"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Friday, October 6, 2017

Our First Tornado & Kansas High Point

Marquette, Kansas
Kanopolis State Park

It was a four hour drive from the western side of Nebraska down to Marquette, Kansas.  The drive was uneventful with the usual flat scenery and a big blue sky dotted with clouds.  We stopped in the town of Salina to grab something to eat at McDonalds.  It was less than an hour to the campground but the weather was supposed to change over to thunderstorms later in the day.
We drove past endless fields of Sorghum which is a very drought tolerant crop.  It resembles corn but the seed heads come in a variety of colors.  Red and yellow are what we've seen the most of.  It's used for feed and it's becoming more popular as a flour and in other foods as it is gluten free.

It was a cute town, larger than most out here.  I really liked the brickwork on the side of this building.
While we were getting ready to get back into the truck to drive the short distance to the campground, I did my usual walk-around.  I almost didn't say anything but then asked Steve to look at the wheels on one side of the trailer.  They looked weird to me.  They weren't in-line.  One was about an inch out further than the other.
Steve looked and sure enough, it was a broken shackle.  Darn!  It's 4:30 on a Friday.  I started making calls around to find a welding shop.  Even though it was a smaller town, this is big time farm country and there should be many welding shops around.  Hopefully I could find one open.  On the third try I got ahold of McIntyre Welding.
 The shackle had broken turned around.  We have had several friends have this same exact problem in the past few months alone.  Very frustrating
Lucky for us they could fix the problem and would make sure they got it done as soon as possible as the skies were darkening and the storm was upgraded in severity and they wanted to get us back on the road.  Even though some of the guys were heading home for the week, a few stayed behind to help us.  Such wonderful people out there!
They didn't even need to take it off the truck.  We used out auto levelers to bring the tire up just enough for them to work on it.  They put some fabric over the tire and welded it right there.  They made a much stronger weld and suggested we strengthen the other side when we get home. They only charged us $90! We couldn't thank them enough.  They were wonderful!  If you need a welder in the area, look them up!  I gave them a great Yelp and facebook write up.  Least I could do.
They were a little concerned when we told them we were headed to Kanopolis State Park.  Apparently when the storms cross over the lake they really intensify and that area is prone to tornados.  Great.
 I kept a close eye on my weather app and watched the storm progress.  We should just make it.
We got set up just in time as it began to rain.  And rain it did!  The winds picked up very quickly and really rocked the trailer.  Just as we brought the slides in both of our phones went off with warnings of a tornado in the area.  Then sirens went off.  WOW are they loud!  There was a small concrete bathroom right next to us.  We ran out the door with Hurley and were immediately soaked.  That bathroom was locked (probably due to it being late in the season) so we jumped in the truck and drove to the larger bath/shower house.  Dang, it was locked too.  Between all the strikes of lightning it was pretty bright out.  Just in the distance we saw a small outhouse with someone waiving us over.
We parked in front and ran inside, totally wet.  We didn't know how many people might be inside the small roughly 6x8 outhouse so we left Hurley in the truck in his crate for the moment.  Once inside we met out new bathroom buddies, Barb & Edie. 
Me, Steve, Barb & Edie. Tight quarters.
They were locals and didn't seem to worry too much as we were in a safe spot.  I asked if they minded if I brought our Pit Bull, Hurley inside.  The said of course not.  So Hurley joined us.  Now there are 4 wet adults and a wet dog inside this small outhouse.  It's hot and humid and the rain, hail, lightning and howling seemed to upset Hurley and he promptly threw up.  Nice.  Nothing is better than being in such tight quarters when your totally wet and it's already hot and humid in there with no moving air.  I quickly cleaned it up and flushed it down.  We all had a good laugh.  They were used to this weather so they brought chairs.  I stood and Steve sat on the "throne".  This lasted for about a half hour.  Another gentleman joined us but left as the winds slowed down.
 The blue dot is us just as the worst of the storm was crossing over.
We waited about 10 minutes and then it got really still outside.  The winds, lightning, hail, everything, just stopped.  Edie and Barb left so we drove back to the trailer.  No damage to anything that we could see.  We were so happy that the trailer was totally fine.  Steve fried up some quick burgers as we were starved now.  Just as we finished eating the rain and winds kicked right back up!  It didn't look as bad on the weather app and no alerts or sirens so we just brought the slides back in and waited it out.  Luckily Hurley seemed more comfortable in the trailer and there was no barfing repeat.
 This was round two.  Scary stuff!  Once it all died down we turned the TV on and they broke through to show the tornado that touched down by us about 10 miles away!

We were camped just to the left of the tornado nearer the lake.  Being from California, I think I'll take an earthquake over a tornado any time.  Especially when it's dark out.  Then again, maybe it was better that we couldn't see it!  No damage at the park, just lots of downed branches.
The next day we could actually enjoy our nice spot at Kanopolis State Park, #A16 with  water and electric for only $8.  Yep, $8!  Off season rates.
 We sat up on a little knoll with a great view of the lake below.
There were two things we came down here to do.  One was to see Mushroom Rock State Park and the other was to hunt some special crystals unique to this area.
It's a very small state park with unusual boulders out in the middle of no-where.

The rocks are an example of hoodoos, formed through a process of erosion and weathering in which a hard mass of Dakota Sandstone capstone resisted erosion while the underlying softer stone weathered away.

 Looked like a giant dinosaur egg.


 The giant shoe rock.
Pulpit Rock
The rocks had interesting edges to them.  Another one of those cool, out of the way things to see. Of course there were several geocaches hidden around here so we did a lot of that while enjoying our ride in the area.
We learned a lot about the Ghost town of Carneiro. Well, about a dozen people still live here, but most of the town is deserted.  It started out as a Kansas City/Santa Fe Stage and Mail Line began to travel from Kansas City to Denver in 1866.  The town name means "mutton" in Portuguese.  There were huge sheep ranches.  Now the few residents here mostly raise cattle and wheat.
 This was a fun cache.  It was hidden in an old oil filter under an old lawnmower.
 The old school which closed in the 1960s.
We just enjoyed driving around the country on the backroads avoiding the few muddy areas.  Nothing around here for a long ways.  We sure didn't want to get stuck in the mud.  Been there, done that.

Searching for the crystals took some time and a bit of hiking down muddy slopes and walking over a huge bay of floating logs to get to some bluffs where after much searching, I found the spot!
Gypsum crystals (selenite) up to 7 inches long are found at this special part of the lake.  It's a look only, no taking thing.  After heavy rains the crystals become visible right on top of the black soil.  They also sparkle when the sun hits them just right. 
 Another heart spotted at the base of a tree trunk.    And the first crystal I found.
 Once I found the right spot, they were everywhere.
 This one was huge and my favorite.  I liked the diamond shape.
New caching friends: CatsnKansas, KansasIris and Nancy Owl.
I decided to hike straight up the hill instead of the long way I took to get here and, of course, found a small trail that would've taken me right there!  At the top was a family looking for the crystals and the cache also.  I showed them where they were.

Next we drove to where the Roses are known to be.  Another hike down the hillside to the waters edge.  We looked and looked, then Steve spotted them.  They are like hardened rust colored clumps of sand that resemble roses.
 Sand Barite Roses form in clusters at another spot along the lake. They continually form and you are allowed to collect them. We just left them there for others to enjoy though.
 The cliffs get their red color from iron in the soil and can be found on this part of the lake.
There are other things to see in the area like caves, Petroglyphs and a Salt Mine. A little further away, there is Monument Rocks, but as usual, they will have to wait for another trip.
 We enjoyed our last sunset before driving to the western side of Kansas. 

 A fisherman reeling in his last catch of the day below us.

Driving through this area, we knew to really keep an eye on the weather forecasts.  Not only for tornados, but we knew our plans would be very dependent on the season.  Snow does fall in these parts in October.  If that happened, we'd have to cut out the northern part of Nebraska near Wyoming and head back to AZ.  We had plans to visit friends in Colorado so we hoped the weather would hold.
 We got an early start and passed yet more farms and sorghum fields. 
 This was pretty much our view all the way across Kansas and Nebraska.
 Yellow Sorghum above, red below.

I had found a couple of county parks to spend the night.  There was snow predicted in a couple of days so we were going to just stay one night to do the high point once we got to the far west side of Kansas just a few miles from the Colorado border.  The one that was in town was now closed.  So off we went to the second choice.  Problem was once you get off Interstate 70 out here the roads are all dirt. If they are wet we could not bring our trailer on them.  The weather looked like it would just wait for us!  After a call to the tiny Chamber of Commerce  they told me it had been sunny all week and the roads were mostly dry.
Our spot at Soldiers Memorial Park run by the county.  There is supposed to be water and electric but we didn't really see any.  The place was once a very popular park, so I read, but is not used much after the summer.  We made sure to take a spot nearest the road so if the weather turned quickly, we could get out.  We didn't care about hookups as we weren't staying long.
It was a good hour drive zig-zagging down deserted dirt roads like the one above.  Not much to see but we still enjoyed ourselves.  When you look at things differently you can find beauty anywhere.
We had sketchy directions, but arrived at the right place!  At 4,039 feet above sea level, Mount Sunflower is the highest point in Kansas. It is located at the far west side of Kansas on the Harold Family Ranch in Wallace County.  We really appreciate the people that keep their private property not only accessible to us, but really make it a special place.  This is another one of those special spots.
 Just a final drive over the cattle guard and there it is at the end. 
 The cows didn't mind us being there one bit.  They probably were happy for the company.
 The owners made lots of signs out of wrought iron and had plenty of information on the area.
 The High Point mailbox with the log to sign. Where do we find all the information on these high points? At SummitPost.org
A picture at the top of Kansas at 4,039 feet!  I'll bet you're surprised it's that high, right?  I was.  It's flat, but its a giant plateau area.

They even have a library out here!  Isn't it cute?  Feel free to take or leave a book.  There is a covered patio above it and it is obviously well taken care of.

 This high point sits on the private property of the Harold's which was homesteaded in 1906.


And a few of the views on our way back to the trailer.  Snow is forecasted for tomorrow so we'll be heading out early!


Good bye Kansas.  Tomorrow we'll arrive back in Nebraska for their high point which borders Wyoming and some other fun things.


  1. I really hate tornadoes. We've had to take shelter twice and it's not fun. You find some fun spots to see. Thanks for the website.

  2. Well that was kind of exciting. Better than being bored! Good welding guys you found. They looked after you pretty good for $90!


    1. We got VERY lucky! Those welders were great and treated us very well.

  3. It's always a good idea to check the rig before driving. Lucky for you that the welders stayed to help out. Nice parks. You seem to have good luck with finding them. I'm planning our trip to Missouri for our niece's wedding in June. There's a state park just north of Denver that we plan to stay at for a few days. Hopefully it's as nice as it sounds :-) I did notice Steve's choice of seating arrangements. LOL But I'm glad it wasn't worse for you guys. Our son lived through two major tornadoes during his stay in OK. If he gets assigned there again he now knows the better option for housing locations. I've seen a few libraries like that around town here. Nice idea :-)

    1. I'd make resos at that state park in CO as soon as you can. Those fill up real quick. We had a hard time finding a spot in October. Tornados, not fun.

  4. I hate to see fellow Montana owners with suspension and 5th wheel frame issues. Done the suspension just hope we never have the latter issue. Glad it all worked out for you and $90 is a bargain! You guys sure find some interesting areas with your summit quests.
    Safe travels!

    1. Amazing when you look at it and realize how much weight is on that one weld!

  5. We never get tired of driving through farm country. While others find it flat, endless and boring we see the beauty in it. We have never really spent any time in Kansas but would like to. Scary story about the tornado, glad everything worked out but poor Hurley, he was really living up to his name!

    1. We agree. We loved to see what crop was planted, watch some being harvested, loved all the cool farm equipment, etc. I'd love to drive some of that! Ya, poor Hurley.

  6. Spent most of my summers growing up in the Midwest, tornados aren't something to fool around with. Dave has a new appreciation for the farm country after spending the summer in IL. There is beauty all around if we just take the time to look. When you get back in the Phoenix area we have a hike for you guys, between 9-10 miles to some great petroglyphs and a great geocache.

    1. We really enjoyed the Midwest. Oooh, a new hike? Can't wait! We'll be back in that area March.

    2. Actually we might be around there the end of Jan too. We'll be back at his step-mom's in Feb. Then back for a bit in April.

  7. Tornados follow hail. Just saying. Local weatherman said there will always be hail and given how many tornados we have had around here I now believe he is correct.


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