By Julie Doll
By this time each spring, many Kansans have planned or made summer vacations, figuring out where they want to go, how to get there and what they want to do.
It’s another part of life that COVID-19 has turned into a maybe-possibly-we’ll-have-to-wait-and-see event.
Even if big trips to mountains or oceans don’t work out this year, it looks like we will be able to enjoy in-state travel, unless too many people ignore public health recommendations and set off a serious resurgence of COVID-19.
And while Kansas might not inspire the awe that the Rockies do, it does have spots worth our admiration and time.
Here are some recommendations from central and western Kansas, which are intended to give an idea of what there is to see – including many in areas where keeping your distance from others is often a way of life.
I’m thinking of places such as Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park in Logan County and Monument Rocks, which is nearby in Gove County.
When I visited Indiana last fall to see some family and friends, I made a stop at an artists’ cooperative in Lafayette, between Indianapolis and Chicago. The artist who was minding the store that day asked where I was from, and we started chatting.
Turns out, she had driven through Kansas a few weeks earlier, and she had planned her trip from Indiana to New Mexico so that she could spend time at Monument Rocks. Specifically, she said, she wanted to paint it at sunrise.
Farther east on the sight-seeing list is Fort Larned National Historic Site, in Pawnee County. You can check the National Park Service website to see whether it is fully open, but even during the shutdown, its grounds were open to the public.
East of there is Cheyenne Bottoms in Barton County. Its drives through wetlands offer views of all kinds of wildlife, especially different species of birds. And the associated Kansas Wetlands Education Center, if open, is worth a stop.
As museums open up, the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays has wonderful exhibits and specimens. You can call or check the website to see if it’s open.
While many indoor spaces remain closed this month, places such as Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, which is about 30 miles west of Hutchinson offers great places to drive, hike and see Kansas wildlife, in animal and plant forms.
If your idea of a good time around water involves boats, fishing and skiing, Kansas has plenty of lakes. Smaller state fishing lakes typically aren’t as crowded as some of the bigger lakes. Just be sure you know the rules and fees before you head out.
And one spot I highly recommend isn’t in Kansas, but it’s close.
Amache is about a 30-minute drive west on Highway 50 from the Kansas-Colorado border.
An internment camp during World War II, Amache was “home” to about 10,000 people of Japanese descent, many of them U.S. citizens, who were imprisoned at the site in the 1940s.
Over the past several years, private and government entities have worked collaboratively to preserve and enhance the site, which is just outside Granada, Colorado.
Given all the whining and screaming about government restrictions during a pandemic, an internment camp should help put into perspective what American freedom means, and what repression really looks like.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers in California, Indiana and New York, as well as across Kansas.
By Julie Doll