After we left Kansas we drove north to the Topeka KOA. Directly south of home and open year round, this has become something of a constant in our travels. There’s not much to say about the Topeka KOA. It’s a nice rather typical KOA. It has a big red barn with a huge basement that can double as a storm shelter. Being Kansas that’s always a good thing to have. The staff and hosts are pleasant and accommodating. Everything works. Yet just when you think it couldn’t possibly be more predictable something wonderful happens. This KOA is on a creek edge and has large swaths left in native grass. Native grass needs fire to grow properly and we were treated to the delightful site of a controlled burn. Actually it was three controlled burns in three different fields. Each field was isolated by a wide wetted short dirt/grass road and they wisely waited until evening when there was no wind. They monitored everything carefully. We took great delight in watching from upwind.
Due to rain and the possibility of high winds and thunderstorms, the next day we stayed on in Topeka. We walked to burn site and checked the “damage” the second day. I wish we could be back in time to see it when the burnt area bursts into green and blooms. The third day we packed up and moved on in journey home.
It looks very ominous but the propane tank is actually well back from the flames.
The fire moved slowly in a thin line. There was no wind so it was all very controlled.
After the burn, ashes and bare soil but this is tall grass prairie and so it will turn lush in green in very short order. Fire is required for the prairie to bloom.
Prairie is a fire ecology and must burn to grow. Here you can see the wet edges the owners created to keep the burn where they wanted it. During the burn itself they constantly patrolled the boundaries to make sure the fire didn’t spread.
We left spring behind when we left Fort Smith, Arkansas and arrived at Big Hill Lake Campground near Cherryvale, Kansas. Well spring was here because winter was over but the trees were bare and there no more lovely spring flowers in the grass. We pulled into the campground and picked a pretty spot with the lake in sight. One nice thing about this campground is it is one of those rare Army Corp of Engineer sites that has sewer hook ups. We had been here several times before because it is also one of the few campgrounds open early spring and late fall. We had skipped it on the way south last fall because of a Kansas blizzard and the cold. This stop there was no blizzard but it was really cold.
We have been doing this traveling south for nine years now. Every time we hit bare trees and get close to home I start to feel anxious and depressed. Due to some very bad stuff that happened to me before I met my husband, no matter how happy I am to see my family and friends again, returning home means some of those bad memories come back. When I am traveling around the south the memories are far away and I feel totally relaxed, really myself. When I travel back north, those old things settle on me again. After a few days of being home I readjust my thinking and the sensation goes away but it hits full weight with the cold and the bare trees. There was no mistaking we were going home.
I was cheered by two things. We found this tree in full bloom on a walk. I don’t know what kind it is but since the nearby town is called “Cherryvale” and scent made my nose itch I assume it is some sort of cherry. I am allergic to cherry and even as I enjoyed the scent, my eyes started watering and prickling with the beginning of swelling. I smelled the lovely scent again anyway. This is why antihistamines were invented. The tree was GLORIOUS.
We also had some amusement with a pileated wood pecker. They nest at home in Manitoba so this fellow was probably on his own migration north. He was not giving off the wild monkey call they make in home territory when nesting. He seemed as curious about us as we were about him. He kept landing near our trailer and looking in at us. But every time my husband got his camera out, the bird would go around to the backside of a tree and hide. He would wait until he thought we forgot about him and then he would peek around to see if we were still looking. If hubby dearest had the camera out he would vanish again. If we had no camera he would come out in full sight and put on a show for us. The result was we only got this one crappy picture of him even though he was around a lot and we got to enjoy his glorious red colour and funny antics.
When we were last at this campground, the little children’s park was being torn up and replaced. On this trip we found that the work had been completed. We checked out the playground and it had shredded old tire bits in a thick bouncy layer designed to cushion kids when they fall. This revamped park is obviously a favourite with the locals because several times carloads of kids arrived during the daytime and I got to listen to the chatter of happy children at play and watch moms minding their little ones. That brought back some sweet memories of my own time as a mother of young children and helped me chase off the blues. Misty was a big help too. No matter how down I am feeling she will not let me avoid going for a walk and giving her some attention and doing silly amusing dog things. Like almost all dogs she has learned to zero in on a sad mood and insist on cheering me up. You just can’t stay sad and feeling sorry for yourself around canine enthusiasm for life.
One of the new playground structures in Big Hill Campground Kansas resembles a dream catcher.
Just as it began to warm up, the weather forecast called for more severe storms. Big Hill Lake is just east of Joplin, Missouri and there are definitely times you don’t want to be in some parts of Kansas so we left after two days to head north. Topeka would put us out of range of the severe storms and there is a KOA campground up there with a great storm shelter where we have stayed before. It was time to continue north.