A few miles from our house is an outdoor recreation center called “Camp Horizon.” It is owned and operated by the United Methodist Church. Among the various opportunities afforded there is outdoor hiking in a setting quite unlike what most visitors would expect in south central Kansas. My dear friends Mark and Dianne Flickinger live near there. Saturday evening seemed like the perfect time to take Mark up on a standing invitation (pun intended) to hike with him.
After a few minutes of hiking the gravel road over to the camp headquarter, we took the short walk out along the knife ridge that terminates a few hundred feet past the last building of the center. As we stood on “Inspiration Point” I could not help thinking once more about how ill-informed is the stereotype of “flat Kansas.”
Mark and I stood on one of the small boulders at the southern end of the narrow ridge, looking out over the Arkansas River. High and muddy from recent rains along its basin, the river disappeared behind a thick lining of cottonwood and oak and other hardwood trees. To our west and slightly north, the plains stretched out in a low ripple. To our east, the rolling, rugged terrain of the Flint Hills transitioned from timber to prairie. South of the river, the lush greens of an Oklahoma spring layered the land. Fifteen miles away, a thin trail of smoke drifted up from the ridge, maybe from someone’s burning a brush pile.
Mark pointed out a few landmarks and we guessed distances. (It’s something men do…) “Where we are right here is actually the eastern edge of the Flint Hills,” he commented. “They call them ‘Osage Hills’ in Oklahoma but it’s the same chain.”
As we stood for a while longer, I looked back to the northwest, toward Ark City. A few miles away, at just the right angle for the evening sun, a river bend glimmered its platinum reflection, so brightly it hurt to look at it. It still amazes me—even after all these years—how the dark and troubled nature of a flooded river disappears in its reflection of the sun.
I’m hoping that someday I will lose enough of my own darkness that others will only see the image I am trying to reflect.