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Last week I drove across the country, from Georgia to Nevada. As usual, I took back roads much of the way. Driving highways such as Interstate 70 in the populated parts of the country is an exercise in dealing with traffic, and not much else. Kansas has other east-west highways that are less crowded. Take one of those roads, and you can actually see the countryside around you, stop when you're tired, or pull off the road to take pictures.

Near the town of Strong City, I was ready for a break. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve loomed ahead on the map. With only an hour or two of time available, there was no way I could experience the whole 10,000-plus acres. But I had time to see the visitor center and hike a short loop trail.

Pictures are in lightbox mode.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

The first settlers on this land were Stephen and Louisa Jones, who oversaw the construction of the farm house and outbuildings. The house was finished in 1881 at a cost of around $25,000, a tidy sum in that era. Outbuildings, including a 100 by 60 foot limestone barn, cost another $15,000. The area was a working ranch from 1878 until 1986.

With help from The Nature Conservancy, the ranch was developed into a national park, with full park status achieved in 1996.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Detail of one of the stone walls.

detail of stone wall, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

This is not the world's largest ball of twine, but it's an impressive ball of barbed wire.

ball of barbed wire, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

The day was hot and windy, and I was there in the early afternoon. It was not the most pleasant of circumstances, but I took the time to look at the landscape. I quickly noticed the tenacious butterflies, struggling against the fierce winds as they navigated from one flower to the next.

Even this battered monarch was able to reach the milkweed blossoms.

battered monarch, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Did I mention that it was windy? These sumacs were being whipped left and right by the gusts.

wind in the sumacs, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Water is a precious resource on the prairie.

stream, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Other insects were also abundant. Unidentified beetles on lead plant.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

A dragonfly poses near a creek.

dragonfly, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

One last look at the countryside.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Link to Park Service website

Since there seems to be no Daily Bucket today, I will publish as a Bucket. My availability for comments is limited, but y'all know what to do. Carry on...

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