BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

Kansas: A closer look at the apotheosis of all things middle-America

I've never spent much time in Kansas. Before this weekend, it was merely the way home from a job interview in Joplin, Missouri.

Now my sister lives there, and I'm going to have an excuse to explore a state that, it seems, is the apotheosis of all things middle-America.

It's easy for Coloradans to drive east — Kansas starts at DIA, right, Denverites? — and write Kansas off as a featureless, flat-as-a-pancake hell hole of cornfields and full of folks only a hair to the left of Fred Phelps. Kansas, after all, has very little in the way of the high summits and public lands we altitude-addicted mountain staters like to play in. In fact, Kansas is one of only a very few states with no designated wilderness areas whatsoever.

So, what's left? An agri-industrialized tornadoscape of rotting barns, chemical-spewing water dragons and rebel flag-waving John Deere tractors? Not quite, of course. Kansas, much to my surprise, is quite a beautiful place. And it's not flat. My bike ride around Junction City today included several halfway decent hill climbs.

And, while looking very closely for something interesting while wandering around Clay and Geary counties today, I think I found one of the wildest places in Kansas at the Kansas Landscape Arboretum. The arboretum has a mile-long nature trail around a bog and a creek that feeds Milford Lake, making me feel more like I had stumbled back into my native South Carolina than roaming what I thought would be the least interesting state in the country.

I'm beginning to doubt there is such a place.

More from the arborteum: