Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Trip to the Flint Hills

On May 17th we drove part of the Flint Hills.  This is a place where large herds of horses roam in extensive pastures.  Since George is from Kansas, he knew about the Flint Hills, and I'd known about them from reading Thomas Hinkle horse and dog stories (Black Storm, etc.).  Nonetheless, when I first got out amongst them, I was astonished -- me, a Coloradan.  (Scenic drive reference link further on down.)
Cameras barely capture it.  Zooming in helps a little:
 Close enough, it dawns:  those are horses, not cows!
The pastures are enormous.  You can't see the end of them.  I once counted a herd of one hundred horses (that was 2 years ago). And that was only one pasture... there were others.
The Flint Hills of central Kansas are essentially a land without trees.  Oh, there are a few:
But they are in hollows and swales, dips and bottoms.  They're mostly cottonwoods and gums, hardy oaks and maples, and a few sumacs.
There are great herds of cows as well in the Flint Hills:
and these are cows.
But these are horses.  They would appear over the skyline in small groups.  Some of these pictures were taken by George and some by myself... honestly, I think I've mixed these up a bit, but we did both shoot.
I particularly liked this group.
 Close up of a slightly earlier picture:
One thing that did surprise me was the length of the tails.  Go ahead laugh:  Either most model horses don't have nearly ground-long tails (I don't think they do!), American Pharaoh is influencing me (more laughs), or these horses benefit from long tails and have no factors at work shortening them.
At one point we were quite close to the horses.  I was pleased to see such healthy-looking, at-ease animals. 
But they weren't pleased to see me.
The Flint Hills of central Kansas are famous for their grazing.  The underlying stones make the land unsuitable for farming.  The scenic drive does a good job of covering what is left of this pristine American prairie.  This is the drive we used:
 There were many birds as well.  Alas, I got no photos of them, but I can remember some of my favs:  Scissortailed Flycatcher, Upland Plover, Grasshopper Sparrow, and the ever-lovin' trio of Meadowlarks, Red-Winged Blackbirds and Dickcissels, which never stopped singing!
 Due to heavy rains, the roads weren't as safe as they could have been.  We managed, until one corner spur of the route, where we sensibly turned back.  There had been barely any other traffic.  At one point a friendly native made sure we were all right.
Bless him.  Long may the Flint Hills endure!

This last picture is not of the Hills.  It was taken in southeastern Colorado, and represents our first glimpse of the Front Range.
Spanish Peaks, as seen from Hwy 50.

I am hoping to treat Capulin Monument in future posts.  Thanks for reading and enjoy!