Oil Fields, Questas, and Pioneers

Another day in the wilderness East of Wichita. Beaumont to Cassoday via Sallyards, the oil fields. The epitome of the roads less travelled. Not marked, not maintained, and not for the faint of heart.

Now, any car could probably make this trip. WE didn’t do any 4 wheeling, rock crawling, or river crossings. But the road was less than smooth and parts of it are open range (no fences) so we had to negotiate free roaming cows and horses as well. All in all, it was a great day!

My first subject was one of those stone houses. I am going to retract my previous assumption where I assumed that these were schools or churches due to the marker stone over the door. Well, all the houses we saw like this had that stone over the door. Some had marks (unreadable from a distance) and some didn’t. So, I guess I will just guess that they were stone buildings. (there aren’t enough people out here NOW to justify that many schools or churches!)

Anyway, this house had a most interesting roof. And this is the road in front of the house.

The road meandered along the edge of this stream.

Then we came across what USED to be the bridge. And I can tell this place will yield some great pictures throughout the year.

Found a couple more houses before getting into the oil fields. You don’t suppose there is a predominant wind direction, do you?

Then off into the vast expanse of the oil fields. We even came up with a motto while we were driving. “We get lost so you don’t have to!” hahahahaha

Driving through an oil field is kinda like navigating a maze, you never know when you are going to hit a dead end. The roads are there for the oil company to get to their pumps and oil tanks. There are no signs and you can’t tell squat from traffic wear. Because most of the traffic is oil company vehicles, and they are not trying to cross the fields.

The roads you see in the pics are not typical. Most of the roads follow the contour of the land, meaning they go all over the place. Yes, we had a map. And yes, the roads were on that map. BUT, just because it’s on the map doesn’t mean you can drive down it. Maps don’t show GATES and don’t distinguish between public roads, private drives, and plain farm trails that aren’t roads at all. So that “road” you are looking for might just be that driveway you passed a mile back.

Here’s a great example. We were shooting for this road, found it, and then BAM! The next fence had a “Private Drive” sign on it! That meant the road we wanted to take across the fields, we couldn’t. WE don’t cross clearly marked private property. If there is a gate or a sign, we stay out. So we had to turn around and find another way through.

What made it weird is that right where the road turns “private”, there is this HUGE reservoir. There was one house directly beneath it (not where I would put a house) and the map showed two houses along that private road (only two). So who is this beautiful “lake” for? It’s in the middle of nowhere, hours from any civilization. And only three houses in the area. Damn nice private lake. With just this herd of horse to enjoy it.

Then there’s the mystery of the Questas. We’ve been looking for these since last summer, and only found them due to the grass fires. The region is known for this geological phenomenon. Eastern Kansas has layers of rock between layers of loose sandstone. As the sandstone washes away from under the rocks, the rocks break off. Not very dramatic, but we’ve been looking anyway.

Then, suddenly we top a ridge where the valley had been burned, and there they were, fully exposed! The rock layers are clearly visible as is the breaking off areas. On one side of the road you can clearly see the Questas, but on the other side of the road where the grass was not burned, you can see how they hide in the grass (I’m standing on the break.)

In these pics you can see both the vast expanse, and the scale of the grass fire.

Down one of those dead end roads we even found a questa that had not broken (yet). You can JUST make out another break line at the crest. The hill was littered with large chucks of rock, but I couldn’t get an angle on the hill through the trees. In the first pic you can see a chunk that broke off long ago in front of the break. And in the second pic, you can see a chunk above this break, from the crest of the hill. This region has two distinct layers, and we saw some spots where it looked like there might be 3 or 4 layers of rock.

Then there was this cute farm house, ready to move in. The farm was obviously still in operation, as the cows around the barn mistakenly thought I was there to feed them. They were quite rude with their comments.

We saw several groups of turkeys, one group had nearly 20 turkeys! Alas, they move quickly and I move slowly. So I only got pics of this one group. I know it looks like there are only 6 birds in this group, but half the group was obscured by the brush.

Finally, we finish up with another stone house, with some modern modifications. None of these houses have had anything around them and no sign of how they were used.

* Extra Pics *

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