I gradually made my way to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City, Kansas. There were more things to stop and photograph than I thought there would be. But again, this highway was called the Flint Hills Scenic Highway for a reason.
When I arrived at the preserve I asked the ranger for the most scenic trail with photographic interest. He gave me directions, we talked for awhile, he discussed how extremely rare this area is, then I left and started hiking. Through the gate, over the hills, through the electric fence, over more hills with miles long views. Spring hadn't shown itself here yet like a lot Kansas but the prairie was impressive anyway. I hiked a couple of miles and had a look around. Hmmm...movement ahead. I hiked up the trail a little farther to see.
This was the road behind me! No one in sight...
And ahead...this was the road in front of me! No one in sight...just me and the bison. And they were heading the same direction I wanted to go.
This image was taken with my slightly longer lens. It was pretty amazing to be standing in the open with them and nothing between us but grass. This was a large prairie and usually the tour van travels this road. However, the ranger told me it was too wet for them so I could hike it if I wanted to and there probably wouldn't be anyone else out here.
There's often a fine line between putting yourself "out there" to get a good photograph and that of becoming a number on a chart. How close was close enough? I didn't want to find out. I watched them for awhile and then let them have the road to themselves. I would find another route where I didn't have to look over my shoulder all of the time.
I found an area that was full of small wildflowers. I didn't have a tripod or sun shade / reflector with me so I held the camera with one hand and used my hat held out in the other to shade the wildflower, with my arms stretched and me bent over. There's probably a yoga position for this. If you've shot wildflowers before you probably know what I'm talking about.
A solitary old fence post with barbed wire stood on a hillside near the trail.
Eventually the trail I was on led to the Lower Fox Creek School. This one-room school was built in 1882 and held classes until 1930. It's interesting to try and visualize what this school and the surrounding area looked like in 1882 with children entering these doors during the great days of spring and the hard days of winter. When I looked across the prairie and the nearby fields and saw very few houses close by, I had to believe that indeed there were a lot of children that rode or walked quite a few miles to get here.
From this one-room schoolhouse on the hill, it must have been tempting to look out the windows and have such a large view of the prairie spreading out before you.
I spent over an hour here studying and photographing this school. This school is accessible from the nearby road if you don't want to hike the trail from the visitor's center. These trails are not closed so you don't have to leave the preserve when the visitor's center closes. This might be a good place to photograph star trails with the school in the foreground. At the time, I wasn't thinking about that so I'm not sure how much light is close by that might affect the long exposures.
It was time to leave and head home. I had another trip planned for the following weekend; exploring Lindsborg and the Coronado Heights castle.