We classify everything by our own experience. How do we keep this natural self-centeredness from blinding us to new things?
This summer my husband and I took our small RV camper, aka The Dragon, on a journey through state and national parks, spending a month traveling from Texas through Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska and Kansas. We saw so many wonderful places, which you will be seeing in photographs on the website over the next few months. Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Custer State Park, Devil’s Tower, Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain… There are more on the list just as worthy and beautiful; it was an impressive lineup. But there was one small state park that was the surprise of the trip: Lake Scott in Kansas.
Kansas. I use this word even when speaking of places not in Kansas to describe land that isn’t exactly flat, and certainly not ugly. It’s a step or two above Texas Panhandle, which is completely flat, except where it isn’t–and that’s another post. In general, for me, Kansas means anything barely rolling, green and well…boring. The kind of land that makes for great farmland, but lacks any distinguishing feature. We’d seen some in Oklahoma, some in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
This particular evening we were staying in Kansas proper, and we didn’t have hopes for interesting scenery. The GPS and road signage told us we were a mile away from Lake Scott State Park, slugging it out with the wind, which we had been fighting since we left the Rocky Mountains earlier in the day, over a prairie that had precious few trees and seemed to be getting flatter by the minute. Lake Scott? How could anything like that hide out here. We reached the turn off and left the main road. My heart was sinking. And then a surprise happened. The park road descended into a canyon, shattering the illusion of flatland.
Lake Scott lies in Ladder Creek Canyon. The area was used as a hide out by a small band of Native Americans who left Taos Pueblo in New Mexico in the late 1600s, fed up with colonial Spanish rule. They stayed here for ten years, until the Spanish found them and took them back to Taos. There are ruins of their tiny pueblo here, called El Cuartelejo, the Far Quarter. It’s easy to see why they chose this site: consistent water supply and a landscape that favors secrecy. We set up camp, trying our best to not be overcome by the pungent smell of marijuana coming from somewhere in the campground. Marijuana, or “pot”, is now legal in neighboring Colorado, so it wasn’t surprising that someone was taking advantage of that secretive quality so present at Lake Scott to enjoy the last of their cache.
We were only staying the one night, our last night in the camper before returning to my brother’s house in Oklahoma City to retrieve the cats and go home. Lake Scott is a very pretty spot, especially at sunset, when we arrived, and even more so at sunrise. In fact, at sunrise it became magical, in a way that didn’t require pot or any other recreational drug.
I didn’t plan to get up just before dawn. We hadn’t made it out of the camper in the early hours once during the whole trip. But nature had something special this morning. I awoke to the calls of Canada Geese, rudely berating each other and scuffling right outside the camper. I dressed quietly and followed them, keeping my distance as I didn’t want to get bitten. They formed a jaunty and excited procession heading in the direction of Lake Scott. I dawdled behind as they slipped one by one into the waters, changing from awkward and vulgar beasts into creatures of extreme elegance. The sun was still struggling to get over the rim of Ladder Creek Canyon, so the light was gentle. I sat and listened.
Between geese and insects, the Lake was far from quiet, and yet there was something very peaceful about it. Then the light show got started.
I realized how easy it would have been to miss this road, this place, this moment. I had to make several choices that took me away from the views I expected to see and put me here.
How humbling to realize that this fantastic beauty goes on every day, while we humans are getting ready for work, thinking we are the center of the universe. And all of this happens in, of all places, Kansas!
Want to see more? Stay tuned, I’ll be sharing my photography sets from Lake Scott as the week goes on.