If you're like me, you have friends going to Colorado on vacation this summer. For those of us left behind, I have one word: Marion.
Marion, an hour northeast of Wichita, is having a garden tour today, and I took my first trip there earlier this week. For those of us used to the more east-west traverse of the Flint Hills on the turnpike, the drive to Marion is a north-to-south twist on the hills. Just enough to get the vacay feeling started.
Limestone barns stand against the big sky in the countryside, and limestone buildings line the downtown streets of Marion, along with attention-getting antiques shops that could stand in for an Estes Park souvenir shop.
Dark clouds were gathering as I arrived in town, reminding me of the squalls that visit the mountains and drop sudden, short showers between bursts of sun.
I saw lots of tall trees, and blue spruces. I stopped in the picturesque park on Main Street and climbed down a stone staircase to the historic spring. Not quite Glenwood Springs, but I also didn't have to pack an overnight bag.
Cute and historic houses and pretty gardens dot the town, and you can see them as you hit the stops on the garden tour. Don't judge a book by its cover — you have to get out of the car and explore deep backyards that include streams and stone. One of the properties can be approached from the town's country club, and it made me think that I'd never seen a golf course set on the Flint Hills before. I could have gazed a very long time on its beauty.
Part of the tour takes you out to Marion County Lake and two very different stops. One is the estate-like Summervill limestone house, which includes a charming white spring house set into a Flint Hill, colorful flowers nestling up to it.
The other is a beach cottage painted bright blue, with red and yellow chairs on a white porch overlooking a lake.
I find it hard to believe that with my lifelong love of the Flint Hills, and Marion only an hour away, I'd never been there before. I love the place.
There was a lot of interest expressed by the locals in being on the garden tour, I was told, so we can expect a yearly reason to trek there.
On the highway heading back to Wichita I experienced another required element of a road trip to Colorado — the broken-down car. As the air conditioner went out and the temperature gauge climbed, I was able to make it to Peabody, where a broken water pump was diagnosed and I awaited a tow truck to arrive from McPherson. As I sat in the shade of Peabody Farm Service and gazed at the landscape across the street, two deer wandered out and started grazing.
Even in the unpleasant part of the day, my little vacation to Colorado remained intact.