“How far is Marfa from you guys?”
“A little over six hours. That’s kinda’ far for a day trip. You know what? We’ll figure it out when you get here. Matt might have some ideas.”
Matt might have some ideas. Matt always has some ideas. Give that boy a map and he will find something to see or somewhere to camp.
“Can we take the rental car to Kansas?” I ask my dad.
“Sure! We can take this thing anywhere! Kansas huh? What’s in Kansas?”
“Matt found a national grassland area that supposedly has some nice wildflowers right now. It’s about 3 hours from Amarillo.”
“Let’s do it,” he said.
And so the start of a Kansas day-trip began last June.
We haven’t spent a lot of time in Kansas. It’s one of those places that seems to always be in the middle of point A and B when on a road trip. This time we made it our destination.
Cimarron National Grasslands is where we were headed. Here’s a map so you can get a general idea of where we went.
We packed a picnic and headed out of town early in the morning.
Just outside of Elkhart, KS is this national grassland territory. You wind through town and cute neighborhoods until FINALLY coming to an area called “Cottonwood” (appropriately named after the lovely trees there).
Cottonwood consists of a bunch of random, mostly unmarked “roads.” They are more like wide trails.
The trees collected in areas where there was/is a water source.
As we drove away from the trees, the wildflowers filled the expanse of flatland to the horizon.
We found a small stocked fishing pond with covered picnic areas and a nearby campground.
Lots of people were just hanging out, enjoying the day. One local who was cruising on his motor bike stopped and talked with us. He said it’s usually very dry in that area, but apparently last years’ precipitation made for a beautiful wildflower season that he had never seen before. He claimed that even a week before it didn’t look as beautiful and described it as something short of a miracle.
We drove around aimlessly for quite some time. I think we were looking for some other campsite or area that showed up on the map but never seemed to materialize. So off we went to check out a nearby point of interest called “Point of Rocks.”
Point of Rocks is the third highest point in the entire state of Kansas.
Point of Rocks overlooks the Cimarron Riverbed and was a landmark indicating nearby springs for those traveling the Santa Fe Trail. Native American artifacts have been uncovered in this valley, and wagon ruts are still seen throughout the area. It is rumored that the famous explorer, Jedediah Smith, was searching for water for his caravan in 1831, and while digging in the riverbed he was attacked and killed by Comanches. More than 70 years later, after the area had been settled by cattle ranchers, a heavy storm produced a twelve-foot-high flash flood, which killed the foreman’s two children and left the farmland covered in river sand. The area earned its name, “Cimarròn” from the Spanish word which means “wild” or “untamed.”
We took a few back roads for our return to Amarillo. Kansas is definitely flat, as you’ve all probably heard, but even so, there was plenty to keep our eyes satisfied. Like this random old house we stopped to photograph…
I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to see wildflowers this year in Cimarron Valley. 2016 may have been a “miracle year” for that. But it’s worth a visit (and maybe a hike?) if you’re in the area.
I can’t remember the exact recipe for that cold spinach dip, but here’s what I remember about it: It had steamed spinach, water chestnuts (I’m pretty sure), lemon juice and zest and was made with plain greek yogurt. It may have had some feta too. All I remember is that the lemon zest totally kicked the flavors up a notch. Maybe if you’re feeling daring you can try and make it for your next road trip…