A Visit to Paxico, Kansas and The Konza Prairie Nature Trail

Paxico, KS

In our last blog we were having problems with our inverter/charger and were about to head to Columbia, MO for repairs.  There is a great organization for owners of a Fleetwood Discovery motorhome that has a forum to discuss problems and repairs.  John put a post on it describing our problem, but he really didn’t expect a solution as he suspected the inverter was fried.  But about 10:00 PM Wednesday night there was a post from a former repair tech who now drives a Discovery.  He described what he thought to be the problem and how to safely go into the inverter to check it (lots of strong electricity in there!).  So John put on his head lamp and headed out to do as suggested.  Sure enough, he found a bad connection, just as described on the forum.  With a little (lot of)  electrical tape he soon had the connection repaired and our batteries were charging like Pam at the mall with a credit card.

So with things working properly, we went back to our original plan to go east on I-70 about sixty miles to the little community of Paxico, where there is a nature center nearby with hiking trails.  We are now at Mill  Creek Campground, a nice little park with long pull-through sites.  The park has one little negative . . .

The view out our living room slide window looking to the rear of the motorhome

OK, so there is a train track right behind us.  If we turn up the volume on the TV, we can drown out some of the noise, but the shaking of the motorhome is difficult to ignore.  We knew about the train before we came here and our stay is only for two nights, so we can live with it.

After getting set up, we drove about twenty miles to the northeast for a visit to the city of  Manhattan, called the “Little Apple” by the locals.  We did some food shopping, stopped at a Starbucks, and drove through the campus of Kansas State University.

The football stadium at K-State is under renovation, but we were intrigued by it’s name.

Before the final game of the 2005 season, Kansas State offered to name the stadium Bill Snyder Stadium in honor of retiring head coach Bill Snyder. In 17 years, Snyder had turned the Wildcats, once the definition of college football futility, into a frequent championship contender in the Big 12 Conference. When he was asked about renaming the stadium, Snyder told school officials, “If you are going to do it, name it after the people that I care about the most.”  Hence, the Regents renamed the stadium to honor the family of the coach who had led the team for 17 years.  Beginning with the 2009 season, Snyder returned to coach the team again, becoming one of only three coaches in division I FBS history to coach in a stadium that bears his name, joining Bear Bryant at Alabama and Shug Jordan at Auburn.

Many of the buildings on campus are constructed of a unique stone.  We thought the buildings were old and the stone needed cleaning, as what appeared to be black soot covered much of the stone.  But we later drove to the small town of Alma, which proudly calls itself the “City of Native Stone.”  It turns out the stone is from a natural layer of rock which underlies part of eastern Kansas and is used in many buildings in this area.

The old high school, now apartments, in Alma made of Native Stone

Our main reason for visiting the town of Alma was not to see the stone buildings, but to visit one of the local businesses.  It turns out that Alma has a cheese plant!   If you have been following this blog for long you know that cheese plants rank just below rocks and Crested Saguaros as exciting places to visit for one member of this duo.  So a visit to the Alma Creamery was required.  But as cheese plants go, this one doesn’t have much to offer.

The Alma Creamery

On Friday morning we were on the road before 9:00 to visit the Konza Prairie Biological Station to hike some trails there.  Konza Prairie is located within the largest remaining area of unplowed tallgrass prairie in North America, the Flint Hills.  The Konza Prairie is owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University, and is operated as a field research station by the University’s Division of Biology.   Most of it is used for research and not open to the public.  But there are three loop hiking trails open to the public.

We printed a guide to the trails off their web site and, after parking the Jeep, headed down the trail.

Very soon we came to a riparian area where there are two narrow bridges crossing Kings Creek.  Kings Creek is one of two major streams on the Konza Prairie.  Trees lining a creek in a prairie are called a “gallery forest.”

Once clear of the trees, we passed through a meadow filled with wild flowers.  June is the best month for viewing the wildflowers and we were not disappointed.

In the picture below the orange flower is a Butterfly Milk Weed.  It attracts the Monarch Butterfly which lays its eggs on the flower.  The purple daisy-like flower is a Cone Flower.  Native Americans took the seeds from center and put them between their cheek and gum as a numbing agent, which we were told by some locals really works.

The trail gained a bit in altitude and went through a section of true prairie grassland.  Much of this area is the same as it was hundreds of years ago, having never been cultivated.

One of the prime characteristics of this area is the wind.  At the top of the hill it was blowing at a very strong speed, which is part of the reason for the lack of trees here.

Who says Kansas is totally flat.  Here we go up a hill . . .

. . . then down the other side.  OK, it’s not exactly Rocky Mountain National Park, but it is a hill!

At one point, looking north, you can see the Kansas River and the city of Manhattan in the distance.  You can see the humidity hanging in the air.  We haven’t been in any humidity in many months and we sure haven’t missed it!

One of the stops on the path is in an area where there is tallgrass prairie.  We thought it looked familiar when we stopped to look at it.  Then it hit us.   It looked just like our daughter Jessica’s backyard!

As the temperature climbed into the mid-90s and we had completed a seven mile loop, we headed back to the air conditioning of the motorhome.  Tomorrow we move east about a hundred miles to a park just outside of Independence, MO.  We thought about staying here another night as tomorrow the little town of Paxico (population 221) is holding it’s annual Meatloaf Festival!

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13 Responses to A Visit to Paxico, Kansas and The Konza Prairie Nature Trail

  1. Sheila says:

    Our very first RV, a 2002 – 25 foot Airstream, our first night out – guess where – Mill Creek. I was in the Airstream and my husband was talking our Husky out for a finally potty walk. He comes running back to the Airstream calling ” come look”. There were Lightening Bugs everywhere!! So many, so beautiful. Our home at the time and still is today Loveland, Colorado, sorry to say no Lightening Bugs here. We both grew up in Louisiana with lots of LB. It is a fond memory and we even called our Airstream – Lightening Bug!!

    We drove to the western outskirts of St. Louis to pick her up!

    Enjoy your stay there!!

    • placestheygo says:

      What a small world! We mainly came here to hike the Konza Prairie. Once I found the 8 Wonders of Kansas, I wanted to see what we could as we came across. So my husband’s 48 trip across turned into a week! There are many other places I would still like to visit but that will have to wait til next time. I guess I should go out and see if there are any lightning bugs. It is definitely hot enough!!

  2. pam says:

    My husband would never pass up a meatloaf festival! Love the wildflowers on your hike.

  3. Erin says:

    In our household that would read … “batteries were charging like MUI at the mall with a credit card.” 😉 No rocks, but it still looks like a great trail to hike. Jessica might have a word or two for the writer re: the comment about her backyard 😉

  4. Janna says:

    No, it is not Utah or Colorado but you are still out there hiking! Loved the Pam with a credit card remark!

  5. Love the wildflowers and your little hill..ha ha. I have to get used to not seeing anymore rocks and spectacular views as you head east. I like the comment about cheese plants ranking below rocks and crested saguaro.
    -ML

  6. Lisa says:

    Looks like you hit the prairie at the most beautiful time of the year. Very pretty! Reminded me of a book by William Least Heat Moon where he spent some time immersing himself in the prairie; it’s beautiful and necessary country that we have devastated over the past 100 or so years. SO glad your inverter problem seems to be fixed!

  7. Allison says:

    Congratulations on finding the hill in Kansas. That photo of the humidity reminds me of North Carolina when we lived there. Pretty swampy!

  8. Pam…I think I would smack John upside the head for comparing your shopping technique to his inverter. Of all the nerve.

    Nice story about the stadium name.

    Sorry your visit wasn’t to cheesy.

    I love the meadow with all the wildflowers. So pretty. Thanks for the lesson on the use of the Cone flower. I had many of these in the backyard of our old house. None here so far.

    You two have done it now. Just wait till you get to Jessica’s house and have to do yard work. If I were she, I would let those weeds and grass grown from now till you get there.

  9. I’m with you…we sure don’t miss the humidity either. Cone flowers have always been one of my favorites…I had a yard full of them back in Georgia! Soooo pretty! Way glad to read your inverter problem is fixed…

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