Spring Trip To The Flint Hills

When I first met Harland he rhapsodized lovingly about one of his favorite spots, The Flint Hills of Kansas. Being a Missouri girl, I’d never heard of the Flint Hills.

All I could picture was hills…

with rock in them…

Big whoop.

I didn’t get it…until Harland took me to visit the Flint Hills the first year after we met.  And then I got it:  the wide open landscapes dotted with cattle, the carefree wildflowers dancing on the wind, the sound of the birds on a summer afternoon, or coyotes yipping from a valley just over the nearby hill in the evening.

Every spring, we hear the Flint Hills calling to us with their new spring wildflowered green hills, and we can’t resist.  After the cattle are worked and the crops planted, we have a little downtime. So Sunday morning we piled our camera equipment and suitcases into the truck and took off for a couple days of rambling.

As soon as we arrived in the Flint Hills region, we headed down the backroads. We don’t have a plan or route, we just wander.

Here are some images from our wanderings on Sunday:

A sturdy stone cattle loading chute for loading or unloading cattle onto trucks

A sturdy stone loading chute for loading or unloading cattle onto trucks

Young cattle

Young cattle

Cattle in the road. Here they have the right of way.

Cattle have the right of way.

An unusually marked steer. Reminds me of caramel and chocolate syrup.

An unusually marked steer. Reminds me of caramel with chocolate syrup.

Vermillion River

Vermillion creek

We came across a creek that had no bridge and was allowed to run across the road. I just had to get out and dip my toes:

A little dip in a creek

A little dip in a creek

While I cooled my toes, Harland took a break in the shade of the walnut trees:

Harland

After cooling my toes in the creek, I took a few pics:

Pale Poppy Mallow

Pale Poppy Mallow

Violet Wood Sorrel

Violet Wood Sorrel

the remains of a small animal's pelvis

the remains of a small animal’s pelvis

After a half hour or so, we hopped back in the truck for more adventuring. We crossed the creek and were on our way:

crossing the creek

crossing the creek

We didn’t get far before I asked Harland to stop to get a closer look at one of my favorite wildflowers:

Blue Wild Indigo

Blue Wild Indigo

Wild Blue Indigo - close- up

Wild Blue Indigo – close- up

And I wandered about a little bit:

Me

Me

But I didn’t go far and soon we were back on the road:

What a view!

What a view!

Cloud Shadows

Cloud Shadows

A fellow wanderer with a happy dog:

A happy dog

A happy dog

I wonder where it goes?

I wonder where it goes?

Me taking a pic of Harland taking a pic

Me taking a pic of Harland taking a pic

On down the road a little further I asked Harland to stop again so I could get a close look at the Kansas state reptile:

Orante Box Turtle

Ornate Box Turtle

This one is a female because her eye is yellow. The males have red eyes.

After visiting Mrs. Turtle, we took off again.

Abandoned ranch house

Abandoned ranch house

Soon it was late afternoon and our tummies were rumbling.  We stopped in Cottonwood Falls, grabbed a sandwich from a convenience store, and ate it at the park. There’s a little motel in town, The Millstream Motel, right on the banks of the Cottonwood River. It’s always full unless you call a week ahead.

But I said to Harland, “Let’s stop by there anyway – they may have had a cancellation.”

Harland:  “I doubt it.”

Me:  “Well, lets’ stop anyway.”

So we did. And the owners, a very nice couple, were shooting the breeze with some friends out front. We pulled into the driveway and asked if they had a room.

And they said, “Why yes, somebody just cancelled.”

Hmmmm….just like I said.  Women’s intuition wins again!

Happy to have found a room

Happy to have found a room

The Millstream

The Millstream

Cute little place to return your room key

Cute little place to return your room key

So we unloaded our luggage and then headed back out to find a good place to watch the sunset.

We paused at the remains of an old homestead:

A row of trees leads to a now-abandoned stone house

A row of trees leads to a now-abandoned stone house

Remains of stone house

Remains of stone house

Then we were off again to seek out the “sunset spot”.

A Nighthawk nesting at the edge of the road caught our eye:

A Nighthawk sitting on her nest

A Nighthawk sitting on her nest

Finally we stopped at the road’s edge on the top of a high hill overlooking a valley to the west – a perfect spot for the sunset.

Coyne Road

Coyne Creek Road, Chase county

I took some pics while waiting for the sun to drop lower on the horizon.

Old barbed wire fence

Old barbed wire fence

Harland taking pics

Harland taking pics

Roundleaf Groundsel

Roundleaf Groundsel

Missouri Evening Primrose

Missouri Evening Primrose

Missouri Evening Primrose

Missouri Evening Primrose

Harland ready for sunset

Harland ready for sunset

Feeling a little tired, I retreated to the truck to put my feet up on the dash and watch the sunset in comfort.

Harland’s lovely image of the sunset:

Sunset, Coyne Road, Chase county, KS.  By: Harland Schuster

Sunset, Coyne Road, Chase county, KS. By: Harland Schuster

A pretty bird with a long tail stopped to visit me:

Scissortail Flycatcher

Scissortail Flycatcher

Somewhere over a nearby hill a lone coyote howled. He was quickly answered by a chorus of coyote yips and howls until every member of the pack had heard its voice sing out over the hills.

The sun slipped away. Birds sang their last songs of the day. The wind slowed to a breeze.

Hushed quiet………….

Harland packed up his camera gear and returned to the truck,

Harland returning to the truck

Harland returning to the truck

and we drove back through the growing twilight to the Millstream for showers and bed.

 xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

———-> UP NEXT:  The second day of our spring trip to the Flint Hills brought more wanderings and adventures. Check back soon!

30 comments to Spring Trip To The Flint Hills

  • Edith

    We would love to visit that abandoned ranch house. Do you remember where it was? I also looked for Coyne Road in goggle maps with no success ….can you help me locate that also?

    Thank you Suzanne.

    Very very nice post….indeed.

    Edith

    • Suzanne

      The four square house was on Sharpe creek road which runs east of Cottonwood Falls then south to Matfield Green. Coyne creek road goes from Clements to Bazaar. You’ll need a county map or a DeLorme back roads atlas to find them.

      Thanks Edith!

  • Glenda

    “Down by the old mill stream……” old song came to mind at the name of your motel. I’m going to have several blooming stalks of the Prairie Mallow that I looked up in your book of prairie plants. Your pics of the Missouri Primrose made me think of them. Can’t wait to watch them unfold at dusk on a warm June evening and that wonderful aroma of lemon cake! What a lovely Sunday jaunt! Love the views and can’t wait for the second installment!

  • Debbie

    Wow, such beautiful photos! I’m going to have to look at them all again!
    Thank you for taking us on a photo trip with you on your tour of the Flint Hills! So lucky you found a place to stay! Sounds like a really perfect day!
    P.S. My indigo/baptisia are in bloom now, and I just love them!

  • Debbie

    Also, do you know what type of bird you photographed (with the long tail on the barbed wire fence)?

  • evelyn

    Love going on your wanderings with you! The flowers are my favorite part; looks like a relaxing time.

  • Absolutely gorgeous! My favorite part of KS! I used to have the baptisia (indigo) growing in my garden. Loved it. I haven’t put any in at this house, yet. Need to do that.

  • Oh, what a great day you had!!! Would have loved to be right there with you. I’ve never been in much of Kansas and would like to go there one day. It sure is lovely there.

  • Zricha

    Nice, long article. Enjoyed reading it. Some photographs have been shot by Harland, isn’t it? Love the shot of the mud tracks heading out over the hillocks. You should have driven down and found out where it leads to :). Lucky, you got a room at the motel. Lovely pics..is that bird a Magpie?

    • Suzanne

      Thanks Zricha! The one image with his name in the watermark is Harland’s, and the rest are mine. The bird is a Scissortail Flycatcher.

  • Carol

    Wow Suzanne, I feel like I have been on vacation. Thank you for the beautiful pictures, as always, they are stunning! Did you have a good time on your get away? I did, where are we going next time?

    • Suzanne

      Thanks Carol! Not sure where we’re going on our next trip. We’ve been pondering. Possibly the Grand Canyon north rim. Or could be Glacier Nat’l Park up in Montana. We had considered Nova Scotia too. Can’t decide. Where do you think we should go?

      • Carol

        All of the above would be great! I would not be paying for the trip, so beggars can’t be choosers. So far you are on target with sharing your interesting travels. I love everything you post, so we must share the same interests! I hope you enjoy your next trip Suzanne, I’m sure I will! ; – )

  • Thanks for this lovely post. A great read indeed. Beautiful place to visit. Look forward to your next post. I’ve been chronicling my trip to Nicaragua. Hop over for a peek. Have a good weekend.

    • Suzanne

      Thanks Becky! You’re braver than I am. Is it risky to go to Nicaragua? I’m sure it’s lovely though, as it certainly looks like it is in your pics.

  • Margaret Moore

    Thank you for this wonderful post and the beautiful photographs. We discovered the Flint Hills last weekend on a short trip to Kansas for a family reunion. Stopped at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve which is a very beautiful and mystical place – took the short hike up to the top of the hill and the view was gorgeous. We visited the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan the next morning and learned so much about the plants, geology and history of that area. A surprise stop was the gardens at KSU – the iris were spectacular. That part of Kansas was a wonderful new discovery for us and we hope to come back and see more – maybe drive more of the back roads next time.
    Thanks for sharing your trip!

    • Suzanne

      You hit some wonderful places indeed! Do come back and drive the backroads. The “real” Kansas can’t be seen from I-70 and unfortunately that’s all most people ever see.

      Thanks Margaret, and come back soon!

  • Jody

    Enjoyed the pictures and the commentary.
    When I was a child, the Flint Hills were a favorite place to picnic, wash the car at one of the fords, or fish. There was a particular favorite spot that we called “Camp Creek” (Crick to the natives)where the Indians were said to have camped. Arrowheads and various artifacts were plentiful for the finding for anyone with a keen eye to spot them. Some of the water holes were deep enough for swimming, and it was a lovely afternoon/evening for the family. Clams could be found in the creek beds, and one of my cousins from Chicago delighted in collecting a clam to take back to Chicago as a “pet.” Clams don’t provide much interaction, but she did “train” it to come out of its shell when she tapped on the side of the glass — and then she would sprinkle fish food for it. Unfortunately, her cat observed this particular trick long enough to catch on, tapped on the side of the glass jar, and had a lovely clambake of his own. 🙂 See you down the road.

  • Matt

    Thanks so much for posting those photos, they nearly bring me to tears. I’m currently living in California, but dearly miss eastern Kansas, with all of its natural beauty and solitude. I hope with all my heart I am able to return again someday.

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