and our skin absorbs some of the chemicals in traditional sunscreens.

If you know me, you know I’m very pale, and I was worried that the white cream wouldn’t rub in and it would leave me looking more ghost-like than usual. But it goes on smooth and rubbed in easily. After working outside in the summer, no sunburn. Not even a little hint of red! Plus, even with all the sweating I was doing, it didn’t run – no stinging eyes!

When you’re out celebrating summer here in Kansas or traveling, take a moment for a look at the ingredients in your sunscreen. Look for non-nano zinc and titanium dioxide as the active ingredients. Keep yourself safe from the sun with natural ingredients that work and help keep you and the planet healthy.

Celebrate Rail Trails National Opening Day on April 13

From the Prairie Travelers:

Celebrate National Opening Day for rail trails with Prairie Travelers! It’s a national series of events organized by the Rails-to-Trails Conversancy, and this year is the 7th year!

Meet at the Goddard Park Trailhead of the Prairie Sunset Trail at 9 a.m. for a 12 mile round trip ride to the covered bridge and back. No registration needed.

After the ride, meet at the Goddard Pizza Hut (approx. 10:45 a.m.) for lunch.

PLUS!
Join us 12-4 p.m. for “Pathway to Ride” with Pathways Church in Goddard – a free kids bicycle clinic. Free shirts for registered youth. Register here.

Where to see bald eagles in Kansas – 2019

Where to see bald eagles in Kansas – 2019

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Bald eagle pair in Kansas. Photo by Bo Rader.

The return of the bald eagle has been a remarkable success story.  After being pushed towards extinction, the eagle steadily recovered under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.  In Kansas, nesting eagles made a return to the state in 1989 at Clinton Reservoir and have been increasing in numbers ever since.

As the winter cold sets in, eagles push south in search of open water.  In Kansas, mid-January is typically the ideal time to search for eagles along secluded coves of major reservoirs in the eastern half of the state.

For a good hike with a chance to see bald eagles, we recommend the Eagle Ridge Trail at Milford State Park or the Chaplin Nature Center trails by the Arkansas River.  Throughout the month of January there are events throughout the state that celebrate the recovery of this iconic species. Each of the following events offer educational programs and guided viewing tours for the public.

January 5th: The first opportunity for guided eagle viewing is at Tuttle Creek Reservoir with a program and vehicle tour starting at the Manhattan Fire Station (Kimball & Denison Ave) from 9:00 – 12:30.

January 23rd: Kaw Valley Eagles day celebrates the natural history and recovery of the bald eagle in Kansas with a family-friendly event at Billy Mills Middle School in Lawrence from 8:30 – 4:00. There will be presentations, activities for the kids and viewing expeditions.

January 26th: Eagle Days at Milford Lake. The nature center at Milford Lake hosts an annual eagle day event that includes programs and guided bus tours running from 9:00 – 4:00 to view eagles along the lake. Admission to the state park is free for the event and there’s also hot chocolate and popcorn for all!

January 26th: Chaplin Nature Center will offer a short educational program and guided hike along the nature center trails to view eagles along the Arkansas River.  Meet at the visitors center at 10:00 to join the fun.

Kansas First Day Hikes 2019

So it may be cold for the start of 2019, but it should be dry and there are several First Day Hikes throughout the state on January 1. Many of them include snacks or hot chocolate before or after, and they are all pet-friendly, so long as that pet is on a leash.

Here’s where you can go to ring in the new year out on a Kansas trail:

Clinton State Park

Time of Event: 1:00 P.M.

Trail: North Shores Trail

Meeting Location: Park Office

Details: Warm clothing, good boots, water, trail moderate in difficulty, 2 miles in length


Crawford State Park

Time of Event: 10:00 A.M.

Trail: Spider Leg Bridge Trail

Meeting Location: Beach Shelter

Details: Warm clothing, water resistant boots, water, trail moderate in difficulty, 2 miles in length


Cross Timbers State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 P.M.

Trail: Chautauqua Trail

Meeting Location: Chautauqua Hills Trailhead – Toronto Point

Details: 1.5 miles; Dress warm and bring a camera for wildlife pictures. Refreshments will be provided


El Dorado State Park

Time of Event: 1:00 P.M.

Trail: Walnut River Trail

Meeting Location: Walnut River Cabins

Details: Dress warm and bring a camera for wildlife pictures. Easy to moderate 2 mile hike. Hot Chocolate and coffee will be provided.


Wilson State Park

Time of Event: 1:00 P.M.

Trail: Cedar Trail

Meeting Location: Parking Lot across from Cedar Trail Trailhead – Otoe

Details: Dress warm and bring a camera for wildlife pictures. Hike will be 1 mile and easy in difficulty.


Fall River State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 P.M.

Trail: Post Oak Trail

Meeting Location: Quarry Bay Maintenance Shop

Details: Warm clothing, good boots, water, trail easy in difficulty, 3/4 mile in length, Refreshments provided, What you might see winter waterfowl, eagles, tallgrass ID, and other KS wildlife. The hike will also feature the Cross Timbers ecosystem, with oak savannas that are part of gold growth forests.


Green Property – Pratt, KS

Time of Event: 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Trail: Green Recreational Trail

Meeting Location: Barn/Shop, Pratt, KS

Details: Water,snacks,appropriate winter clothing,good walking shoes/boots,binoculars,cameras. Hot Cider and Hot Chocolate after Hike


Kanopolis State Park

Time of Event: 10:00 A.M.

Trail: Split Boulder Trail – 1.6 miles

Meeting Location: State Park Office

Details: Water,snacks,appropriate winter clothing,good walking shoes/boots, binoculars, cameras. Coffee and hot chocolate provided at the park office before and after the hike


Glen Elder State Park

Time of Event: 1:00 p.m.

Trail: Wacanda Trail

Meeting Location: Church

Details: Water, snacks, appropriate winter clothing, good walking shoes/boots, binoculars, cameras.


Perry State Park

Time of Event: 10:00 A.M.

Trail: Nature Trail – 2 1/2 miles

Meeting Location: Lakeview Parking Lot

Details: Dress in layers and dress warmly; warm gloves and head covering; good walking/hiking shoes; walking/hiking poles, if desired; water and snacks provided.


Pomona State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 P.M.

Trail: White Feather, Bunkers Cove & Morningstar Campgrounds – 1.5 to 2 miles

Meeting Location: Pomona State Park Office

Details: Appropriate Clothing, camera and water. May see Eagles on hike. There will be two options for hikes this year led by Pomona State Park Rangers.


Tuttle Creek State Park

Time of Event: 10:30 a.m.

Trail: Western Heritage Trail – 1 to 3.5 miles

Meeting Location: Tuttle Creek State Park Office

Details: Birdwatching hike, bring binoculars, bird ID booklet, spotting scopes, water, hiking shoes, warm clothing.

 

Milford State Park

Time of Event: 1:00 P.M.

Trail: Eagle Ridge Trail

Meeting Location: Group Shelter parking lot

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots. Easy to moderate in difficulty. Snacks


Meade State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 P.M.

Trail: Eagle Trail – 1.25 miles

Meeting Location: Park Office

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots. Easy in difficulty. Learn park and area history along the hike.

Sand Hills State Park

Time of Event: 10:00 A.M.

Trail: Dune Trail/Prairie Trail 1 mile

Meeting Location: Park Office Cabin

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots


Cheney State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 P.M.

Trail: West Side Trail – 1/2 to 3/4 mile

Meeting Location: Park Office

Details: Water, snacks, weather appropriate clothing, hiking boots, binoculars and camera.

Flint Hills Nature Trail State Park

Time of Event: 2:00 p.m.

Trail: Flint Hills Nature Trail

Meeting Location: Meet at the Old Depot in Ottawa

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots. Pet friendly on leash. Hot Chocolate served after the hike!


Elk City State Park

Time of Event: 12:00 p.m.

Trail: Table Mound Hiking Trail

Meeting Location: Overlook Trail Head

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots. Bring water and snacks, if desired. Pet friendly on leash. Easy to moderate in difficulty


Hillsdale State Park

Time of Event: 10:30 a.m.

Trail: Hidden Springs Nature Trail

Meeting Location: Park Office

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots.

 

Prairie Dog State Park

Time of Event: 9:00 A.M.

Trail: The Nature Trail

Meeting Location: Trail Parking Lot

Details: Dress warm with comfortable, warm hiking shoes/boots.

Share your photos! #FirstDayHikes and #MyKSStatePark

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s December and so we have our annual Kansas Trail Guide gift guide. These are a selection of ten awesome and unique gifts for anyone in your life who loves trails, loves Kansas, or both!

Not on the list, but just as a reminder, that any Kansas trail lover in your life would love a copy of the award-winning Kansas Trail Guide! Order your signed copy for 24.95 within the next week for Christmas shipping.

Heartlandia sticker

1. Heartlandia stickers

This Wichita based company makes fun stickers, t-shirts, pins, and keyring, all celebrating Kansas. I’ve got the Ad Astra Per Aspera one on my car, and the No Coast/Best Coast one on my trusty water bottle. For the cyclist in your life, there’s the I Bike Wichita and the I Bike Newton.

They’ve also got things like the quirky Jackalope and the nostalgic Joyland. They’re high quality, and the perfect stocking stuffer. Buy online or at a local store. Items from $3.

2. Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers

By the talented Marci Penner and WenDee Rowe, this is the second edition of their much-loved Kansas Guidebook for Explorers. It’s got 4,500+ entries of awesome things to do and see around the state. For $24.95.

Garmin Fenix 5 watch

3. Garmin Fenix 5 Watch

We’ve loved Garmin from the beginning of our trail book writing days, and while we had the handheld devices (which are also awesome), the Fenix 5 watch has up to date, color topographic maps, measures your heart rate, tracks your info from distance to altitude (yes, there are hills in Kansas!), and even connects with Spotify so you can get a playlist for your route.

From $699.99 (currently at the time of writing on sale for $100 off) via the Garmin website.

4. Buckskin Road Coffee Roastery

You’ve got to be able to get up and going for the trail. So power through with a super strong, super tasty cup of coffee made by a local Kansas roaster. Started in 2017, the Buckskin Road Coffee Roastery is based in Inman. You can order online, or stop by and they’ll refund the shipping. I also saw their bags of beans at downtown Hutchinson’s new Wool Market & DIY School. From $11.

Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack in Balkan Blue

5.  Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack

Store everything you need easily at hand and avoid getting a sweaty back with the Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack. Named the black hole because it holds so much!

It’s got one big compartment, plus stretchy water bottle pockets. It’s generally waterproof (in that it’s water-resistant and finished with DWR), and it’s got compression straps that hug your hips and keep it from bouncing around too much. Available in four different colors. From $59.

6. Conscious steps socks

Give back with your gift of these socks. They have a sustainable supply stream, and the socks are made from organic cotton by workers in an ethical workplace. Oh, and they’re in a variety of patterns and styles for men and women. You can also designate where you’d like your donation to go when you buy them — to fight poverty, to give water, to protect elephants, to give books. From $11.95.

7. Stall Watch

There are cameras to remotely watch your baby in his/her crib, cameras to see who’s at your door. Why not a camera for your horse? Keep an eye on your horses (or I guess anything you might keep in a stall), day or night, near or far with Stall Watch. It’s a portable video surveillance system that is easy to set up and doesn’t require wi-fi to operate. From $225 plus data plan.

8. The Muncher – multi-tool utensil

As they bill it, “this ain’t your dad’s camp spork.” So yes, it is a spork, but it’s also a:

All the ways to use The Muncher

  • Serrated knife
  • Fire flint
  • Peeler
  • Can opener
  • Bottle opener
  • Pry bar
  • Box cutter
  • Cord cutter
  • Flathead screwdriver

It’s made of titanium and weighs only 20 grams. It’s the everything but the kitchen sink of multi-tools. From $49.98.

9. Lezyne Sport Drive HP Hand Pump

Flat tire out on the trail? No problem. The Lezyne Sport Drive HP Hand Pump is 6.7 inches long and 2.65 ounces, and it fits Presta, Schrader valves. It comes with a frame mount, or you could stash it in your Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack. Most importantly, though, it can pump to over 100psi without exhausting you. From $19.99.

Oofos sandals in black/aqua

10. Oofos sandals

Admittedly, these aren’t the most traditionally attractive sandals, but if you’ve ever had a long day out on the trail and you come home with sore feet and never want to talk again — these are the sandals for you.

With the design of the foam, they absorb 1/3 more pressure than regular shoes or sandals, and that helps reduce the pressure on your joints. They’ve got good arch support, and they’re even machine washable! It means wearing them around the house after a long day on the trail means you’ll be able to get back out there sooner and feeling better than ever.

They’re available in a variety of colors. From $49.95