One of the truly remarkable and fun things we have done this trip is taking the somewhat unexpected road less traveled. Between Linda’s rockhounding application and my peak-bagging application, we are on the constant lookout for locations close to the highway. It was my turn to say “hey let’s try this one” as a lone dot drifted within range of the freeway.
Heath Benchmark is the lone summit in the Westfall SE - Kansas quadrangle, but who expects lots of high points in Kansas? We exited the freeway and doubled back on a dirt road. The road drifted past several farm operations before ducking under the freeway and beginning to climb up a fairly steep slope.
A couple of miles down the road and we turn onto yet a smaller dirt road, this time with weeds in the center. We are still pulling the trailer and with Linda’s powerful 3500 Dodge truck she uses to pull horses, I hardly notice the trailer is behind us. We drop down and rise again on this smaller dirt road. When Linda signals to turn again onto an even smaller dirt road, I begin to have my doubts. A small retention pond sits to the right and we are barely off the dirt road with the front right tire drops into a hole. Thankfully, it is only the right tire, with the 4-wheel drive I back up and pull around the corner to park. Deciding as far off the beaten path as we currently are, prudence might make up for lots of lost time if we become stuck or break down.
We grab a couple of bottles of water and walk down the road past the retention pond. The first hole is the only one we see, but better safe than sorry. At the corner of the fence, there is nothing before us but open field. This part of the country has been hit hard by wet weather, so Linda and I can’t decide if it is still to wet to plant or if the farmer is giving the land a rest this season but the untilled land before us is barren.
I glance at my phone and for the first time notice that I don’t have a pointer for our location. I didn’t bring my GPS relying instead on the peak bagger application. We walk for awhile across the empty field and arrive at a high ridgeline. The application is showing us no closer to our objective. More frustrated with myself for not bringing the GPS which would show us the direction to travel, Linda looks at her Google Maps and notes she still has the location and that application has an arrow. We have been traveling horizontally to our target. An easy 90 degree turn and a few hundred feet and we arrive at Heath Benchmark.
We mark our position and note with some amazement the view we have from this spot. A quick return to our vehicle and it seems our presence has not gone unnoticed by the local cowherd as they have all gathered together near the fence. An easy turn around spot is soon found and we are back on the road again. One more peak logged and a couple of hours to stretch our legs. I love this type of adventure.