We were interviewed for the November/December 2016 issue of the Kansas Wildlife and Parks magazine: The Kansas Guide to Becoming an Intentional Wanderer. Download and read the article here.
Kansas Trail Guide book review in The New Territory
The new quarterly print magazine The New Territory wrote a lovely review of the book and tied it in with the value of getting out and exploring Kansas in general. Download and read it here: The New Territory book review.
About the magazine: Founded by a journalist in 2015, The New Territory is a quarterly print magazine of and for the Lower Midwest. Our writers live here, see powerful stories happening every day, and document them through longform journalism, literature, photojournalism and art. The best part is, you can hold the magazine in your hands, share it with your friends, and connect with your neighbors in new ways.
Kansas Trail Guide book review in The Manhattan Mercury
The Manhattan Mercury book review can be read here. (Don’t mind the misspelling of Conard!)
What’s so special about Kansas: Interview with First Lady Mary Brownback of Kansas
We were honored to be invited to a reception at Cedar Crest Mansion in Topeka for the Kansas Book Festival this past September, and we were able to chat with First Lady Mary Brownback of Kansas. We reached out to her again recently to get her thoughts on what’s so special about the Sunflower State, and here’s what we found out!
Cedar Crest has many trails close by – it’s particularly unique to have public trails so close to a governor’s mansion – what value do you feel public trails and public lands have in Kansas?
These public trails and lands give so many of our residents the opportunity to get out and enjoy nature, to see and experience so many new things.
I think about people living in large, metropolitan areas and, not that there aren’t opportunities for those people to enjoy the great outdoors, but it seems the opportunities are fewer and farther between.
Do you see a lot of trail users at MacLennan Park and Cedar Crest?
Every single day. Regardless of weather, there are plenty of people who will bring their dogs for walks on the trail. When the weather is nice though, the trails are full of walkers, runners, bikers and hikers, alike. There are many who come to fish at the ponds, as well.
What are some of the biggest Kansas misconceptions you think people have?
I think two of the biggest misconceptions about Kansas are that Kansas is flat and that there’s nothing to see or do here.
Out of staters often think of Kansas as “flyover country” – what would you say to change their minds?
If they’re only flying over Kansas, they’re sure missing out on a lot. The Flint Hills are absolutely beautiful, the college and university campuses are wonderful and, in my travels across the state, I’ve seen some of the most unique main streets with artisan shops and local flair.
When you think of Kansas, what’s the image that comes to mind?
Without a doubt, I picture “home.” This is the state where I grew up, where I live among some of the friendliest people in the world. It’s where I’ve put down roots with my own family and raised my children. There’s no place I’d rather be.
For someone who’s never been to Kansas, do you have any recommendations for where to go or what to see?
There are so many great places to take a first-time visitor to our State. A walk around the campus of the University of Kansas (my alma mater!), the Flint Hills, the Kansas Cosmosphere and the salt mines in Hutchinson all immediately come to mind.
But there’s also the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays and the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield. So many great attractions that make Kansas such a special place.
For someone who grew up in Kansas and feels like they’ve seen everything there, do you have any recommendations for where to go or what to see?
Many of my answers for this question could overlap with the question above. If you’ve grown up in Kansas, you’ve surely had a tour of the State Capitol. But with the recent renovations, that is definitely a site that you’ll want to plan to visit again; it’s absolutely beautiful.
If you’ve never been to Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Wichita or the Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure in Salina, those are a couple of the more unique zoo experiences that you’ll find in this area.
Finally, most Kansans get a good laugh out of the fact that we’re home to several “world’s largest” sites but if you haven’t seen it before, the world’s largest hand dug well in Greensburg really is quite the sight.
What makes Kansas special for you?
Many of my fondest memories have taken place in Kansas. Having spent the majority of my life here, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. This is home.
Don’t miss the sandhill crane migration at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
From around Valentine’s Day to April Fool’s Day – the cranes come through Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.
Recent sightings at the refuge have included sandhill cranes in the thousands on the west side of Big Salt Marsh.
Kansas is a part of the “central flyway” – a migratory route for a variety of birds between Canada and Central America and the marshes and wetlands of Quivira National Wildlife Refuge provide an ideal resting and refueling spot.
Some crane facts
Sandhill cranes are passing through Kansas on their way north to breed from their southern wintering locales. The birds, which can be 3-4 feet tall, gather in large groups during migration — strength in numbers.
At night, the waters and marshes are an ideal resting spot as any predator coming upon them will disturb the water, notifying the cranes that danger is near.
If you see two flying together, it’s likely a mated pair. If it’s three together, it’s likely to be a family group — juvenile cranes will stick with Mom and Dad for the first 10 months or so.
They can be noisy birds with distinct calls — rattling bugling type sounds that can be heard up to a mile away. Click to listen to them here.
They mate for life, which can be 20 years. Mate selection happens after courtship in the form of dancing — leaping, bobbing their heads, displaying their wings. One example is a male will fling a piece of grass or vegetation into the air as if to say “Look at me, choose me, I can build a good nest.”
They also have distinct “displays” and you can tell from their body language what they’re trying to say. Bowing, stretching their necks, jumping – each display communicates something unique.
Stop by Quivira National Wildlife Refuge — the Big Salt Marsh is one of the best places to see the cranes. It’s open daily from 1.5 hours before sunrise to 1.5 hours after sunset.
On Trails: An Exploration book review
When hiking it’s easy to appreciate the scenery, but how often do we stop and think about the trail itself? In his book On Trails, Robert Moor draws from his own experience on the Appalachian Trail to contemplate the nature of trails.
He reflects on the intricacies and origins of all types of paths that serve to connect places. Moor delves deeply into the process of trail creation by organisms ranging from ants to elephants and connects this process to the trail experience of modern hikers.
The book has weighty thoughts on trail origins and it is indeed interesting to consider the natural development process that creates trails and paths.
The foray into the intersection of ecology and trail-building can be somewhat fascinating, but a hiker may gravitate more towards the chapters on modern trails including an insightful glimpse into the development the International Appalachian Trail which spans continents and exists as a ‘trail’ that is not physically connected or continuous.
Moor also tells tales from the trail itself, recounting AT hiking trips and tagging along with the ultimate long-distance hiker, Nimblewill Nomad (whose mind-boggling walks have followed all the major trails and recently included a sweep across Kansas along the route of the old Pony Express Trail).
For trail buffs, this book will be a thorough guide to trails of all kinds and a reflection on how trails are ultimately shaped by travelers.
Kansas Day is on its way
Kansas was founded on January 29, 1861. It was the 34th state to join the Union, and it joined the Union as a free state. Slave owning was not acceptable in Kansas when it joined the Union. While not disparaging other states, the pride of always having been a state where all men and women are created equal can’t be denied. Kansas joined the Union as a free state, and it fought ferociously to defend that. Including one of the first battles of the Civil War – at Black Jack Battlefield. In trying times, it is reassuring to know that Kansas’s history shows it as a freedom loving state.
Trail Profile: South Mound Trails
“And when in the great future of the matchless State, farm shall be added to farm, and town to town, and the great cities of the future shall have come, the mounds shall still stand and still keep silent watch over the noble landscape forever beneath their feet.” -William G. Cutler 1883
One of the most striking natural landmarks in Wilson County are the Twin Mounds which rise up to an elevation of over 1,000 feet to tower over the surrounding plains. Noted by William G. Cutler in his 1883 “History of Kansas”, early hikers were said to take a “well-worn path” to the summit and upon reaching the pinnacle can see “unrolled before him one of the finest sights of the new world. Southward runs the somber timber lines which mark the course of Fall River. Westward lies the second mound and between the fertile fields to the far north can be seen the fringe of the Verdigris”
The mounds still keep watch over Fredonia and present a sweeping view of the Fall River valley. The South Mound is now graced by a picnic area, playground, observation tower, and what appears to be the largest American flag west of the Verdigris. Through the work of the Kansas Trails Council and the Cultivate Fredonia Healthy Living Action Team, the South Mound also regained a short trail network that allows hiker and bikers to explore the rocky wooded areas along the rim and steep slopes of the mound.
In a patriotic spirit, the trail network is christened the “Old Glory Trail” and trail segments include the 0.34 mile Liberty Trail which traverses the rim of the mound, and a slightly longer loop trail lower on the hillside known as the Freedom Trail. Both trails have a natural surface and the upper trail offers sweeping views off the side of the mound and some fun rocks and boulders for a little off-trail scrambling. Check out the map below for the trail location and route options.
DRINKMaple – maple water review
A touch of the flavor from licking the back of a fork after you’ve had pancakes.
These were some of the responses I got after having various family members try out pure maple water by DRINKMaple. (I do realize that both crisp and refreshing are listed as tag lines on the bottle itself – but I did a blind taste test!)
Overall, the first thought was that it would be too sugary – that it would taste like maple syrup.
But once everyone tried it, the consensus was that it was unexpectedly light and tasty, and that it tastes best after it’s been in the refrigerator.
The water is pure maple sap, sustainably tapped from maple trees in Vermont – no concentrate and no connection to maple syrup production.
It’s closest comparison, in terms of flavored, slightly hipster seeming drinks, would be coconut water. But the advantage the maple water has is about half as much sugar as coconut water – maple water has 7 grams per serving (one 12 fl oz bottle).
It’s got manganese, calcium, and potassium — all helpful minerals. And it’s certified organic by Quality Assurance International (a USDA-accredited agency). To top it all off, part of the proceeds for every bottle sold goes to supporting MORE Than Sport – an organization that supplies clean drinking water to “individuals in developing nations beset by drought and disaster.”
Why not simply drink regular water? Maple water seems to stand in a sweet spot between water and sports drinks. For most of us, we aren’t exercising enough to really warrant needing the amount of electrolytes and sugars that are in sports drinks like Gatorade. But it does give you more fuel than plain water.
The website has some fun recipes you can try from the healthy to the indulgent (with far fewer additives and processed sugars) – wellness shots to pumpkin protein smoothie to watermelon mint maple water cooler.
Overall – tasty and good for you (as far as I can tell – I’m not a doctor!), better for you than sports drinks or coconut water, and great for drinking by itself or using as a recipe ingredient.
Product provided free of charge for review purposes, but opinions are all my own.
Celebrate 2017 with a First Day Hike
America’s State Parks is sponsoring guided New Year’s Day hikes around the country. And there are quite a few in Kansas. For more information, you can go here, and below we’ve included the when and where for the trails in Kansas.
Most look to be fairly easy to moderate and around 1-2 miles. For most, it looks like you can just show up. We’ll make a note if reservations are needed. Many are also on leash pet friendly. And some include hot chocolate and snacks!
Cedar Bluff State Park at 9:00am – Agave Trail. Meet at trailhead.
Clinton State Park at 1:00pm – North Shores Trail. Meet at the Swim Beach Parking Lot.
Crawford State Park at 11:00am – Multiple trails. Meet at the Beach Shelter. Register at 620-362-3671.
Cross Timbers State Park at 2:00pm – Ancient Tree Trail. Meet at the trailhead in Toronto Point. **Hot chocolate provided!**
Eisenhower State Park at 10:00am – Archery/Bike Trail & Scooter Trail. Archery – meet at the Five Star Trailhead. Scooter Trail meet at West Point. **Hot chocolate and coffee provided following the hike**
El Dorado State Park at 1:00pm – Walnut Ridge Trail. Meet at the Walnut River Cabins.
Fall River State Park at 2:00pm – Post Oak Trail. Meet at the trailhead in Quarry Bay.
Hillsdale State Park at 10:30am – Hidden Springs Nature Trail. Meet at State Park Office. **Hot chocolate and cider provided after the hike**
Kanopolis State Park at 9:00am – Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail. Meet at State Park Office.
Meade State Park at 2:00pm – West Trail. Meet at trailhead.
Perry State Park at 9am – Skyline/Mad Mile/Daisy Point. Meet at trailhead.
Pomona State Park at 12:30pm – Multiple trails. Meet at State Park Office.
Prairie Dog State Park at 9:00am – Steve Mathes North Trail. Meet at trailhead.
Prairie Spirit Trail at 2:00pm – Meet at Garnett Depot Trailhead.
Sand Hills State Park at 10:00am – Dune Trail/Prairie Trail. Meet at the State Park Office.
Tuttle Creek State Park at 4:00pm – Western Heritage Trail. Meet at the State Park Office. **Hot chocolate and snacks provided!**
Wilson State Park at 1:30pm – Cedar Trail. Meet at the trailhead.