Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fort Riley

For the Independence Day weekend, we decided to travel out to the far northwestern corner of the state. We found a nice-looking KOA Campground in Goodland, so we planned to stay the night there on Saturday. Other than that, we didn't have much of a plan. We just wanted to see as much of northwest Kansas as we could before we had to return home.

Our adventures started in Fort Riley, where the older boys and I climbed up a hill at Freedom Park, across from the airbase. Magen and the baby stayed in the van enjoying a mid-morning snack.

I remember coming here often with my family when I was a little boy. My brothers and I would race up the hill, each eager to be the first one to touch the cannon at the summit.

And this cannon was no ordinary one; it was an M65 Atomic Cannon (a.k.a. "Atomic Annie). These huge, expensive ($800,000 each, in 1950s dollars) monstrosities could lob a 15 kiloton atomic warhead 7 miles. Like so much Cold War weaponry, they were obsolete soon after their deployment.

Looking at the rusty ol' girl now, it's hard to believe that she and her sisters once helped to keep an entire continent cloaked in fear and darkness.

The hill overlooks Marshall Army Airfield, which houses several wings of helicopters. It also offers a nice view of the surrounding countryside, including a stretch of the old Mormon Trail. The asphalt trail to the top is beginning to crumble, but the wildflowers and dragonflies are still as fresh and beautiful as always.

It was a good little hike, and a fun adventure for the boys. It was also a nice nostalgic trek for their old dad.

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