On Saturday I drove over to Arkansas City, Kansas (popularly known as Ark City) to walk the trails at the Wichita Audubon Society’s Chaplin Nature Center. It is a few miles west of town along the Arkansas River.
I’d planned to have lunch in Ark City, but none of the restaurants there struck my fancy and I knew that I was only a half hour away from a delicious Mexican lunch at Enrique’s at the Ponca City Airport. So I detoured south for that and then returned to Ark City and negotiated a couple of miles of gravel road to reach the center.
It was warm for November but very windy and I had to wear the straps on my Tilley hat to keep it in place. After signing in at the register in the center I walked straight out through the back of the building to reach the Bluff Trail and follow it east along a bluff above the Arkansas River bottomlands. All of the trails had beautiful limestone markers and trailside nature signs. One said to look for plants with various characteristics which I thought I was more likely to notice about fellow walkers: which ones were smooth, hairy, prickly, slippery, etc. I’m pretty prickly at times myself.
Soon I turned onto the river trail, which led past a large tree and had a bridge over Spring Creek and then passed another tree which dwarfed its neighbors. There were few red autumn colors at the center, but some trees sported yellow. Here I was reminded of Tulsa’s Oxley Nature Center at Mohawk Park and how the peaceful surroundings are marred by the sound of aircraft landing nearby. For next door to the Chaplin center is some sort of dirt bike tracks and I could hear the sound of motors revving. Not the ideal neighbors.
I followed the Sandbar Trail over to the Arkansas River where I saw more trees with yellow bunting across the way. The wind whipped my hat off at one point, but I retrieved it and walked over to the shore for a closer look at a bird making calls from across the river. I then walked through a very minor sandstorm (which had me rubbing sand off my forehead later that day) to see a big tree along the shore.
I then returned to the River Trail and upon discovering a huge chair in the woods I clambered up for a portrait. Then I crossed a large prairie restoration area where various tall grasses had been seeded. I followed the Spring Creek Trail and posed in the very low crook of a tree before passing a fallen log sporting very large white mushrooms. The Lost Prairie Trail had Honey Locust trees with vicious thorns and I wrapped up my 2.5 mile walk at a large set of stairs on the bluff.
I left a donation and drove back through Ark City where I had to stop at the busts and other statuary in Ranney Park, which seemed very out of place in the Kansas plains. While it wasn’t a long nor a particularly pretty walk today and I’m no birder, I did enjoy the Audubon trails of Ark City.