1994 Toyota Land Cruiser

Land Yacht Field Report: Tallgrass Prairie

I planned an impromptu camping/trail trip in the Ozarks. The day before the boys and I were going to head out, the team we were meeting canceled due to a starter motor giving out. Their 100-Series Land Cruiser has more miles than my 80-Series. I have already changed out the stock starter motor on my rig.

At first, I hoped the 100-Series replacement was as straight forward as the 80-Series. It’s not. The V8 engine in the 100-Series has to have the manifold removed to replace the starter. I only had to take off the driver’s front wheel to get to my starter. Ozark trip postponed.

I planned to take the two older boys with me on the Ozark trip, so I brainstormed how to replicate in a day what we were going to experience in two days road tripping, trail riding, and camping in the Ozark Mountains. There are not many options nearby that are similar in terrain and scenery.

I turned to the trusty “shared” map that the overland group uses. Brett, 100-Series owner, is responsible for building the base map and over the years has continued to add to it. We haven’t documented a trip through the Ozarks on the map yet.

The boys & I agreed on three destinations that are grouped together within two hours drive from the house. I fueled up the Land Cruiser and purchased coffee to power our trip to the first destination.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Our first stop was the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Strong City, KS. The most notable piece of information here is that there is a herd of bison located in a pasture west of the visitor center. You are ALLOWED to hike through the pasture with the bison! I was able to educate the boys that the bison possess an obvious temperament indicator; their tail. Bison with a tail hanging against the backside is totally relaxed. A tail that stands out flat and points down is alert and paying attention. A tail pointed up is a bad sign and you should leave immediately. The National Park Service says a safe distance from the bison is 100 yards. We did not walk through the pasture because there were bison 25 yards away from the trail.

American Bison at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Waterfall with no water

Our second stop for the day included a waterfall that is usually supplied with the overflow water from a state fishing lake. We could see the spillway that led to the falls and it was bone dry. Once we reached the waterfall there was water moving there. Groundwater was seeping out the banks of the creek. The boys were not that impressed here but enjoyed being out of the car.

1994 Toyota Land Cruiser

Minimum Maintenance Road

Kansas has only 9% public land, which makes it difficult for navigating the more interesting backroads and/or two-track. Farmers/Ranchers take trespassing seriously. The places where you do not have to worry about traveling on someone’s land are minimum maintenance roads. These are roads that are usually the responsibility of the county. The roads themselves are generally dirt and some gravel. They are generally of poor quality. Finding a route that links the most MMRs together is the closest that you can get to driving a “trail” in Kansas. I look forward to the yellow signs that depict road maintenance ending there.

Coyne Creek Road is such a road. Not only does it give the impression of being trail-like, but it has two water crossings. We had a small amount of rain the week before so there was some water in the creek. The crossings were a piece of cake, and the boys enjoyed it.

1994 Toyota Land Cruiser

The minimum maintenance roads never last as long as I would like. By the time we finished traveling Coyne Creek, the boys were requesting the fast-food lunch that was still 30 minutes away in Emporia. I could have spent another hour on a similar road, but the boys’ stomachs won.

Get Outside

Nature Therapy

Traveling in the Land Cruiser does something to me. It renews my enjoyment of driving on these trips. Recently I posted about a manual seat replacement for it. That post occurred because I daily the Land Cruiser and going back and forth to work somehow shows more of its flaws. Touring the country in the Land Cruiser displays where it can be outstanding. My back was fine for the quick trip to see bison, a waterfall, and to get the truck dirty. At the end of the day, I could definitely tell that I had been in the truck all day, but it was fun. I’m talking to a local upholstery shop about adding padding to the seat.

Now I just need to find more opportunities to get outside and get out of cell phone coverage.

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3 responses to “Land Yacht Field Report: Tallgrass Prairie”

  1. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    The local upholstery shop is a good idea, they’ll also probably have a better idea about what seats from other vehicles fit and how to do it. Try Mercedes Benz seats from a W124 onwards.

  2. outback_ute Avatar

    Sounds like a nice day out aka Sunday drive. Had one of those last weekend, with a Christmas lunch (early) at a winery near Anakie which is near Geelong, (and some of the Mad Max filming locations) and some scenic hills. Missed a turn on the trip home so saw a bit more countryside,

  3. janorlane18 Avatar

    Nice ride.