We rolled up to Ernie Miller nature trail around four o’ clock passing through the first parking lot and continuing on to the new bigger/main parking area. They’ve added this and some new trails and bridges and a couple new buildings since I’d last been there over ten years ago. One building is a good sized picnic shelter with restrooms and the other is the main building that’s sort of a visitors center/educational center. It was closed when we got there but I had heard that it’s really nice/cool. When telling Kaylin, one of J’s best friends daughters about going there a few days later she said her school took her class there for a field trip so I’m assuming it’s a common place for that sort of thing. Outside the front entrance there were a two big zoo-like bird cages that housed an great horned owl and a red tail hawk. They were inside the main building so we missed out on seeing them but we did get to see lots of cool birds and more at the world famous Topeka Zoo a few days later. Ernie Miller has about three miles worth of trails to explore and we did the big trail that kind of works it way all the way around the outside of the whole dang thing, about two and a half miles. I was proud of my girls as they pushed on genuinely enjoying the outdoors the more they were out there. Kansas is still trying to break free of winter so most of the trees were leafless and bare but the ground and shrubs were green. The bugs were pretty much non existent though so that was a good thing. There was one major highlight of the walk and that was when we looked to our left about half way down the trail and saw a large deer standing there, about 50 feet away. Then we saw another and another and then another. So a family of four deer walking right next to us for a good minute. We stopped and observed them and they stopped and observed us. At one point we were having a sort of stare down. They eventually moved out of site but right then I turned to go back down the path and there was another one right on the path. When it saw me it bolted into the trees and another little one leaped over the path following. It was crazy and J was loving every second of it. A moment she will never forget I’m sure of it.
Z started out with the idea that this was going to suck, constantly wanting to know when it would be over for at least the first ten minutes. But something changed about then and she had forgotten that she should be complaining and started playing. She found herself a walking stick and began singing and collecting “specimens”. The fresh air and exercise had gotten to her brain and balancing along a big fallen log seemed to be alright with her. She began to lead us down the trail pointing cool things out and telling me things I should take a picture of.
The only thing blooming in the tree tops were these little purple/pink flower buds. Looking into the trees from a distance you would see a light purple haze, pretty cool.
The newly added trails were all paved and felt somewhat separated from the nature, like you were observing it from afar. I would have none of that and took us directly to the old dirt trails that I remembered, where we got to forge through some slippery mud and hop from rock to rock to cross the streams. More like being “in” the nature. Z spotted this little nook in a tree. We want to bring back a teensy gnome and tuck him in there for passers by to notice, or not.
This amphitheater has been here ever since I had been coming to Ernie Miller. It was super cool having my kid pull me from the “audience” to come up on stage and dance with her.
We timed the hike perfectly. Walking our last 50 yards through an open prairie to the parking lot I turned around and snapped a couple pics of the sun setting. It’s crazy how these two pics were taken within a couple minutes of one another but the sun goes from above the horizon to below it. What an awesome adventure.