Kansas Voted "Ugliest Scenery"

In early 2013 BusinessInsider.com ran polls across the USA asking people to vote for states based on several prompts. One of these polls had Kansas voted ugliest scenery by an overwhelming majority. Let me bring you along on an adventure across the ugliest state in America to discover and explore fly over country.

-Colt Sturgeon

July 11th 2020 - Jayhawk Road, Gove County

Flatter than a pancake

A common subject often brought up by visitors of Kansas is that the state is flatter then a pancake. Kansas is indeed flatter then a pancake. While the pancake had a flatness of 0.957, the flatness of Kansas measured 0.9997. This topographical fact has been said and repeated for years as one of the reasons to fly rather than drive through the state. However, despite the miles and miles of vast fields, and endless horizon very few people have ever actually taken a moment to notice how intense the feeling of being completely alone in an endless ocean of wheat and sky is. Depending on the time of yeah you may hear Meadow Larks chirping all around you, or locus buzzing through the grass. You might even witness something that is nearly impossible to find in the natural world. Absolute and utter silence. There is a powerful and humbling emotion that washes over a person the first time they stand under the vast open sky and experience absolute silence.

Kansas isn't exactly a place of peace and quiet however...

June 17th, 2023 - Supercell Thunderstorm over Barder County

Violence in the skies

Everyone across the world knows of Kansas for its knack of throwing a few tornadoes around each year. However most natives to the state can go their entire lives with out seeing a single funnel cloud. People often overlook the types of storms that produce such violent and stunning displays of raw natural power. Thunderstorms swell and blow through the state in the late spring through till the early fall and bring a fascinating show of lighting and claps of thunder. While in the winter whiteouts keep things interesting through out the Western half of the state going as far as shutting down major highways and making for a true winter wonderland. If you think Kansas would be a boring place that never gets the adrenaline flowing you'd be in for quite the surprise if one of these frequent storms appeared.

[Photographers Journal]

The photo above was shot during a major chain of super cells that swept the south eastern half of the state in mid June of 2023. While hunting for rattlesnakes along roads in Barber County we got caught up in the one pictured above. I spent an hour in the rain trying to keep my camera dry while also attempting to capture the storms rotation and the vibrant purple and pink lightning. 300 photos were shot t an exposure time of 4 seconds each and only the 3rd to last image captured any spark of lighting. This image is the perfect example of taking advantage of your surroundings in landscape photography. Being prepared and setting up in the right place sets a photographer for a stunning photograph at the right time. All it takes is taking the opportunity the universe gives you with a dash of patience waiting for that one absolutely spectacular image. After accomplishing my goal, my buddy Conner and I spent the next 3 hours in the car enjoying the show as the storm swept over us and shook the ground.

January 19th, 2023 - Monument Rock, Gove County during a massive whiteout storm

December 16th, 2022 - Iliff Commons, Shawnee County after a major winter storm blew through Topeka

Ad Astra

Thus one goes to the stars : such is the way to immortality.

There is a Latin saying going back 2000 years: “per aspera ad astra" which translated means “through adversity to the stars,” or, "through hardship to the stars." So whenever an obstacle rises that seems to block the path forward, in reality the obstacle has an essential function. And that is, it forces me or it forces humanity to generate more — either more strength, more energy or more consciousness."

This is the anthem of Kansas and a verbal representation of the visual displays our night skies light up with. From the glow of the Milky Way core in July to the rare but extraordinary Northern Aurora that sparks in the darkest regions from time to time. Kansas nights offer a show light and wonder that's only extenuated by the vast size of the horizons here.

To the stars from the middle of no where.

Via Galactica

The ancient Romans called it the Via Galactica, or "road made of milk". This is how our galaxy became known as the Milky Way. When you look up into the night sky, most of the stars you see are located in the center of the Milky Way. The skies of Western Kansas are so void of light pollution that with the naked eye around July this stunning display of light can be admired on clear cloudless night. Even around cities and towns some can even see the faint cloudy path in the skies around this time of the year.

Milky Way Core | July 10th 2020, Monument Rock Kansas

Spectacular Nights

The extraordinary night skies are as much a part of Kansas as the wheat fields and rolling flint hills! As you venture farther and farther outside of major cities and towns you'll discover a painting of color and light that our ancestors viewed every night. A tapestry of stars and stellar objects that shine bright and remind us just how small we really are. Something we often forget living in the city.

Not only can you find exceptional views of the stars and Milky Way but also rare events. In 2020 Comet "Neowise" passed Earth and was able to be viewed clearly from even the cities around as the sunset and just after dusk.

You may even be lucky to witness something most people only see around the Northern and Southern arctic circles. In early 2023 seen across dark Kansas skies was a dance of light and color known as the Aurora Borealis. Yes that's right! The Northern lights can be viewed rarely in Kansas skies and while not as vivid and bright as farther north viewers would see they are very clear and a once in life time experience for many who call the prairie home!

Comet Neowise | Feb 2020, Shawnee Kansas

Orions's Belt Nebula | Jan 2023, Topeka Kansas

Comet Leonard | Feb 2023, Hoyt Kansas

Monument Rocks | July 2023 Gove County, Kansas

The Sunflower State

Fields of Gold

I'm sure you've heard of the vibrant fields of tulips in the Netherlands. Kansas isn't just known for it's golden fields of wheat, which peaks around July and August each year... Scattered around eastern Kansas in the Autumn grows fields of 5-6ft tall golden yellow sunflowers! These fields become major community areas with people from all over the state visiting them each year. These major blooms not only add a dash of extra color to the fall colors and provide a source of food but they also have the added benefit of supporting the honey bee population & bee keepers through out the region. At the end of the season after the flowers have died they are harvested and turned into seeds, oils, and even coffee substitutes and peanut butter substitutes.

[Photographer's Journal]

This photograph took me over 30 minutes to catch following this bee, which I've named Curtis, from flower to flower. Walking through the fields of flowers each individual stalk had 2-3 honey & bumble bees collecting nectar and pollen. Growing up with a grandpa who kept bees my entire life and always having hives & jars of honey near by gave me and my sister some wonderful childhood memories along with an appreciation for the bees and their place in the ecosystem. It's a bonus they happen to be the most tame and levelheaded of the bee family!

Hidden Gems

A new take on "Kansas"

The well known flat fields of wheat of western Kansas dotted with windmills & oil rigs, rolling green praries through out the flint and smokey hills, and even the red sandy gypsum hills in the South. Kansas has several extraordinary hidden gems peppered across the hills, Forrests, and prairie. Some so well hidden that even natives might not have heard of them all! Far fewer have actually visited them.

Monument Rock

Winter Camping

KeyHole views

From Above

Kansas Whiteout