BY ROSANNA BAUMAN
Editor’s Note: Rosanna is German Baptist Brethren, a Plain church often confused with the Amish.
Who says Kansas is flat? Here I am in the High Plains, the flattest, driest, and highest part of Kansas. And yet I am standing on a narrow arm of rock that juts nearly 60 feet out of the plains. A photograph of the current vista would fool anyone into thinking I am in the American Southwest.
It’s a five hour drive from our place to Quinter, Kansas. This little town of just under 1000 people is located right off I-70 west of Hays. It is officially the Half-Mile High City, with an elevation of 2665 feet. I am visiting Quinter for (what else?) a friend’s wedding. Although small, Quinter is not in any danger of becoming a ghost town. They have amenities there that a lot of cities three times its size don’t have. But it is the largest town in the county by far. In fact, over half the county’s population lives in Quinter’s zip code. The city of Gove is actually the county seat despite only having a population of 100. But Gove does have an amusing claim to fame: they have the smallest courthouse in the state, a converted 1800s brick boarding house.
I only know this trivia because I have thoroughly absorbed my Kansas Guidebook for Explorers. This is an essential guidebook for any Kansan, regardless if you actually travel much. After you read the guide book, though, you will definitely never see any part of Kansas as boring. This guide book was printed after the author, Marci Penner, had visited every single incorporated town in the state. As a result of travels with her father, they formed the Explorers Club, a group that champions off-the-beaten-path tourism.
But, back to the wedding: it was outdoors, and the guests nearly melted in the heat. The couple got married as planned, and then we had to do something to take our mind off the weather. There was a potluck held after the Sunday service in a refreshing grove of giant cottonwoods. Small card tables were set up in the grass and we lunched in cozy little groups under the rattling shade of cottonwood leaves. After the potluck we played a few strenuous games of Ultimate Frisbee. But the temperature was nearly 100 degrees and there wasn’t much of a breeze, so our bodies were begging for a break. That’s when Castle Rock was suggested.
As Explorers we are urged to “dare to do dirt.” Dirt roads, that is. If you want to see Castle Rock, it definitely takes a little dirt-daring. We drove about 20 miles of the unpaved sand roads before we reached the cow pasture that hides Castle Rock. About the time you’re thinking “Where are the rocks?” you crest a hill and there they are: rock formations that resemble the more famous Badlands. Standing a quarter mile away from the others, distinctly rising from a flat, grassy plain is the spire called Castle Rock. Today, weather and time have rubbed away some of the “castle” resemblance to the rock. To fully appreciate the inspiration of Castle Rock, one should view the historical photos taken of the Rock that are on display in a couple of Quinter businesses. Castle Rock provided travelers on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch a welcome respite from the otherwise pancake-flat, treeless monotony.
Perhaps it was only a welcomin
I joyfully scrambled up one r
The sandy chalk rocks were sti
After bouncing around on most of the accessible promontories, I wanted a challenge. Most of the girls had retired to the gullies, but my friend Katy and I still had not sated our height appetites. I like heights. And, yes, I live in Kansas. But right in my front lawn is a mountain that I can zip up whenever I feel the need for a view with altitude. This 70 foot grain silo may not be a geological wonder, but I figure that most climbers don’t have a mountain of that height in their lawns, so I’ve got an advantage.
While Katie scaled a ledgethat
There’s many a time around
That picture has proven handy when I am feeling overwhelmed. It reminds me of how I felt on top of the Mushroom Rock: the euphoria of successfully completing something I wasn’t sure possible. I look at my current problem and remember: breathe a prayer, and just climb it.