The Flint Hills are a natural wonder worth experiencing

Flint Hills Kansas
The Flint Hills- Photo by Sabrina Horel from Wandxr

Back in December, I drove up to Denver for the weekend. It was pretty much the perfect trip — skiing at Arapahoe Basin, hanging with one of my oldest friends, drinking IPAs at Comrade Brewing and watching my beloved Cleveland Browns win a squeaker against the hated Denver Broncos.

But even after a great weekend surrounded by the epic beauty of the Colorado Rockies, the thing I’ll remember most about that trip is a pit stop on the journey home.

I stopped at a Kansas rest area, and noticed a brochure for the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve about 40 miles south. The brochure had a photo of a bison. I was intrigued: Bison are roaming wild in Kansas? I thought you had to go to Yellowstone to see that.

So I took a little detour. And was awed by what I encountered in the Flint Hills.

Some natural wonders can’t really be known until they’re felt. Some places are so vast and detailed that our imaginations can’t quite conjure them from words or photos. The Grand Canyon is like that — until you’ve hiked down to Havasupai, you can’t really grasp it.

The Flint Hills have that same effect through a quiet, understated majesty that’s hard to articulate. Here, in the center of the continent, is one of the last slivers of untouched dirt, a preserved piece of thin, rocky soil that’s unsuitable for farming and thus retains the natural state of this landmass before horses and plows tamed it.

This is land more like the sea than any other I’ve encountered — vast green silence, rolling with the wind, seemingly endless.

For about 30 minutes, I leaned up against the shady side of an old stone fence to watch the bison as they sunned themselves.

It’s my fondest hope that you’ll have a similar experience because of this issue. We have put together itineraries for five ideal road trips, all within a short drive of Kansas City.

We enlisted a local to tour us through Northwest Arkansas, where you’ll be stunned by one of the world’s great art museums and a coffee roaster that sets the trends nationwide. Up in Omaha, our food critic, Natalie Gallagher, found a vibrant downtown crammed with great shopping and what may well be the Midwest’s best sushi. And of course we went back to the Flint Hills. As I said, it’s a place with charms that defy capture, but writer-photographer Kim Horgan did about as well as anyone could.

There is a lot of other fun stuff in this issue, too, including an interview with iconic humorist Bill Geist, who has a new memoir about his formative summers on the Lake of the Ozarks. I was lucky to get down to the Ozarks myself, where I tagged along with some good ol’ boys snagging for spoonbill, an ancient fish that’s become an obsession for both locals and a new breed of Russian angler seeking precious black caviar.

Safe travels as you get out there to enjoy it—and please send us a postcard.

Notable Numbers

➤46 Percent of KCMO residents are renters.

➤$4,000 Retail value of caviar in a spoonbill you can catch in the Ozarks.

➤1821 Year the Santa Fe Trail opened, tying KC to Mexico.

➤63 Stories the Gateway Arch towers over St. Louis.

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