Tuesday, October 2, 2012

41st State: Kansas - Wilson Reservoir (Oct. 2, 2012)


Boy is Western Kansas flat… about like eastern Colorado.  All my life I have heard the phrase “High Plains”  as in High Plains Drifter, etc., but never knew what it referred to until this week.  After you pass through the Rockies and emerge out the East side (Front Range)… the land flattens out, but elevation is still over 5,000 ft..  (i.e. the High Plains). 


It was windy as heck and I almost lost my bike off the bike rack.  I think someone unscrewed the bracket and tried to remove the bike, but the bike lock wrapped around the bracket/rack/bike frame hampered their efforts. I didn’t check before I began driving again, until I saw the cover flapping in the high winds… and then found the bike just resting on the edge of the rack with the front wheel resting on the frame of the trailer.  That was just too close.  Now I check it every time I stop and about every hour if I am driving longer distances.


I noticed changes in the crops… sorghum fields seem about ready for harvesting, sunflower fields look pretty dried up and flower heads smaller than I have seen them in the past.  And oil fields are popping up everywhere, along with wind turbines all over the place.  Winds… nope, don’t want to kayak in these winds.


Made it to Hays, KS and overnighted there.  On to Wilson State Park the next day… to blue skies and low winds.  Hooray… a good day to kayak. Wilson State Park is located on the south side of Wilson Reservoir.  The park is divided into two areas:  Hell Creek and Otoe.  I picked Otoe to launch from.  There are striped bass and small mouth bass in the lake as well as white bass, walleye and other fish.  I saw some jump out of the water… seemed the size of an elephant.  And, lots of waterfowl…lots (gulls, Canadian geese, Western Grebes, storks and cranes and even a Cormorant).


I launched from the Otoe Area between the Goldenrod and the Yarrow Campgrounds.  No people around.  Was greeted by a flock of Western Grebes as I launched.  


Next I saw Canadian Geese along with a lot of sea gulls. 

I headed out toward the middle of the lake and then spotted the Wilson Dam at the far end (Eastern end I think) and decided to head toward it. 


This image or file (above) is a work of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soldier or employee, taken or made during the course of the person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.


See, I like to go someplace and then return, making a loop.  All together it was about a four hour paddle… and yes, I’m out of shape.  Believe I could fit about 100 of the little Meadow Lake from CO into this Wilson Lake (I’m gonna compare the sized and do an overlay of the two lakes just for the fun of it).  My shoulders and back ached before I got back to my van. 


Van?  Where is my van???  Oh, finally, there it is, the white speck on the horizon.  I thought I spotted the shoreline pretty well when I pushed off but as I headed back in, I was disoriented… thinking I’m too tired to have to paddle around here looking for my van… then I spotted it and felt so relieved.  First thing I had to do was eat lunch (at 4:30PM), and rest, then load up and head south.


Have abandoned the idea of having the kayak and gear on top of the van (just too darned much work) and loaded it all back into the trailer.  Less wind resistance that way, hence, better gas mileage.  My new kayak cover (homemade) is not holding up well to the sun and wind… so it is all better inside the trailer.


Grebes taking flight – Swankie Wheels in the background.

The strangest things I saw:  1) fence posts made out of limestone slabs and 2) eroding banks along the shoreline (100 miles of shoreline) revealing roots of trees.

Limestone fence posts.

The following taken from ksbyways.org brochure:  Miles of stone fence posts stand as a tribute to the ingenuity of the early settlers.  Facing a lack of trees, the innovative farmers and ranchers quarried rock to creat the fences they needed, which today have become a trademark of the Smoky Hills region.

They call it “post rock.”  Today, I learned something new.

This one below was near my friend Bev’s home in Oklahoma.



Eroding Shoreline

Today I head on into Oklahoma to put the Swankie Wammie on some unsuspecting body of water for my #42 state paddle.  And today my son (in Washington state) heads into surgery for a new hip!!!!  Thinking of you Richard.  Hope your hip results are as fabulous as my knee results.


Next State: Oklahoma


  1. U r an inspiration to me swankie. Thank u for posting your journey with us. Sincerely, Ron Hunter ( VanDwellers)


Who is Swankie?

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Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.