This has been a summer brimming with activity for us. Sharing my photographs and writing suffered because of our journeys squeezed into a short span of time. We just returned from a week of intense work at the Sports Photography Workshop in Colorado Springs in conjunction with the Olympic Training Center.
Now that our last summer journey is behind us, my full-on work year begins in just a week. Between now and then, I hope to catch up with a few final stories from our travels. Let me begin with our latest stop in western Kansas and move back in time to catch up.
Far too often, Laura and I hear from people outside of Kansas how boring it must be to live in such a flat and featureless state. Oh, how those people are wrong. Most have never really seen Kansas or taken the time to marvel at the wonders of our great state. They miss the beauty of the Flint Hills as the sun sets or rises on cattle and horses grazing on prairie grass-covered limestone or the rolling hills near our home.
Granted, the western portion of the state is mostly flat, but it is far from featureless. This vast expanse of the Great Plains, painted with lustrous colors and rich details, abounds with crops springing from the ground to help feed the nation and delight the eye. The appreciation of such beauty takes time. Simply passing through fails to allow the proper perspective of what many feel is just “flat land.”
Well, they should drive to the Monument Rocks, just a little over twenty miles south and east of Oakley, a small town off of I-70. There the Smoky Hill River once flowed with such force to carve this treasure in the chalky sediment left from the Biblical flood. The Rocks erupt from the flat landscape with their whiteness contrasting dramatically against the brilliant blue sky. Driving to the sight easily reveals the “badlands” where no vegetation can grow set against the nearby crop land.
Besides the pleasure of seeing this Kansas anomaly, we enjoyed some amateur rock climbing. Inspired by our time in Colorado with our friend Keith Ladzinski, one of the premier adventure photographers in the world, we tackled easier climbs before challenging myself with a tougher route. The climb up proved far easier than the climb back down. We could only look at other sheer climbs and imagine how easily Keith and his climbing friends would scale the most vertical faces.
Sadly, we arrived at Monument Rocks with the mid-day sun casting harsh shadows and baking the white chalk bluffs to micro-wave high temperatures. It would be nice to return to catch the drama of the early morning or late afternoon sun glowing on one of the state’s great treasures far too often overlooked.