|Saturday - May 10, 2008: Saturday
morning we drove to Sedan, Kansas, stopping briefly to drive past the original
Little House on the Prairie along the way.
Led by A&E television personality Bill Kurtis, Sedan
is working hard to revitalize and keep the town alive. Among other things
it has a historical museum with a section devoted to Emmett Kelly (the
famous circus clown who was born there), and what it calls the "World's
longest Yellow Brick Road."
To my eyes, the yellow brick road is a strip of brown
bricks in the sidewalks, but the rest of the work has been more successful.
When the buildings in the downtown were being abandoned, Kurtis bought
may of them and rented them to new businesses, acting much like an industrial
Our first stop of the day was "The Hollow," a beautiful
small park just off the main street. There is an old schoolhouse by the
street and a walkway down to a creek. A boardwalk follows the creek a short
distance to a lovely small waterfall.
Then on through town and west a few miles to the 8000
acre, Red Buffalo Ranch (owned by Kurtis), where we met ranch employees
Dane Varney and Wade. They took us on a 3 hour tour in a 30 year old, open
sided Land Rover. The Land Rover was fun, though the repeated climbing
over the gate on the back grew just a little old.
We visited Butcher Falls (impressive between its rock
wall like banks), Prairie Henge (outdoor art built by Stan Herd) and photographed
wildlife. While searching for buffalo, we stumbled across a group of 3
white tail deer that seemed not at all afraid of us. Although they don't
have antlers this time of the year, this area of Kansas produces deer with
some of the largest racks found anywhere.
Finally we located a group of buffalo. There are over
50 on the ranch, but this group was all bulls. These are wild buffalo,
not at all domesticated. We pulled the Land Rover onto a bluff just out
of sight of the herd, but by the time we we were out of the Land Rover,
a solitary bull was investigating us and slowly approached to within about
40 yards. We all stayed very close to the vehicle.
Finally the bull moved a bit further away and more bulls
came into view in ones and twos until there were 8 bulls, up to about 1200
pounds in size, in a grouping about 40 - 60 yards away.
After taking many pictures, We piled back into the Rover.
The past mile it had been running a bit rough and we started to head back,
but went only a fairly short distance (over extremely rough terrain) before
it completely died while crossing a small creek. That was when Dane realized
that someone had used the Rover without his knowledge and that we were
out of gas. Fortunately we were only about a half mile from the ranch headquarters
where we were able to take another vehicle back to pick up our car.
We spent a lot more time than I planned at the Red Buffalo
Ranch, but it was very enjoyable, I got many photos and it was well worth
while. Dane and Wade were great.
On our way back into Sedan, we stopped for lunch at the
Rib Rack, a BBQ place that showed a lot of promise. The walls are covered
with mounted deer heads, elk racks and the like. They were out of brisket
and pulled pork, but the ribs and sausage were good. We were less impressed
by the side dishes or the service.
Back in Sedan, we stopped at the Red Buffalo gift shop,
where we thanked Mary Kurtis (Bill's daughter) for arranging our tour.
We bought some gifts and we had chocolate malts made at the coffee and
ice cream bar at the back of the store.
Back on the highway, we traveled just a few miles west
before taking to the gravel roads in search of Ozro Falls. We found a sign
for the Ozro Falls Cemetery, but the road was getting worse, and became
impassible just past the cemetery. There appeared to be another way around
on the map, and we circled a few miles. This road also deteriorated until
we were driving on a muddy two rut through a wheat field. Not a place where
we wanted to get stuck, but we made it to the Caney River and the trail
just added to the adventure.
The two rut continued on across the river just above the
falls, but it is only a low water crossing and the water was high. In fact,
so high that the low water fall was turned into more of a bump in the river.
I need to return when the water is lower to get better photographs. And
perhaps when I am driving a SUV.
Ozro falls is not well known. Almost every mention of
Ozro Falls on the Internet refers to the cemetery. I doubt that it is visited
more than a coupe of times a week.
We found our way back to US-166 and continued west. Storms
had been threatening all day, and finally we had rain, followed by hail.
As the hail grew larger, I pulled to the side of the highway. The storm
went on for perhaps 10 minutes, at times with golf ball sized hail. Fortunately
no damage was done to the car, and when the storm turned to dwindling rain,
we continued to Cowley County State Lake.
The rain stopped as we drove along the lake shore looking
for a waterfall which I had found mentioned in an Internet blog entry.
We stopped to ask some fishermen where the falls was located and it turned
out that we were right next to the falls. The fishermen had been badly
beaten by even larger hail than we experienced and were just leaving. The
20' falls is quite beautiful, but hard to access, and (because of short
sight lines) hard to photograph. But there are no signs or other indication
that the falls even exist. Its a shame, since they are quite impressive
and just a little work could make a nice viewing platform. This falls is
worthy of being a well known Kansas attraction.
We headed back east and then north through Dexter (where
helium was first discovered on Earth), then east on US-160. As we past
through the small community of Moline, there was a sign saying the town
had the oldest hanging pedestrian bridge in Kansas. After consulting The
Kansas Guidebook for Explorers, we found the 1904 suspension bridge.
When I went to take photographs, I was delighted to discover a pair of
low waterfalls just upstream from the bridge.
It was now after 5 PM, and I wanted to revisit Elk Falls
before returning home. As we drove east on Highway 160, we listened to
the Prairie Home Companion on public radio. But the broadcast kept being
interrupted with weather warnings. The storm system that gave us the large
hail had grown worse and several tornados touched down. When we returned
home, we would learn that more than 20 people died in the area around the
intersections of Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
At the tiny town of Elk Falls (known for its annual outhouse
tour), we drove to the 1890s iron truss bridge. My previous visit was in
the winter, and I wanted to get some photos while everything was green.
The falls is just above bridge, and when I started taking photos, I was
surprised to see someone photographing a nude woman on the rocks next to
the falls. Another couple was holding up a blanket to block the views from
a couple fishing on the other side of the river, but she was in full view
from the bridge. And she was worth photographing.
Finally we continued north and east, with plans to conclude
the day with dinner at the Prairie Nut Hut in Altoona. But the Nut Hut
was closed for the weekend. Instead, we backtracked 10 miles to Fredonia.
Where we had supper at Beef Burger Bob's.
Bob's opened in the 1950s as the Icebox Drive In. Bob
and Tony Babcock bought the Iceberg in 1972. Over time they expanded it
into a restaurant and renamed it to reflect their famous loose meat sandwiches.
Bob has retired, but still helps Tony on Saturdays, so we got to meet both
of the delightful couple.
The menu is on a chalk board with notes taped to the sides.
We split a beef burger, cheese burger, hand breaded pork tenderloin, and
Suzie Ques. Beef burgers are not as crumbly as a NuWay or Maid-Rite. All
were very good. Beef Burger Bobs will definitely be added to KansasTravel.org
After dropping my friend off in Fort Scott, I got home
about 11PM, having driven 580 miles since leaving work the day before.
I slept well last night.