Kansas prairie

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Here’s a great idea: Let’s hike up the highest hill in Kansas on the hottest day of the year.

That was my sarcastic thought the weekend of Sept. 7 when it was 103 degrees in Manhattan, Kan. Photographer Jim Heemstra and I were meeting with Iowa State alumni, and the idea was to photograph them in the nearby Konza Prairie.

I thought it was way too hot to do a photo shoot outside, especially with hiking involved. But we did it anyway. And even though it was extremely hot, there was a nice breeze, so we all lived to tell about it.

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The Konza Prairie is actually a pretty incredible place. Located in the majestic Flint Hills about six miles south of Manhattan, the Konza Prairie Biological Station is an 8,600-acre tallgrass prairie preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University.

We hiked a portion of the Konza Prairie nature trail. If you think Kansas is flat, you’ll be surprised by how steep this trail is at times. We started out in a forested (think: shady) area and crossed two slightly scary footbridges before heading up, up, up through the (very sunny) tallgrass prairie. We hiked as far as the first overlook, and we could literally see for miles.

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The full nature trail loop is 2.6 miles long, and self-guided tour brochures are available at the trailhead. Two additional trails are available: the 4.7-mile Kings Creek Loop and the 6.1-mile Godwin Hill Loop.

A $2.00 trail fee is suggested.

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