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Archive for August 1st, 2007

I had a lovely serendipitous experience while I was travelling out to Colorado.   I stopped for lunch in Wamego, Kansas,, a town that advertised it had an “OZ Museum”.   I guess they did it because they were in the middle of tornado alley in Kansas, because L. Frank Baum never lived around there.  Anyway, I wasn’t planning on going to the museum, but I figured they might have a good place for luch.   They did.

My waitress was very pleasant, and noticed that I had a road atlas with me.  So she began to chat me up, and told me that if I had the time I really should go see the monument rocks in western Kansas near a small town called Gove.   Her boyfriend used to live there, and it was just really an amazing sight.  There was a limestone formation, she informed me, that had eroded and left big monuments “like in Utah”, and it was well worth seeing.

Now, if you check your Kansas map, you will see that Wamego is way over by Topeka, and Gove is a minute dot over towards the western side of the state over 230 miles away.  I looked at the area around Gove and saw not just one, but two different formations noted on the map:  Castle Rock and Monument Rocks National Landmark.  I decided that I probably had time to make a little side trip, and when I got to exit 115 I headed south on road 198 laboring under the delusion that I would be able to find Castle Rock.  Forty-five miles of dirt road later, without having found the rock, I wound up on Kansas State Hwy 4 at Utica.

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The sun was going down, and I decided to press on, figuring that a National Landmark might have better signage.  It did not, but I used my witch navigation system, and found the Monument Rocks anyway.

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I hung around for over an hour, because the sun was going down, and I was hoping that it would come out from behind the clouds and give me some amazing light.

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It never really did.   This was the best light I got.

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But I was fascinated by a window rock.

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The mud nests above the opening are cliff swallow nests.   They were flying around eating bugs and talking about how awful it was that there was an interloper wandering around their territory.   I also watched a night hawk for a while.   She was calling and calling, and hovering over an area where there was a bird calling back to her.   I think she was trying to get her recalcitrant youth to learn to hunt.   I’m not sure, I never did spot the other bird, which never left the ground.

I also really liked this formation, which I ended up calling “The Griffon.”

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Finally the sun actually went down in rather a blaze of glory.

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 So I finished my loop around the Monument Rocks of Kansas, and wound up back on Hwy 83 headed north to I70.   This little building was sitting at the crossroads where I got back onto pavement.

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I always wonder where the people went when I look at places like this one, and the one in Utica.

I didn’t wonder too long, I had a long way to go to find a hotel. 

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I’m one of those kinds of people who like to know the names of the flowers I am looking at.   I am not perfect at this, by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a pretty good handle on it.   I’ve been studying for a while.

When I was a little girl, there was a standing family joke which had entered our lexicon courtesy of a Park Ranger somewhere in the mists of history.   He was a geologist, and he was charged with enlightening the curiosity of people who wanted to know what sort of rock they were looking at.   Generally, he would identify the mineral, but every once in a while he would reply to a query, “Oh, that is an FRDK.”   After hearing this term a few times, my mother finally got up enough courage to ask this expert what FRDK meant.

“It means, Funny Rock Don’t Know.”  For ever after, when one of us children would ask her what kind of flower we were looking at, usually we would be told the name or directed to look in the “Flower book.”  But every once in a while, the identity would be “PFDK”.  (Pretty Flower Don’t Know). 

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This flower is a complete mystery to me.   I have done everything I can think of on the internet short of ordering a book of “Flowers of the Rocky Mountains”.   I am reluctant to do this because I know how flower books are.   Generally speaking, if there is ONE particular flower you are trying to identify, that is the one that is not in the book.

Anyway, this flower was growing on a rocky east facing slope at about 9000 feet in a forest of pines and spruces.   Nearby there were mertensia in a little brook, there were also currants and elderberries in the area.   The total height of this plant from soil to flower is about 3 inches.

At first I thought it might be a member of the primrose family, but the flower form is not right.   It also could be a member of the mountain laurels (Kalmia sp.) as well.   But I just don’t know, and Google has not been forthcoming.

If anyone has any ideas, or an alpine flower book to look it up it, PLEASE!  DO!   And let me know.

Pretty, isn’t it?

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