Search for the Wild Dala, Giant Mushrooms, Public Art, and an Old Mill

She said… 

Our route to Illinois for our next NOMADS job is taking us through Kansas amid the gaggle of family campers during the 4th of July frenzy. As we reach the land of lakes and dams, we also reached the land of Corps of Engineers parks. These have been some of our favorite places to camp in the past, and so far, the COE is not letting us down in Kansas. We are scheduled in four Corps of Engineer campgrounds, the first at Kanopolis Lake in central Kansas. While the state parks have been full of extended families, parties, boats, and campfires, the Riverside Corps park is mostly quiet and mostly empty.

 

Our campground on July 4th morning

Even with temperatures in the 90’s and humidity to match, we have been busy and active during our stay at Kanopolis. On Sunday we attended church in Lindsborg, a small town renown for its Swedish heritage and its commitment to the preservation of Swedish craft and culture. The main attraction in Lindsborg is the Wild Dala Herd.

Dala Horses first appeared in the 1800’s in the province of Dalarna in central Sweden. The horses were carved from wood scraps from the furniture shops and painted red with the pigments from the local copper mines. The floral decorations come from the Bible story of Jonah, sitting outside the gates of Nineveh, resting under the leafy vine that God provided to protect him from the sun.

In Lindsborg, the wild Dala heard can be spotted all throughout the downtown area. Their ornamentation has evolved to allow them to blend in with the local businesses.

The State Park at Kanopolis has 27 miles of trails and we wanted to check them out to see if they would be good for a bike ride. So, on Sunday afternoon we hiked the Buffalo Track Trail and part of the Horse Thief Canyon trail. This loop took us up into a box canyon where native peoples and later horse thieves would drive and corral buffalo and horses. It is rumored that the James Gang used these canyons to hide loot. It was a beautiful hike in spite of the temperatures, poison ivy and ticks, but these trails are more suited for equestrians and mountain bikers than sedate urban cyclists.

On Monday we drove to Salina, the nearest city of any size. On the way we stopped at the smallest State Park in Kansas, Mushroom Rocks State Park. In New Mexico, we call these formations hoodoos, and while the composition of the rock on top may be different, the same sandstone beneath is what erodes away with wind and water to leave these interesting formations. I must say, the ones in Kansas look more like giant cow patties!

We continued on to Salina, where we encouraged Maybe to act like a city dog for the afternoon. Every year the city of Salina borrows sculptures from artist all over the country and displays them downtown on Santa Fe Ave. This is really a good idea for keeping a downtown area revitalized; everybody is encouraged to vote on the piece they like best, and the sculpture with the most votes is purchased by the city and given a permanent home. Over the years, this has made Salina Kansas a great place to see public art from all over the country.

Our camp host here, Jim, told us about how 30 years ago he was working in Lindsborg helping to restore the old flour mill. We liked Lindsborg enough for a return visit, so we took the bikes in for an early ride on the beautiful trails around town and a visit to the Old Mill Museum.

The Smoky Valley Roller Mill was built in 1898 and was originally powered by horizontal turbines in the Smoky River. In the 1930’s the mill was converted to electric power and continued to turn 30-35 bushels of wheat into around 1400 pounds of flour per hour until 1955.

Efforts to restore the mill began in 1960’s and were completed in 1981. Even though the equipment doesn’t meet current food safety standards, every year in May the old girl is fired up and hard winter wheat is once again turned into flour (which is used for bird food.)

I was most impressed with all of the beautiful wood equipment, and I enjoyed following the power trail from the single shaft powered by the electric motors through all of the gears and belts to move the wheat up and down the 4-story mill.

There are old-fashioned soda fountains all over Kansas. On the way home from Lindsborg we stopped in Marquette for an old-fashioned ice cream soda. It seems like everywhere we go there are murals on the buildings. Loved these.

We spent our 4th of July at home, resting up and taking a day off from our exploring. We have a few more neighbors in the campground than we did this morning, but it is by no means full. Tomorrow is a travel day. We continue east to another COE park in Kansas. Happy 4th to all.

Blessings this week: This country and the privilege of being an American, the opportunities we have as we travel this great country, and Shannon, who will often walk or ride the extra mile even for me even though he is ready to go home.