For the past few years my Father and I have been taking photographic road trips down around Comanche County. In the past, we have headquartered out of Coldwater (where the Bean side of the family settled several generations ago) but this year we decided to stay in Medicine Lodge and focus on photographing the Gyp Hills.
The Gyp Hills (Gypsum Hills) are located in the Red Hills geologic region of Kansas (the Gyp Hills are also referred to as the Red Hills) in south central Kansas near the Oklahoma border. This is a very interesting part of the state and goes against the stereotype of Kansas being just one flat field (just like much of the state does!). The interesting rock formations in this part of the state got their start around 260 million years ago during the Permian Period when layers of red shales, siltstones, and sandstone were mixed with layers of gypsum and dolomite. Erosion has now opened these layers up for us to see and photograph (how nice of erosion to do that for us!). This region was called the “Medicine Hills” by the Plains Indians and the waters in the area were thought to heal sickness and injuries. I’ve been to the Gyp Hills a few times since I got serious about photography, but have never really focused on this area. I was really excited to get down there and spend some time exploring the back roads and scenic drives.
(click on any photo in this post to enlarge it)
Dad and I normally start our trips early in the morning and spend the day photographing our way down the road. On this trip the we got off to a great start. We took Deep Creek Road out of Manhattan just after sunrise and at one point were rewarded with an amazing view of the light shining through the trees alongside the road. There was a slight bit of fog that added to the scene. You can see from the photo above this was an excellent start to a 3 day photo adventure. Shortly before stopping to photograph this a deer jumped out of the ditch in front of us; luckily we didn’t hit it. I would much prefer to start a road trip photographing a beautiful sunrise than hitting a deer!
We made a quick run by Council Grove Lake and stopped below the dam to photograph some of the trees there. Colors were amazing! The photograph above is of my Dad photographing the amazing colors. A photograph of a photographer photographing (say that 3 times really fast!).
Our next stop was the Drinkwater and Schriver Flour Mill along the Cottonwood River at Cedar Point, Kansas. This mill was operated for 100+ years. Originally started as a saw mill in 1867, it is currently in danger of being lost to the ravages of time (as a side note, the mill was built by the Cedar Point Postmaster Paul Schriver…Cedar Point’s post-office is now on the list of proposed post-office closures).
After a great lunch at the Dutch Kitchen in Hutchinson (all the food there is good, but you have to try the roast beef for lunch and chocolate pie for dessert!) and a stop at the Wildlife Education Center and Aquariums in Pratt we reached Medicine Lodge in time to check into our hotel and head out into the Gyp Hills. The wind was really howling (hard to believe I know, but the wind does occasionally blow in Kansas) and we were in new territory so this first evening out was more of a scouting trip than anything. Even with the wind it was a beautiful evening. We had been driving through some outstanding fall colors the entire day and the Gyp Hills were no exception to this, if anything the colors in the south part of the state seemed to be more intense than those farther north.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the rock formations we were photographing this first evening were the “twin peaks”, shown on the horizon in the photograph above. Surfing the ‘net for info on the Twin Peaks I learned that at least one of them has an elevation of 1,732 feet and is the 33rd highest “mountain” in Kansas and the 46,014th highest mountain in the U.S! (anyone want to try for a summit?)
After enduring what seemed like gale force winds we headed back into Medicine Lodge to get ready for a full day exploring the area. Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series for those photographs.