There’s nothing wrong with mixing business with pleasure, as long as it doesn’t interfere with business getting done.
With that in mind, this week’s trip to Salina to cover the Class 4A basketball state tournament became a bit more fruitful today when I made a long-awaited trip to Kanopolis State Park to check out some of the state’s most famous hiking trails.
Originally I planned to make the trip to Kanopolis — which is about 35 miles southwest of Salina — two weeks ago when I was in town for the wrestling state tournament. A snowstorm dampened those plans, however, so I hung my hopes on having better weather during state basketball.
The team I’m here to cover, Basehor-Linwood, won its first-round game Thursday, meaning I’d be in town for the rest of the weekend. I cranked out a story, column, photo gallery and video highlights Thursday night to make sure my Friday morning would be free to play on the trails.
I set the alarm for 6:15 a.m. A sunrise start would be important to make the most of my time at Kanopolis and still get back in time to cover a 3 p.m. game.
After a quick shower, breakfast and a half hour of watching the morning news to get the full scoop on the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I hopped in the car and hit the road.
The thermostat in the car rose into the upper 40s, and eventually the 50s, as I drove. The sun was shining. I put the windows down and smelled the fresh air blowing across the prairie.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect March day.
Kanopolis turned out to be as refreshing as I expected. I paid my $3.70 for a vehicle day pass, and then set off in search of a trailhead. Kanopolis has about 25 miles of trails, including the regionally famous Rockin’ K trail that will be trampled by trailrunners in just a few weeks at the annual Rockin’ K Marathon.
Rather than roaming the open plains, though, I opted for the Horsethief Canyon trailhead so I could get the best of both worlds: Prairie panorama and nature in its element.
I didn’t log nearly the mileage I’d anticipated, maybe five or six miles of hiking at best, but it took a solid three hours because I found myself stopping constantly to look around, soak in the scenery, climb into caves and snap photos.
The highlight of the hike was horsethief canyon itself, a box canyon where the Pawnee Indians hid the horses they’d stolen from a Cheyenne village in the 1800s. The canyon had steep walls on three sides with only one way in and out so the horses couldn’t escape.
It’s an incredible place with so much to offer anybody who loves spending time outdoors and, in particular, hiking. This may be Kansas’ natural beauty at its best.
It’s a day trip that definitely was worth waking up early for, and it’s a trip I look forward to making again soon.