Scott and I were able to go on a four-day road trip to see the total eclipse recently. We traveled into Kansas and found it to be more than fields of corn. I had no clue there were so many rolling hills and beautiful places here; we have been to the Witchita area and found it to be prairies and F-L-A-T. However, as we drove up I-69, this was not the Kansas we experienced before.
While we drove our way up to the Kansas City, Kansas, area to visit our friend Amy and view the eclipse, Scott and I visited two new Kansas State Parks, Elk City State Park and Eisenhower State Park. These would be the first two parks for this state for us and we were not disappointed at all.
Elk City State Park was beautiful. As we drove through the park we found amazing oak and hickory trees surrounding the campsites with full hook-ups. I could actually see the Beast parked in the spots and us hiking along the many trails and enjoying the lake.
If you drive out of the park, you will find a road that will take you to an overlook of the lake. It goes up, up, up to a stone building and a fantastic view.
The plaque on the building says, “This overlook and its vistas of America are dedicated to the memory of Tulsa District employees and those citizens who have made significant contributions to the mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those who are honored, while from many walks of life, were united in their dedication to help build a stronger and better nation. Today their efforts live on in the memories of their families and co-workers who look to their examples as guideposts for the future.”
I just fell in love with the view and the fact that it had a connection with Tulsa, a place that has deep roots in our lives. It has made this place special for us and I look forward to spending more time. It always amazes me how we seem to find some type of connection with the parks we visit. Here it was an outlook.
Yes, you see that right, we went to Kansas and visited Eisenhower State Park. But wait, didn’t we just leave Eisenhower State Park where I park hosted? Yes, but that was in Texas on Lake Texoma. These two parks are totally different, but both are fantastic to visit. We were able to stop and chat with some of this park’s Park Hosts and they had some very funny stories, like most hosts do. In my experience at the Texas Eisenhower, we would have many calls for the Kansas park; turns out they had many calls for the Texas park too. The host we spoke with at the Park Store said she had a man come in for his reservation, but there was nothing there for him because he had made it for the Texas park. I know it has happened at the park in Texas because I came across it happening. It can be frustrating, but it has taught me to be a bit more careful when making our reservations.
Sunday morning the three of us were up and ready to hit a Missouri State Park named Weston Bend State Park just across the Missouri River from Leavenworth, Kansas. It was our first park in the state of Missouri and it was perfect. The park system, as you can see from the above photo, is celebrating their 100 year anniversary, which thrills us because we get to celebrate along with them. The day was perfect for this visit and we were able to take a nice hike along one of the more difficult trails Scott and I have taken.
We took a mixture of the Harpst, Northridge, and Paved Bike Trails. I found myself wondering if we were crazy to take this mixture, but I really had an amazing time. Our friend Amy is an avid hiker and is in excellent shape so knowing that I was able to keep up with her on her slower pace made me feel as if I was a bit accomplished. I have not been able to do much hiking since we moved back up to Tulsa from Eisenhower (the Texas one) so I was needing to grab my outdoorphines.
One of the things Scott and I are trying to do is get out of the house and do new things. Doing this we have found ourselves meeting new, interesting people; tasting unique, cultural foods; and visiting fun, out-of-our-way places. We have, in this process, discovered so many things about ourselves as individuals and a couple. Myself, I never thought I would be doing the things we do because I was never one to enjoy the outdoors, but I am riding a bike, hiking trails, and going to new places. The one thing I have learned from all this is that we can’t lock ourselves away and expect experiences to come to us, we have to step out of our comfort zone and just try.
On Monday we were on a mission, we had a full eclipse to observe. In order to see the full eclipse though w had to find the right place. Scott and Amy had decided to look at White Cloud, Kansas, for the viewing. To get there we opted to take the Glacial Hills Scenic Drive and it did not disappoint.
It was almost surreal to think about the glacier that traveled across these hills leaving the large stone deposits to create the rolling hills we drove past filled with green fields of corn and soybeans. As we came closer and closer to our destination, you could see people lining up along edges of fields preparing for the eclipse. This was a once in a lifetime chance and it seemed as if everyone was showing up to experience it.
An hour and a half after leaving Amy’s house, we arrived in White Cloud and the end (or beginning) of the Glacier Hills Scenic Drive. Here we found a marker for the for the Lewis & Clark Trail and information about the drive. Unfortunetly, the sky was overcast and Scott and Amy decided to go further north into Nebraska.
We still had time to get ourselves up to our eclipse viewing destination Indian Cave State Park, we just had to get moving because the bridge to take us directly there was being worked on and we had to take a detour.
Within forty-five minutes we arrived at Indian Cave State Park in the pouring rain. It was raining so hard we were not able to stop for an entry photo. It was not looking good for the eclipse, but we were at our first Nebraska State Park and it was beautiful even in the rain. Fortunately for us, the rain stopped within the first twenty minutes of our arrival. Driving through the park to visit the cave where you could view prehistoric Native American petroglyphs. It was a little difficult to view them because of the many decades of people scratching their names in the same rocks, but you can find the petroglyphs if you look. It caused us to question what the tribe’s elders thought of the petroglyphs and how much trouble the “artists” got in to from their graffiti.
Finishing our viewing of the cave, we looked for a good spot to view the full eclipse. The sky was overcast and it was too late for us to find another location to do the viewing, so we were now committed to this location. From the shore of the Missouri River, Scott and I set ourselves ready for the on-coming eclipse with our special NASA approved glasses while our friend Amy decided to climb the trail at Trailhead 11 and enjoy a run during the eclipse.
As the moon began it’s path across the sun, Scott took photos and I pouted because the viewing was awful. We were able to see the beginning stages on the sun, but because of the overcast sky we were not able to view the full eclipse. However, we did experience the darkness and the 360 degree twilight. I actually saw some fireflies in the middle of the day and that was pretty cool. There will be another total eclipse traveling across the United States in 2024 and that gives us another opportunity.
Just as suddenly as the excitement began, people started packing up and leaving. Having been lucky enough to not come across lots of traffic while we were enroute, we were going to pay our dues on the way out. What should have been a twenty-minute drive took us an hour and a half!
Even though we were not able to view the eclipse, we were able to come closer to our State Park Goal by four new State Parks, visit a new state, and, most importantly, spent some amazing time with our good friend Amy. It was such a fantastic trip and I can’t wait to go back to the Kansas City area and see what else we can find.