Superheroes New Year’s Eve at Flint Hills Discovery Center

One of our favorite places in Kansas is the Flint Hills, and one of our favorite places that celebrates the Flint Hills is the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan.

And they’re throwing a Superheroes themed, family New Year’s Eve party. From 6:30-9:30pm, you and your family can enjoy “dancing, music, superhero mask and cape crafts, superpower food, a costume contest and much more!” And at 9pm, there will be a balloon drop! And who doesn’t love a good balloon drop?

Register here by December 29.


2016 Christmas Gift Guide

Looking for a unique outdoor gift for the trail-lover in your life? The annual Kansas Trail Guide Christmas Gift Guide features the best unique and inspiring products that are sure to be perfect for your loved ones (or yourself – we won’t judge!).  Without further ado:

1. A signed Kansas landscape print by David Welfelt

Welfelt captured some stunning trail imagery included in the Kansas Trail Guide and we’ve been consistently impressed with his landscape shots. What better reminder of your hiking adventures than a signed print that captures the grandeur of some of the greatest wild places in the state?

From David Welfelt's website.

From David Welfelt’s website.

2. Pocket Monkey Multi-Tool by Zootility

You can never have enough multi-tools.  Especially one shaped like a monkey!  This unique design is American-made and has a plethora of handy features in a compact design.

And did I mention that it looks like a monkey?

$12.99 via Amazon

3. A subscription to Cairn

Here’s the gift that keeps on giving – a subscription for a monthly or quarterly box of new outdoor goodies from Cairn. The boxes are always a surprise, but they include a variety of items from these categories: food, clothing, gear, skin care, and emergency/medical. They’ve also got a limited set of holiday gift boxes.


4. Adopt a Black-footed Ferret with WWF

The black-footed ferret, once thought extinct, is back on the Kansas shortgrass prairie. Show your support for the little animal and  symbolically adopt a black-footed ferret in the name of a loved one. They’ll get a cuddly stuffed toy ferret, and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped keep a species alive.


5. Fatboy Lamzac

Ideally suited for lounging at the campsite after a day on the trail, this is an innovative way to pack along a comfortable (and very cool) place to kick back and relax. You will most certainly be the envy of all your friends.  Just remember – you move it, you lose it!

Lounging on the Fatboy Lamzac

Lounging on the Fatboy Lamzac

6. Last Wild Places in Kansas by George Frazier

This is one of the best new books on exploring Kansas that we’ve read!  An instant classic for the outdoor lover; Frazier weaves vignettes of his own adventuring into a compelling page-turner.  For planning that big adventure while sitting by the fire this winter.

$17.49 on Amazon

7. TreePod Hanging Tree House

This totally makes me want to be a kid again.  Place strategically on your next camping adventure and keep the whole clan entertained.

Plus, for every TreePod sold, they plant a tree.


Have kids? Look no further.

8. LuminAID PackLite Nova Inflatable Lantern

Long name, cool product. This solar powered, rechargeable lantern is collapsible and weighs just 4 ounces. From one charge, you can get about 24 hours of light. And that’s not just any light – it’s 75 lumens of LED light. Plus it’s waterproof.

$14.99 from Amazon

9. A Signature Camping trip with REI Adventures

For you big spenders out there or those looking for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, go on a Signature Camping trip with REI Adventures. While backpacking and roughing it in the wild has its charms, so does someone bringing hot coffee to your tent in the morning and having a hot shower at the end of a day. Everything gets sorted out for you from tasty food to camp set up to transportation.


We’re not in Kansas anymore! REI Adventures campsite in Canyon de Chelly.

All you have to do is show up ready to hike and explore. Their most recent addition to their Signature Camping trips is the Arizona Ultimate Adventure – Grand Canyon & Beyond. It’s eight days of awesome where you explore many of the legendary canyons of Arizona – Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Canyon de Chelly – and kick back at the end of the day. Next trip leaves April 29, 2017.

10. Flint Hills Nature Trail Patch

So this is more of something that you have to earn.  But what better addition to your patch collection then one that signifies the completion of the Flint Hills Nature Trail challenge? Give the gift of adventure and use a signed copy of the Kansas Trail Guide to plan an epic trip with your favorite hiking partner.  Only 2 patches that have been earned so far.  Will you be next?


Flint Hills Nature Trail Patch


What’s so special about Kansas: Interview with George Frazier

We had the honor of meeting George Frazier, author of The Last Wild Places of Kansas at the Kansas Book Festival, and we reached out to ask him a few questions about what he feels is just so special about Kansas.

On a side note, his book is fantastic and highly recommended!

What inspired you to write your book The Last Wild Places of Kansas?

George: My entire life I’ve had a conflicted relationship with Kansas.

In school, when we sang “Home on the Range,” I wondered how we could countenance a state song that celebrated the buffalo when we had once tolerated their annihilation. Later, when I eventually started to notice the unique landscapes of northeast Kansas and decided to dig my heels into our prairie firma and learn about my home bioregion, I immediately ran into a (mostly figurative) wall of barbed wire.  98% of Kansas is privately owned, so getting access to wild places became my main problem.

Like a lot of people who grew up in or near a city and because no one in my family owned land, I realized I’d spent my life without much direct knowledge of this place I called home. I was knew the wildernesses of Colorado, Montana, and California. But not the wild places of home in Kansas. I felt like a stranger.

So I spent three years travelling all over the state, researching our forgotten environmental and Native American history, “rediscovering” some little known wild places, looking at some of the more familiar ones with new eyes, and meeting hundreds of private land owners who took me into the hidden interior of Kansas.

I wrote the book for people who, at some point in their lives, suddenly “wake up” and smell the sunflowers, people who want to experience the real Kansas – not the placeless farm country Kansas of wall calendars and coffee table books.

What are some of the biggest Kansas misconceptions you think people have?

Kansas has always been an extreme place – politically, weatherwise, and in the phenomenology of wild places. It seems like people are either completely clueless or, strangely enough, almost Pollyanic (is that a word?) in their knowledge and opinions about the state’s wild landmarks and remaining fragments of native ecosystems. The lack of access has indeed come to mean non-existence for most Americans and many Kansans, but wild Kansas champions don’t have to rubber stamp every weedy wildlife area or scrub forest nature trail as fantastic. The truth is more complicated.

From left to right: Jonathan Conard, Kristin Conard, and George Frazier at Cedar Crest.

From left to right: Jonathan Conard, Kristin Conard, and George Frazier at Cedar Crest.

In the book, I’m very generous with what I find, but compared to other recent works on Kansas geography I tried to paint a picture of the state of our wild lands in the early 21st century.

We have much to be grateful for – our rivers are the cleanest they’ve been in a century, extirpated species are making comebacks, there is renewed interested in hiking and paddling, and local communities are getting behind efforts to promote their wild places.

I tried to focus on the good that I found, while pointing out areas for improvement. More than anything I think most people need a pair of glasses fitted with Kansas “lenses” to appreciate our bioregions. My book is hopefully a prescription.

Out of staters often think of Kansas as “flyover country” – what would you say to change their minds?

When I was a kid, as soon as you flew into Kansas airspace the flight attendants had to stop serving booze. I think my parents and most other travelers would have preferred “fly around” country.

Do you find inspiration in Kansas for your writing?

My book took years to write – almost nine all told. I worked on it not only in Kansas, but in California, Florida, Missouri, Mexico, Fiji, Colorado, and Canada.  When writing about nature, I’ve found that being removed from your subject sometimes helps distill a refined perspective.  Walking through the prairies in your mind can help more than walking through an actual prairie in terms of the craft. But my favorite Kansas writing space was the old Glass Onion loft above Yello Sub that used to be on the KU campus. I thanked them in my book’s acknowledgments, but by the time it came out, campus Yello Sub had been razed to make way for the Oread Hotel.  This probably means I need to writer faster!

For someone who’s never been to Kansas, do you have any recommendations for where to go or what to see?

For prairie immersion there is no better place than Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve outside of Strong City.  Bison and bluestem.  Head north through Council Grove to Manhattan after your hike.  There you can do more hiking at Konza Prairie or drink beer in Aggieville – both are true Kansas experiences.

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?

Hike the Breidenthal tract near Baldwin City, the ancient pecan forest at Fort Leavenworth, the trail than connects the main highway at Big Basin in the Gypsum Hills to St Jacob’s Well, the Santa Fe Trail (20+ miles of it) at Cimarron National Grassland, or canoe the Kaw from the point where the Smoky Hill (our ancient buffalo river) meets up with the Republican in Junction City to the bridge in Manhattan. My book goes into great deal about all of those experiences.

Interview with Maggie, the winner of our Flint Hills Nature Trail Challenge

We put out our Flint Hills Nature Trail Challenge, and this September, Maggie and Carrie were the first to complete it! It was actually our original challenge post that inspired their trip, which is a pretty big honor!

All photos by Maggie.

We reached out to Maggie to find out more about her trip, and here’s what we learned:

What was it that inspired you to hike the Flint Hills Nature Trail?

My research inspired me to hike the FHNT.  It begins in the early spring, my obsessive need to find that perfect off the beaten path trail.  By late summer/early fall I’m all set and embarking on my new journey.

I must admit though, the challenge posted for this particular trail peaked my interest.   There are not many firsts in life, snatch them up while you can!

Did you have a favorite part along the way?

It’s hard to chose a favorite part of the FHNT.  Every section is so diverse in its beauty.  From the deep shaded forest to the picturesque prairie and all the fresh farmland in between.  It makes it impossible to pick just one.

Were there any parts that needed to be worked on in terms of building?14333639_10154485147534547_2785065765529463476_n

There were some underdeveloped sections of the trail, but even those held breathtaking beauty.

I feel that the trail council, friends of the trail and all the volunteers are doing a great job maintaining and developing the trail.  It takes time and money, but it will just keep getting better!

We’ve had a lot of people ask us at our readings about camping along the trail. Where were you able to spend the night while you were on the trail?

Camping along the trail is prohibited.  I’m not sure if that rule will eventually change with development,  but I believe trail shelters would be a major improvement. (**Side note – we agree!**) That way you could still be in control of where trail users camped, but give the hikers especially a more realistic day and mileage to cover in between.

As it stands now, anyone thru hiking this trail will have to plan accordingly to make their miles in between public campgrounds.  It doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for mother nature, failed gear, accidents or just exhaustion.

Who would you recommend try the FHNT?

I would recommend the FHNT to anyone.  This trail quickly made my top ten and is perfect for beginners and veterans alike.14237628_10154473083099547_2977704645742298232_n

How long did it take start to finish?

It took Carrie and I nine days to thru hike this trail.  We had quite a time locating trailheads and safe parking that first day, putting us off to a late afternoon start and only gaining 8 miles.  We walked off the trail in Herington the following Thursday around six in the evening,  and headed straight to Subway!

Any hazards along the trail?

We didn’t encounter any hazards along this trail that aren’t the norm on any trail.  The usual down trees, rickety bridges on the list for repairs, and wildlife with the occasional predator.

Any advice to those who want to try thru-hiking the FHNT?

My advice to anyone wanting to thru hike the FHNT would be do your research and make a plan.  This trail is unique with its no camping on the trail rule.  This will make your hike even more challenging and add some side miles.

GPS will become your best friend, for many miles of the trail are not marked, especially near towns.

However, the rewards of this trail definitely outweigh the obstacles.

Our Sunflower Journeys episode premieres 11/10/16


Our segment with Sunflower Journeys was filmed in August at the Konza Prairie, and it will premiere at the end of the Recreation episode that’s airing on 11/10/16 – episode 8 of Sunflower Journey’s 29th season.

About Sunflower Journeys: Kansas’ longest running local history program, KTWU’s Sunflower Journeys, travels the highways to bring Kansas stories home to viewers. And now, there are various ways you can see KTWU programming. Sunflower Journeys airs three times a week on KTWU. Thursday at 8 PM, Friday at 2:30pm, Saturday at 5:30PM and the following Wednesday on KTWU’s Enhance channel at 7:30pm. Sunflower Journeys also airs on KCPT in Kansas City, KPTS in Wichita, and Smoky Hills Public Television in the western part of the state. Check local listings for airtimes on those stations.


Tour the Capitol Dome

Of the 50 states, Kansas is the only one with a capitol dome where visitors can climb all the way to the top and go outside, 10 feet or so beneath the bronze statue of a Kansa warrior that tops the 304 feet tall dome. Oh, and that 304 feet places it 16 feet taller than the United States Capitol dome.

It’s 296 steps all the way up, though this is broken into parts where you can turn around if it’s becoming a bit too much. For the first few stops, you’re headed along stairs hugging the wall. The last 100 or so steps take you up into the middle of the dome, up into the small cupola, and then out onto a circular walkway.

And yes, it’s a bit nerve wracking if you’re scared of heights (as I am!) as you head away from the wall and into the middle, but I made it through, so I’m sure you can.

Tip – If you go in fall, the changing colors of the trees will make the panoramic view even more stunning.

A Kansas State Historical Society volunteer will take you up and give you some information. You start out on the fifth floor and get info about the restored frescoes (one of the state’s first “selfies” can be found in them!). Then you head up to above the interior dome and get a view of the steps up into the unfinished part of the dome.

The dome itself was a part of a nearly $325 million revamp of the statehouse completed in 2014.

If you go:

Cost: Free!

When: Tours are run by the Kansas State Historical Society Monday through Friday: 9:15, 10:15, 11:15 a.m., 12:15, 1:15, 2:15, 3:15 p.m. If it’s too hot, they’ll cancel the tours as the dome itself isn’t air conditioned. Not sure if it’s cancelled if/when it’s too cold…

Where: 300 SW 10th St, Topeka, KS 66612. Visitor’s entrance is on the ground level, North Wing, on 8th Avenue. Parking information here.

More info: Kansas State Historical Society, 785-296-3966

Get a signed Kansas Trail Guide at Harley’s Bicycles in Hutch this Saturday

If you’re running the Salt City Run For The Rocks in Hutchinson, you may be stopping by Harley’s Bicycles on Saturday 9/24 to pick up your race packet. While you’re there, you’ll also find Jonathan there from 10am to 1pm with signed Kansas Trail Guide books available to purchase!

Of course, he’ll be there for those of you not picking up a race packet too.

Good luck to all the runners from the 5k to the half marathon!

If you go:
629 North Main, Hutchinson, KS