Celebrate the National Parks 100th Birthday in Kansas

2016 is the centennial celebration of  America’s National Parks, and nationally recognized historic sites can be found throughout the state of Kansas. Our favorites are those with trails to explore, like the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City (keep an eye out for the bison herd!) and the Brown V Board of Education National Historic Site which is the start to the Landon Nature Trail.

Here are two places to join in the celebrations for the National Parks on the official parks birthday weekend (August 27 and 28).

Baseball game at Fort Scott, early 20th century. Don Miller. NPS website.

Baseball game at Fort Scott, early 20th century. Don Miller. NPS website.

August 27, 2016 at Fort Scott National Historic Site – Vintage baseball and picnic in the park

From the NPS website:

Bring your family and a picnic basket full of your favorite food.Eat on the grounds of a frontier 1840s fort while listening to period music.Music will be provided from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Then at 1:00 p.m., you are invited to watch a Civil War era baseball game that will be held on the grounds of the historic site. Two vintage teams will square off against each other;the Topeka Westerns will take on the Wichita Bull Stockings in a rousing game using 1860s rules, uniforms, and equipment.

August 27, 2016 at Fort Larned – Picnic in the park

A prairie dog show and talk starts the day at 10am at the visitor’s center, and throughout the day will be presentations on the history of the area along with a concert by the revived Fort Larned Post Band. Find out more details of the day here.


We’ll keep you updated on more centennial park events throughout the rest of the year.

Planning to go to one of these? Let us know in the comments!

3 Kansas restaurants to celebrate National S’Mores Day

So it’s National S’mores Day. I’m not sure when the tradition started of making national days began – already in August, according to NationalDayCalendar.com, there’s been a National Raspberry Cream Pie Day (August 1), National Root Beer Float Day (August 6), and National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day (August 8).

Photo by Derek E-Jay

These days are a bit strange, yes, but why not join in on the fun!

While s’mores are the classic end of a camping/trail day treat, toasted over a fire, here are three places in Kansas where you can get your s’mores fix without the campfire.

The Donut Whole (1720 E Douglas Ave, Wichita) makes their donuts from scratch with locally sourced ingredients and along with other unique flavors like Maple Bacon and Peanut Butter and Grape, they’ve got a S’mores donut. Oh, and they’ve got a 24-hour drive up window.

The vanilla marshmallows are made in house at Pinstripes (Prairiefire, 13500 Nall Avenue, Overland Park) for their s’mores dessert. You can counter some of the calories by playing bocce ball or going bowling.

At Sheridan’s Frozen Custard (stores around Kansas City and in Topeka) you can get a cone filled with fresh made vanilla frozen custard and topped with marshmallow creme, graham cracker, and chocolate chips.


World’s largest Czech egg now upright in Wilson

Kristin by the Czech Egg in Wilson

Kristin by the Czech Egg in Wilson

Built in 2012, painted in 2015, and now standing proudly in its own pavilion in the tiny town of Wilson, Kansas is a 22 foot tall Czech egg.

Wilson, a town of around 800 people, is the Czech capital of Kansas due to the large number of immigrants from there that settled in the area.

Now about that egg. The tradition of painting eggs with intricate designs at/around Easter is centuries old, and these eggs are called kraslice. And this 7,000 pound hollow structure was hand-painted with motifs and designs symbolizing good fortune and new beginnings. It’s world’s largest status isn’t yet technically official as Guinness World Records still has to measure and sign off, but I’d defy you to name a larger Czech egg anywhere!

If you go:

Exit 206 off of I-70

Corner of 27th Street and Avenue D


A Walk With Grandma – book review

A Walk With Grandma – book review

In the rich history of the Appalachian Trail, a more unlikely hero will not be found.  In the spring of 1955, a grandmother from Ohio decided to walk the trail from Georgia to Maine “on a lark” and captured the attention and adoration of a nation.  “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk” by Ben Montgomery recounts the story of the hard but captivating life of Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, a now iconic hiker of the Appalachian Trail, whose walk along the trail characterized her life of determination and grit.  While many hikers today obsess about the latest gear, technology, and trail amenities, Gatewood had little more then a napsack, umbrella, and the kindness of strangers to see her through a 2000+ mile journey.

Gatewood Picture

Grandma Gatewood on the Trail

At a time when only a handful of people had hiked the entirety of the AT, she started walking at the age of 67 and just kept on going.  The challenges that she overcame on the Appalachian Trail alone would make for an exceptionally inspiring read, but the book also artfully recounts Gatewood’s earlier walk through a marriage filled with adversity and abuse leading up to her first epic trail journey.  Gatewood’s long walk is just the start of her remarkable hiking career and the book will certainly inspire people of all ages to dream big and hike on.

Grandma Gatewood Trail

Hikers on the Grandma Gatewood Trail in Ohio

“Grandma Gatewood’s Walk” by Ben Montgomery is published and available through the Chicago Review Press

150th anniversary of the Buffalo Soldiers – June 25 in Nicodemus

From the HaysPost.com:


Photo by Mark Conard

…in Nicodemus Saturday, June 25, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. [join us] as living historians guide you through a typical buffalo soldiers camp and regale you with tales of the Old West.

It’s a celebration of the all African-American regiments, known as the Buffalo Soldiers.

In 1866, these regiments were given full military status by Congress and the Army designated the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalries.
From thehomeontherange.com:

The Nicodemus Buffalo Soldier Association was established in 1996 in Nicodemus, Kansas, with the purpose of performing historic cavalry maneuvers and sharing the history of America’s forgotten heroes. Most of the Nicodemus Buffalo Soldier Foundation members are from Nicodemus. Nicodemus, a National Park Historic Site about 50 miles northwest of Hays, is best known for its 19th century pioneers of African descent.

Nicodemus is about a 10 to 15 minute drive west from Webster State Park, which has an expanding set of trails.


Steele House – A possible new national historic site

In Lake Scott State Park, also home to one of our top 10 trails, the Steele House has been nominated to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Herbert and Eliza Steele built the limestone house in the 1890s along Ladder Creek. They sold 600+ acres of their land to the forerunner to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, and on that land and with the damming of Ladder Creek, Lake Scott was created in 1930.

The house is open to visitors and it’s been preserved much like it was over 100 years ago.

Bluffs at Lake Scott State Park

Bluffs at Lake Scott State Park

Kansas Day events 2016

January 29 marks Kansas Day. It celebrates the day that Kansas was admitted into the Union back in 1861, becoming the 34th state. Flag_of_Kansas

A great way to celebrate the Sunflower State, particularly since the weather should be so nice for January, would be to get out on a trail, helped out by our handy Kansas Trail Guide!

Here are just some of the places holding special Kansas Day events. Click on the links to get info about times and other details.

Artists needed for the otter exhibit at the Hutchinson Zoo

North American River Otter. Photo by Heather Paul

North American River Otter. Photo by Heather Paul

If you happen to be a professional mosaic artist living in Kansas, the Hutchinson Zoo is looking for you! A call has gone out to submit qualifications for the chance at designing art in the new river otter exhibit opening in 2016 at the Hutchinson Zoo. Read more about it here. Deadline is November 20, and from the website about the project:

The suggested theme of the exhibit is farmland that is being reclaimed to its native state.  This theme will provide educational opportunities for many topics related to how native ecosystems have been impacted by agriculture and development.
The artwork at the Otter Exhibit should:
• Enhance the connection of the exhibit to its surroundings.
• Serve as a backdrop within the Otter habitat.
• Be colorful and fun.
• Strengthen the visitor experience.
• Withstand exposure to extreme weather conditions, including ice, water, humidity and sunlight.

Check out Quivira Wildlife Refuge after dark on 11/6/15

Our relationship with Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (well, by our, it’s mostly Jonathan) is a long one. He has tracked and spotted all kinds of animals out on the salt marshes and sand prairie lands. Some of that has included night spotting of deer, which can be a cold and tiring business. But dedication to wildlife and learning more about it can make those sacrifices worth it.

Sunset at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Mark Conard

Sunset at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Mark Conard

And if you want a chance to see what’s out and about in the refuge at night, Friends of Quivira is hosting a night tour on November 6. From their website:

Discover the Refuge after dark, when many of the creatures not seen during the day can be spotted. Participants ride in vans and SUVs along the Refuge roads using spotting scopes to find deer, beaver, coyotes, bob cats, raccoons and any other nocturnal creature that may be out and about.

For more information, call the Refuge at 620-486-2393 or email FOQ@friendsofquivira.org

What’s on your Kansas bucket list?

TravelKS.com put together a contest/initiative for Kansas Bucket List destinations and experiences. You can add your own on Instagram and Twitter with #ksbucketlist and a list of the top 70 will be coming out in the winter issue of Kansas magazine.

You can check out a gallery of some of the best images here. And below is a screenshot of some of the current favorite images at the Bucket List site. Some pretty cool experiences and sights in the Sunflower State!

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 10.24.02 AM