Jun 15, 2013

Sand Hills State Park

The Sand Hills State Park is a hiking only park close to Hutchinson, KS.  Well, I guess you can ride horses on the trails, too.  I read up on the trails ahead of time online to decide which on to try for based on distance.  I chose the Pond Trail, since it has a pond and it wasn't too long.  I should not have been surprised to find the pond dry. 

Our hike started out beautiful.  We pick a 100 degree day to go, but we started early enough to enjoy some beautiful weather. 

Lots of pretty wildflowers on the trail.

Yes, this is Elliott picking up a dead armadillo.  The boys thought this was awesome.

This is my favorite pic of the boys and me ever!

I tried some Homemade Granola Bars.  They were a hit!

Yes, this is what you think it is.  Yes, it was in my bathroom.  I would say this park (bathrooms and trails) was not the most well-maintained.  There was a certain type of grass on the trail that has been allowed to flourish that sticks to your socks and pokes you.  Gabe sat down to get some out of his socks and we waited and waited for him.  When he got up, he started screaming that his leg hurt.  I think he sat in some anthills.  Poor kid.  I thought our hike was over, but he recovered and we finished.

Jake's new idea:  take a pic by the sign with our thumbs rating the park.  I guess we had mixed reviews.  We were very hot and tired by here.
Then, we drove a few miles down the road to check out Dillon Nature Center.  It was amazing!  We will go back soon.  This was the highlight of our day.  We ate our picnic lunch here and then enjoyed the air conditioning in the indoor displays, walked around the stocked pond, where we could see turtles and fish swimming all over.

Finally, we found this outdoor play area.  It was awesome.  We could have spent two or three hours out there.  There was a huge sandbox with a water pump the boys could use to put water through canals they dug.  There were musical instruments to bang on, blocks to build with made of tree stumps and other natural materials, and a small wading creek.  This place is free to visit.  We were very impressed!

Kanopolis State Park

Kanopolis State Park is our favorite so far.  There is so much to do there!  We have visited twice already, first just to hike, and then again to camp.
Hiking is my favorite outdoor activity.  Kanopolis has lots of trails for hiking, biking and horses.  We hiked the Buffalo Track Canyon Trail our first trip and the Wildlife Viewing Area Trail our second trip.  We did see a lot of critters, including this guy:
 The night we camped could not have been more beautiful.  We pitched our tent in a primitive area away from everything else, but we did drive to the playground, the prairie dog town, the wildlife viewing area, and the beach.  Everything was so well maintained.  Upon looking at the map, there is so much more to see and do.  We will certainly go back.


Gabe was so upset he couldn't catch a prairie dog and pick it up.

Gabe was yelling down the prairie dog hole and Ell got spooked.

Gabe says swimming is his favorite, better than toys and the rides at the fair.

Ell, on the other hand, won't get in past his ankles.  Not even at the pool yet.

He goes from crazy to crashed in seconds.

Cheyenne Bottoms

On our same trip, we visited Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.  Jacob and I have kind of gotten into birding in the last couple of years.  I call it our "old people nerd secret".  We get pretty excited when we see or hear a bird that isn't just an every day sighting.  Jacob even bought a special camera lens just for this trip and for capturing some bird pics.  This new hobby was influenced by Birds and Blooms magazine and the movie The Big Year.
At certain times of the year, several species of birds migrate through the wetlands at Cheyenne Bottoms.  Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of water there when we visited.  We will definitely go back when there has been more moisture. 


Here are a few of the birds we did see:
The Killdeer.  These guys were all over.

Blue-Winged Teal Duck.  This was the coolest one we sighted.

Red-Winged Black Bird.  These are very common in Kansas, and probably my favorite local bird. 

Female Yellow-Headed Blackbird.
There is a very cool website called Project Noah.  You can check out pictures Jacob has taken on his profile page.  We have spotted some cool critters and learned about them on this site. 

Mushroom Rock State Park


Upon cleaning out the file cabinet, I found a brochure we picked up last summer on all of the State Parks in our great state (Kansas).  We decided to pack our summer full of fun trying to visit as many as possible.  We even bought the passport to put on our van when we renewed our tags, which gets us into any KS state park for a full year.
We planned a big three day trip just after school let out, visiting four parks and camp two nights in a row.  However, severe weather, specifically tornado season, thwarted out plans.  It turned into a day trip, checking out three of the parks for hiking and pictures.
We started with Mushroom Rock State Park.
The website describes it accurately, I just thought it would be bigger.  However, it was just perfect for our boys.  It was a great intro to hiking, staying on the trail, exploring, climbing, and even finding a couple critters on the trail!  Gabe said he saw a snake, but we're thinking it was just a lizard.  And a deer ran by during our picnic lunch.

Always time for a little snuggling.



We would definitely recommend stopping here if you are nearby.  It's certainly worth the visit, especially if you are planning to visit Kanopolis Lake.  It's just a few miles West of Kanopolis State Park (which has been our favorite, so far!)