Sunday, October 18, 2009

Homeward Bound

We left Junction City Thursday after lunch, and drove as far as Wichita, KA, before stopping for the night. The highlight of the trip was sighting several "kettles" of migrating hawks. They were far enough away that we couldn't determine what species they were....or if there were several. It was breathtaking, though. We pulled over on the side of the road, got out and watched for several minutes until they spiraled out of site, headed south. That wasn't the end of our hawk-watching, however. Northern Harriers, with their distinctive white rump-patches, winter here. Redtailed Hawks are everywhere, soaring over the fields and woods or perched on a fence post like this one.

As evening approached, we passed up a world-class state park on El Dorado Lake just outside El Dorado because the sites that were available were muddy. We'll stay there in the future, though. There were plenty of trees and large open areas where the dogs could run.

In retrospect, I wish we had braved the mud instead of going on to Wichita. There are only three RV parks in town. One was on the far west side of town and another had sites so small that even our 33-foot RV wouldn't fit. So, we chose USI RV Park on the east side of Wichita. I will say that it was clean, and had level gravel sites and a nice grassy area for walking dogs. However, it was very close to the (apparently requisite for urban parks) railroad tracks. From what I could tell, the trains started running about 3 a.m., and continued every 30 minutes or so until morning. The park also backed up to a pig farm. Fortunately, the wind was from the other direction so we got only an occasional piggy whiff. The dogs were very intrigued, though. The squealing piglets sounded like prey to them! One night there was more than enough!

On the advice of RV friends Jack and Danielle Mayer, we drove south into Oklahoma and camped at Coon Creek Cove Park on Kaw Lake northeast of Ponca City. The park is a Corps of Engineers park, and is just lovely. The sites are large and well-spaced, with plenty of open areas. Sites have water and electric service, and there are bath houses spaced throughout.

Our site backs up to a little slough off Kaw Lake, and is a mecca for birdwatchers. On Saturday we looked out our window and saw a dozen or so species at once. Among them were Great Blue Herons, Great White Herons, a flock of Canada Geese, several duck species, American White Pelicans and seagulls.

The one below is (we think) a juvenile Great Blue Heron that John calls Leroy. He hangs out below our campsite and fishes from dawn until dusk.

We have also seen a number of woodpeckers and flocks of Eastern Bluebirds in the trees around our campsite. (I never knew bluebirds traveled in flocks!) In addition, there are medium-sized birds of some kind that travel in great dark flocks, wheeling and twirling across the sky.

This area is on the edge of the tall-grass prairie, and rolling, grassy hills alternate with oak woodlands. The grasslands have taken on their fall colors, and the rusty-red big and little bluestem are providing color to the landscape. There are a number of very large ranches in this area. We ate lunch at a local barbecue joint alongside a "real" cowboy, complete with boots, spurs, chaps and a sweat-stained hat.

When driving along the back roads, we saw miles and miles of fences, herds of fat cattle,and a scattering of oil wells, but very few houses or outbuildings. Native stone is often used to build "posts" like these to support gates or fence corners.


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