By Diane Wahto on June 24, 2014
This morning's Wichita Eagle carried an article that rated the states according to how much fun they were to vacation in. It's no surprise, I guess, that Kansas was near the bottom of the rankings. However, having grown up and then returning after being away for close to fifteen years, I know Kansas is beautiful in ways that aren't always obvious to those who don't look closely.
I grew up in the southeast corner of the state. Baxter Springs is a small town, named for its founder and for the springs that people went to. On the east side of town is the Spring River. People fish there below the small dam. The river also supplies hydroelectric power to the area. In the country just outside of Baxter Springs, someone thought to dam up the river and turn it into a crystal clear swimming hole. In the summer, everyone in Baxter Springs drove to Five Mile to escape the heat. If you were a teenager and you didn't go to Five Mile, you just weren't with it.
I live in Wichita, a city of many fine examples of architecture, both new and old. My husband walks around the city every day and takes pictures of sites that can be reached only by walkers. It's amazing what treasures are hidden just out of sight of people driving cars. Then there are the city parks, with great expanses of grass, tennis courts, baseball and football fields, and areas for walking.
My children and their families live in the northeast, so I often drive on the Kansas Turnpike to visit them. The rolling hills in that part of the state put the lie to the idea that Kansas is flat. At the crest of one of the hills, the eye takes in miles and miles of pastureland, trees, creeks, wildflowers, and the other natural sights that live in those hills.
I once traveled to Western Kansas on my way to Colorado. Yes, it is indeed flat out there, but it's also beautiful. As I was driving, off in the distance, I could see an elk standing in solitary grandeur, looking out over prairie. Rivers and streams cut through outcroppings of limestone. Fields of wheat, soybeans, domesticated sunflowers and corn are a testament to the importance of Kansas agriculture.
It's not a problem, I guess, that people don't want to visit Kansas for their vacations. I see the fewer people, the less congestion we have. And, after all, we do have Kansas City, a major U.S. city, and Lawrence, one of the greatest little cities in the world.