In the draw –
Walk the trail at your own risk.
-Venomous snakes and poison ivy
-When windy or rainy do not enter the West Draw
-Dogs need to be on a leash
WINTER ON THE TRAIL
Each season brings it own pleasures to the trail. In winter the trees are bare. They display their essential structure, strength, and vulnerability – and indeed their architecture. If you’re lucky, a passing train will thunder down the elevated track and demand your attention, inspiring awe and wonder.
Further into the woods, the trail invites closer inspection of the details – the ground coverings, the leaves, the nuts, the stones, the deer tracks. It is quiet except for the rustle of leaves underfoot. No birdsong or insect chatter. A wintry silence. It seems far removed, just for you.
EARLY SPRING – ON THE TRAIL
Each season brings it own pleasures to the trail. As winter makes a brave attempt to end its reign, you think you see buds swelling and turning color. In other places, not yet. It’s a tease. It’s warm, then cold, then a slight greening… Impatience.
A passing train thunders down the elevated track above the trail and demands your attention, inspiring awe and wonder. You know it won’t be as loud when leaves are on the trees. But it will be no less commanding.
Further into the woods, the trail invites an earnest search for details that reveal the first signs of spring – tiny ground covers peek green noses through dead leaves of the previous season, nutshells lie open after a winter’s meal, wet stones shimmer from a recent shower, and a slight scent of spring freshens the air. Deer tracks make their own trails – and there are other tracks too. Do you know them? The silence is broken with a little birdsong, no insect chatter yet. A noisier silence. Spring is ready. Waiting for just the right moment. Anticipation. Certainty.
AUTUMN ON THE TRAIL
A passing train thunders down the elevated track above the trail and demands your attention, inspiring awe and wonder. The foliage is thinning now, and the sound of the train is even more commanding.
Buckthorns, elms, hackberries, bur oaks, white oaks, and chinkapins are changing color, losing leaves, and edging toward winter. A million stones cover the dry river bed, mixed with crinoids that are 500 million years old. The squirrels are frantically laying away stores of nuts, while the Monarchs cover the trees and look for water. Birds are quieter – and so are the cicadas. They know. Winter is coming.
Still…take precautions to avoid ticks until frost: wear a hat, long sleeves, long pants, socks over pant cuffs, spray your clothing with bug spray around your waist, cuffs, and neck. Check for ticks at bedtime. Use tweezers to pull them straight out, and apply Neosporin. Just a little while longer.
On the trail, history and nature are palpable – and now so is art.
On the trail, history is palpable in the presence of nature.
Art makes an occasional appearance as well. There are sculptures to be discovered. They blend into the treescape, appear in clearings, and are sometimes surrounded with brush, but their presence is undeniably strong.
Mark McHenry, architect and sculptor, has gifted several sculptures to the Volland Foundation. Created over a lifetime and not specifically designed for this place, McHenry recognized they would feel at home here – and they do. The materials of iron, wood, stone, and found objects resonate with the Flint Hills and its culture. The architecture, engineering, and vision of each piece is complex and intriguing. They beg to be touched and contemplated. They stir the imagination.
Sculpture #1 is placed close to the trail’s south entrance, and Sculpture #2 is about halfway through the trail. Sculpture #3 can be seen from the Volland gallery – it is to the west of the Ruin, close to the two trees along the mowed path leading to the trail entrance. The fourth sculpture is hanging in a tree just before the first bend in the trail – and it moves!
The fifth and sixth pieces were installed in Fall 2023. Sculpture #5 is hanging from a tree next to Volland Road before you reach the gallery. It moves in the breeze. You will see the sixth sculpture just after you pass both the Old Store and the New Store (home of the Volland Gallery). It swings and turns as it hangs from a honey locust tree close to Volland Road.
Seasonal Creek | The area’s watershed flows through this draw to West Branch of Mill Creek (just across the railroad tracks). The stream is seasonal, usually running dry in the summertime. Native trees are found near waterways in the Flint Hills, and the trees lining this streambed are Black Walnut, Hackberry, Bur Oak, Sycamore, and Buckeye. Look for the giant Bur Oak tree and the stately Sycamores.
Emerging from the Draw onto the Prairie | The brome field is on your right (to the south). A non-native perennial grass, brome is cut and baled in June, for storage until wintertime to feed cattle. Native Tallgrass Prairie is on the left (to the north). The original prairie has not been touched by the plow. Native species include wildflowers, native prairie grasses, and sedges.
At each stop on your walk, scan the landscape to see what you can see.