Getting the flavor of...
Kansas’ last great prairie
It takes a sense of adventure—and a quality raincoat—to appreciate Kansas’ Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, said Kathleen Stoehr in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. My husband and I got caught in more than one torrential downpour while out on the prairie. But when the sun was shining, the 10,894-acre preserve was “a space so capacious and a sky so vast that a sense of peace, solitude, and the ability to truly breathe permeated my being.” Wading through the Indiangrass, switchgrass, and big bluestem, we chased after chattering dickcissels, one of the prairie’s 150 bird species. Coneflowers and gayfeather “added pops of color along the path,” and when a thunderstorm rolled in, I stopped to savor the soaking rain and watch the lightning. But a bolt soon struck so close we could smell it, and my husband and I exchanged looks and started a long dash back to the visitor center. “You do not, as the story goes, mess with Mother Nature.”
A cruise on the Big Muddy
America’s most storied river is “getting a fresh look from travelers,” said Ellen Uzelac in the Chicago Tribune. The Mississippi may be less scenic than the Danube or Seine, but cruise traffic has been growing so steadily that European lines are jumping in and domestic rivals are expanding their offerings. On a recent trip from St. Louis to Cincinnati aboard the American Queen, I became a convert. “Because of its nimble size,” the steam-powered paddle wheeler can dock at the heart of any town. Passengers can borrow bikes or join hop on, hop off tours, and a robust program of onboard evening entertainment trumps anything Europe offers. The history of the river was all around, in charming towns waiting to be explored. Sure, the passing scenery “wasn’t all pretty,” as when we passed fertilizer plants and granaries. But interesting? Yes. “Watching a towboat pushing as many as 40 barges downriver— now that’s something you don’t see every day.”