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Part 1:  Kansas Isn’t as Bad as Everyone Says

So we woke up refreshed and happy in Hays, Kansas, this morning, and headed west yet again, after stopping at a gas station to fill up and attempt to scrub the bugs off the car.  Seriously, I have never seen bugs like what we have had on this trip, especially through Kansas.  I could barely see through the windshield by the time we stopped last night!


And as we drove, we realized that we actually like Kansas.  It isn’t terribly exciting, true, but there is something beautiful about the openness of it, just huge expanses devoid of people, and I like that.  A few miles away from Colorado, we decided to ditch the interstate, because I happened to notice something on our atlas.  “Mt. Sunflower: Highest Point in Kansas.”  How could we resist something like that?  I looked it up on Tom’s phone (seriously, the internet is bizarre) and found that there is a little picnic table there; it’s on private land but the owners let people visit there.

We got off the highway just in time to visit a lovely little town called Kanorado.  Isn’t that just the best name ever??



Not a lot going on in Kanorado.



Then we headed south, searching for the elusive Mount Sunflower.

We found a dirt road.



We found cows.



We found actual sunflowers.








We found cacti.



And we finally found Mount Sunflower!





The views were breathtaking.





(It’s fenced in because we were actually in the middle of a cow pasture.)

And people say Kansas is boring!

Eventually, we moved along, finding a (paved) US route and heading west again.  We stopped in a very, very small town (although bigger than Kanorado) and ate lunch at a hole-in-the-wall diner where everyone else who came in got greeted by name and gossiped about whoever had just left.

We crossed in Colorado and took a state route towards Colorado Springs.  About 70 miles out, we finally got our first glimpse of the mountains.  WE WERE SO EXCITED.

Part 2: Manitou Springs

So, we eventually made it to Manitou Springs, here at the foot of Pike’s Peak.  It’s beautiful, with an artsy little shop-neighborhood just down the way from our hotel.



Isn’t our motel just the cutest thing??

Friday night, there was a huge flash flood/mudslide right through the middle of Manitou Springs.  There is still tons of mud and debris everywhere.  Bunches of shops flooded that had never flooded before.  It happened super unexpectedly; a couple of people even died.  Amazingly, things are cleaning up incredibly fast.  There were volunteers everywhere, long-haired hippy-looking folks with huge grins, extremely muddy pants, shovels, and dogs.







Tom got some better pictures of the lower streets, covered in mud and branches, but they’re on his phone and he’s already asleep, so you’ll have to wait for another day.

Anyway, we walked around the town until our check-in time for the motel.  After checking out our room, we headed off to the Maintou Cliff Dwellers Museum.  On the way, we realized that we really are on the verge of the mountains




We probably won’t make it down to the legit Mesa Verde this time around, so this little park was a nice substitute.  The gift shop was HUGE.  We puttered about and enjoyed the semi-restored ruins







By the time we finished there, there were ominous rumbles of thunder in the distance.  We drove back to our motel and parked, and then walked back downtown to find a place for supper.  It was raining by the time we ducked into a little pub, with terrific wood floors, for supper (I had the most amazing pizza).  We sat at the bar counter with the locals and listened to them talk about all the clean-up that was going on and how suddenly it had all hit.  Everyone was a bit jumpy over the next round of rain.  Apparently, all of this is flooding because of the wildfires earlier this summer.  Where everything has been burned, the water just runs off and washes away large chunks of land with it.

It was raining pretty steadily when we walked back to our motel, and the temperature had dropped almost 20*.  We watched a couple episodes of Doctor Who until the weather cleared, and then went for an evening walk at an almost 800-acre park right in the middle of town.









Now we’re back in our snug little room.  Tomorrow should be busy–Garden of the Gods and possibly Pike’s Peak, then heading west into the mountains!


Sarah E. McCafferty

August 2013

it’s in the past