Road-Trip Surprise: Fort Hays

Where: Fort Hays (Hays, KS)

Who: The Whole Clan plus Mimi and Pawpaw

When: July 6, 2014

Unless you are a boring person who’s not interested in much of anything, there’s almost always something worthwhile to see no matter where you happen to stop during your travels. Our stumbling upon an historic sight in Hays, KS, is a good illustration.

DSC_0887We found ourselves in Hays because it was a convenient place for us to attend church services during a Sunday on the road. Since leaving Branson, MO, on July 3, we had made stops in Searcy, AR, to pick up Sons #1-5 from Jason’s parents, and Texarkana, TX, to pick up Vickie’s parents, before starting a long haul to Colorado Springs on July 5-6. We stayed overnight in Wichita, KS, the night of July 5 and drive about three hours to Hays the next morning. We rolled up to the Hays Church of Christ just a few minutes before the service began. The members there were very welcoming, and once they learned Jason teaches history, they recommended we make a stop at Fort Hays on our way out of town.

So a few minutes later we pulled into a park across the street from the fort and enjoyed our picnic lunch. A nice surprise was seeing some buffalo penned up there. We couldn’t get close because of multiple fences meant to discourage both the buffalo and gawkers, but we managed to take a couple of decent pictures, including one of a calf.

After eating, we crossed the street to the remains of Fort Hays, which was built in the 1860s to protect frontier settlements and enforce treaties with the plains Indian nations (think Dances with Wolves, I suppose). At one point over 500 soldiers were stationed there.

DSC_0895Nothing remains of the fortifications today, but you can still see some of the foundations. Several important points are noted by markers, and some of the fort’s buildings are still standing. For example, some of the officers’ quarters pictured here are in pretty good condition. For most of the site, you had to read the markers and use your imagination. Unfortunately, the visitors center was closed on Sundays, so we were unable to avail ourselves of whatever information it contained.

Still, it was a good opportunity to talk to the kids about what the soldier’s life probably entailed. We asked them to imagine lining up on the parade grounds in full uniform on a blazing hot day (it was 100 degrees while we were on the site), and they were suitably discomposed by the thought.

Grab opportunities to see interesting sites you suddenly learn about along your route, even if you only spend a few minutes getting the lay of the land. Our experience at Fort Hays helped break up the monotony of two days of driving and gave us some new insights into American history.

Leave a Reply