A bit east of Junction City, Kansas 18 intersects with I-70. That particular junction is about sixteen miles or so southwest of Manhattan. So far as I know, it’s not a spot of any special reputation, just a place where one road runs into another. If you’re traveling east on I-State-Seventy and want to get to the Little Apple, K-18 is probably your best choice.
Toward the middle of a hot August afternoon in Kansas and wanting to make it to Manhattan a bit ahead of a scheduled wedding rehearsal, we took the exit. As we eased to a stop at the end of the uphill ramp, I looked off to the southeast. I’d had no expectation whatsoever for the view that lay before us.
Miles of green valley opened up beyond us. Ripples of trees and pasture spread out between the ridge we were on and the one well off to the east. The ripples of color, shape and texture continued along the opposite ridge and off as far as we could see to the south. Not the usual tones of August in this particular section of the country but it has not been a usual year. Heavy rains flooded many sections of the state throughout May and much of June, with sporadic rains continuing thereafter.
In a more normal year, the seemingly endless stretches of rolling pastures throughout the Flint Hills have tanned and browned by mid-August. Cattle roam for miles searching for shade and green sprigs of grass in the ditches and low spots. Any livestock roaming this year are simply struck with wanderlust.
Not having time for wandering or wondering, we paused for a moment, looking at each other and briefly voicing our surprise. Then we turned north and headed toward the converging of the Republican River and the Smoky Hills River.
It seemed a good day for seeking mergings and the valley lay so rich and promising before us.