Monday, April 29, 2013

Guard of the Plains, the Unexpected Hike

As with any drive home Jack and I became anxious to reach our home, but traveling with Lucy dog makes us always aware of how often dogs need to get and refresh themselves.  Lucy loves to doggie facebook every rest stop, truck stop,  fast food eatery, or for that matter any stop.
Letty and Lucy nearly breathless from the hike.

We were heading West on I-70 pushing our way home, when Lucy nosed us telling it was time to get out.  We pulled into a roadside stop between Topeka and Junction City and the first thing we noticed was a granite sign reading "Blue Star Memorial Highway."  Since my mother was a staunch Republican from Kansas I am acutely aware of President Eisenhower's role in our interstate highway system, and am forever grateful for his visionary ability to connect our world.

Lucy's nose took us beyond the Blue Star sign and to a hidden path in the brown bushy undergrowth on the side hill.  Thanks to Lucy we discovered the most fabulous site in Kansas that I believe many people never see. We climbed past a path that led to the parked cars for the East bound traffic, and continued spiraling upwards, in Kansas no less. This steel sculpture atop a hill of divided highways remained hidden from our sight until we stepped through the winter brown trees and bushes and emerged high over the plains.  

When at last the bushes cleared away and we stood alone on top of this brown scene, our eyes were astounded at the vistas with hawks flying below us and around us.  For miles we could see in any direction and felt as if we had discovered solitude and nature in the middle of rolling hills and roaring traffic.  What a contrast of earth's beauty from the snow covered ground in Wisconsin, to the rolling farm lands in Iowa, to the Flint Hills of Kansas.
Awestruck beauty in brown tones, as only nature paints.

Under the tower Lucy found the plate telling us about our discovery.  "Guard of the Plains" by James Kirby Johnson,  November 1970.  What a grand culmination to our Honeymoon Retirement Adventure.  I'm so thankful that someone in Kansas had a vision and believed in artwork as a way to entice people's imagination.
Lucy found the path and the dedication.

P.S. My friend Chi Chi Allen found this marker of the Guard of the Plains and shared her picture with me.


  1. Fun that you got off the “beaten path” and saw some really neat stuff. Time spent with the masses on the freeway isn’t fun.

  2. For the past 40 years, every time I drove the section of I-70 between Manhattan and Topeka, I have wondered about the sculpture on the top of the hill by the rest stop. I have stopped numerous times at the rest stop looking for something about the sculpture but never found anything. And never saw the path. And of course by the time I arrived at my destination I had forgotten about the sculpture - until I saw it again. I often thought of writing to the highway department to ask but I never did.

    Today reading your blog, the mystery has finally been solved. THANK YOU! The next time I go by I will look for the path.

    I have always admired the sculpture and now it means even more. LD

  3. I wanted to let you know that on the same path if you go off to the left towards the top of the hill you will find a path that is barely visible but you can tell people have walked it. And at the end of that path is a pile of rocks and underneath the Rocks is an old ammunition case that's kind of like a time capsule or some people said it's a geocacher but there's a notebook in there where you write your name where you're from and where you're going and you take something out of the box and put something in and my friend James and I got to do that back in 2005 and it was a great experience

  4. I wanted to leave a comment here because this place has a lot of sentimental value to me. Back in 2005 my best friend and I drove from a small town called Blue Ball Pennsylvania all the way to San Diego California. This rest stop is one of them ones that we stopped at and like you we found the trail and made our way up the hill. It was awesome to be able to see such a beautiful sight at the top. But I wanted to let you know that before you get to the top of the hill there is another somewhat hidden path that leads to the left. You have to really kind of look for it I just noticed it cuz I could tell people have walked it. But at the end of that past which is not very long there is a pile of stone and underneath the stones is an old ammunition case. Inside the ammunition case is what some people call a geocacher I think of it more like a time capsule. But there's a notebook inside where you can write your name down and where you're from and where you're going and then there's small trinkets in there you take something out and put something in. And it was especially important to me because before my friend and I left to go on this trip he gave me an old bullet keychain that belonged to his grandfather. I thought that was cool because it was an ammunition case that we have found so I put the bullet keychain in and we were on our way to California, and one of the first things I saw when I open the box was an old California raisin. And so we took that and we stuck it on the dashboard of the car and continued our trip. So for those of you that have seen the guard of the Plains I recommend looking for this other little path towards the top of the hill and being a part of something that hopefully hundreds of people will see at some point in their life. It's a time I will never forget. Since then my friend James has passed away and I often look back and think about that time and know that our names are now forever set where others will see and know that we have been there together and I still have the California raisin that's it's on my dresser as a reminder. So thank you for this post and I'm glad I could be a part of it and share some information that you may not have known

  5. Thank you Jerry. Isn't it interesting how I paths cross on the highways of life. I'm sorry we didn't find that sideway walk, but perhaps that was your treasure to uncover, not mine.

    Like you, our journey continues. We've moved to another state, and discovered more roads, paths, and even Where the Sidewalk Ends. Happy Trails to you.....