A sick pet meant both that we did not leave for our vacation in Great Smoky Mountains National Park yesterday and that we instead spent the day at the K-State Veterinary Clinic trying to determine the underlying cause for our dog’s intermittent vomiting of blood. On paper, the day was not a good Thursday. In reality, the day was a best-worst kind of day, a perfect one for making something sweet out of the sour moments in life.
After spending a couple of hours in the veterinary clinic, we drove out to the Konza Prairie, a biological research station focusing on the native-prairie ecosystem. We hiked six miles through the early summer prairie, seeing clumps of bright orange butterfly milkweed nestled amid the grasses. The trail is well maintained, especially on the 2.5 and 4.4 mile loops of the trail, and it meanders up outcroppings and down into the lower lands that skirt the clearest, happiest creeks I’ve ever seen in Kansas. The Konza Prairie’s vast size allows you to experience the diversity of the ecosystem, an ecosystem that is at risk of disappearing entirely. Some experts suggest that as little as 4% of prairies remain; most have been plowed under.
Although midday hikes are less conducive to seeing wildlife, we still saw a spotted fawn and its mother and a wild turkey in addition to other birds. We also saw a variety of grasses and flowers and the native insects that relish those plants. I saw more species of bees than I’d ever seen before, including a behemoth of a bee that appeared at least two inches long (though I didn’t exactly get close enough to measure). The flora, fauna, and expansive landscape made this sour day more sweet, and I definitely recommend stopping by if you’re ever in Manhattan—hopefully visiting for more pleasant reasons than taking your sick dog to the vet!
We could have spent eight hours cramped in a waiting room while they ran tests on our dog or otherwise lamented the loss of our vacation. Instead, we explored a picturesque location that we had never visited. I’ve been working on trying to reframe my perspective when awful things happen, and this lemonade hike represents that endeavor. We may still not know what’s wrong with our dog and feel the pain of our lost vacation, but I won’t look back on yesterday as an entirely awful day either.