Even though we were facing an unprecedented heatwave as we drove across the Plains, the mountains of Colorado were being inundated with a late spring snow (and the colder temperatures were quickly moving in on us). So, we made a few changes to our itinerary and stopped for a few nights in Wakeeney, Kansas.
Literally, the only reason for our stop was that it was on the way. We had zero idea what we were actually going to do in this town for the several nights we were now staying there.
But we are not ones to sit idly, especially when there is an inkling of adventure and places unknown.
The town of Wakeeney is a tiny blip on the map along the highway, and once you move beyond the several square blocks of downtown, the roads go from pavement to dirt and the prairie stretches on and on.
Our first adventure was to scope out what town had to offer. While there was very little to do and very few stores were open (as we have seen frequently across small downtowns), there was an amazing City Park and multiple nods to Wakeeney’s nickname of “Christmas City of the Plains.” Even in mid-May, we were able to visit the North Pole and see various references to Christmas, so I’m sure it would be something to see during the actual holiday season.
After a short evening adventure, we knew we had exhausted the sights within the city limits, so we started scouring the map for something to do the following day. When we saw references to the Castle Rock Badlands and the surrounding hiking trails, we made a plan to visit.
We did not quite anticipate the change in the weather from a balmy 90° one day to rain, cold, and wind the next, but we still naïvely packed up the truck with our winter gear and headed toward the trailhead.
When we arrived at Castle Rock, it was unlike anything we ever thought we would see in Kansas, and it was very cold.
After a quick walk around the rock, it was clear we were not hiking far at all.
We jumped back in the truck and continued to explore.
When we encountered a very sheltered area, we again got out of the truck and this time were able to explore even more. The area was once under the ocean, so there were fossils everywhere. There was nothing about this place that felt Kansas-y, let alone Earthly.
We explored for as long as we could tolerate the weather, then hopped back in the truck, with our minds forever altered on what the landscape of Kansas is.
The thing that really stands out to me time and again on this adventure is that every nook and cranny of this country has something unique and surprising about it. Whether it is the people, the landscape, the history, or the culture, there is always something unexpected to find if you just look for a minute. Wakeeney, Kansas most certainly reminded us of this in some most unexpected ways.