Why watches?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had an obsession with watches. This fascination is so strong, that in elementary school I would do something called “double-wristing,” a watch on both wrists. Very stylish, I know. Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out why this appreciation started. At the time, men’s wristwatches did not hold the popularity they do now. And, as a kid, I certainly did not have any deadlines to meet. So why did I need to know the time?

Seiko Alpinist SARB017 on Strapcode Oyster Bracelet

One of the first distinct memories I have of watches is my dad reaching into the top drawer of his dresser. Everyone knows that dads keep the coolest thing in the top drawer of the dresser, so I knew something exciting was happening. He pulled out his dad’s watch, a beat up Seiko 5. Specifically, it was a Seiko 6619-8060 MACV-SOG. A watch, that turns out has a fairly interesting history. And he gave it to me, explaining that the watch was “automatic,” meaning it was powered by movement.

Now, I never got to meet my grandfather. I don’t know the sound of his voice, what his laugh was like or those personal mannerisms you can’t experience from a photograph. But what I do have is a mechanical watch that accompanied him through the Vietnam War and in normal life. And I believe that’s what fuels my own, and many other’s obsession with watches. A connection.

Seiko 6619-8060

Watches give us a throughline to the past. They allow us to connect with an era that we may not have been a part of. The Seiko 5 from my grandfather? It was manufactured in the early 1960’s. Yet now, in 2021, it is still keeping great time. With proper care, a watch can outlast you. Making it to the next generation of wrists, which is something I find comfort in.

Author Gary Shteyngart wrote an insightful article for The New Yorker on the hobby of watches. He took the artful words of Jack Forster to heart. Forster said of watch collectors, “There’s some pocket of rot in the oak of their soul that can only be patched up by watches.” And I’d agree with that statement. Staring at the sweeping seconds hand of one of my watches brings me a sort of peacefulness, a testament to moving forward that helps me get through even the most stressful of days.

Boman with Halios Seaforth III on-wrist, Humboldt Peak CO

Not only can a wristwatch bring solace to its wearer, they also mark memories. My Halios Seaforth III bears its fair share of scratches from a hiking trip in Colorado, and countless other outdoor adventures. It’s as much a part of my hiking gear as my Mystery Ranch pack or trekking pole. I do not have to take my phone out while on-trail to check time, I can simply check my wrist.

Halios Seaforth III

Of course, this is all just simple justification. Ultimately, I may never fully understand my infatuation with watches. I’ll keep consuming content from Hodinkee and religiously checking the watch forums to find the next big purchase. But deep down I know, a watch likely purchased at a PX for under $10 will always be the most valuable piece in my collection.

Why Should You Camp at Public Use Areas?

Looking to plan your next camping trip? If so, considering a public use area may be the right call. Public use areas are designated sections of land that are open to the general public. And just an hour away from the greater Kansas City area lies a public use area that is truly worth the trip, Woodridge Public Use Area.

Sitting near Clinton Lake, Woodridge Public Use Area is one of those places that I am constantly suggesting to people when they ask me where to camp. The location offers trails, multiple camp sites and basic amenities. Better yet, it is free to use.

To get to the campground, you will have to drive up a gravel road that does have a steep incline. Be warned, during inclement weather the gravel road can be difficult to navigate. Once you get to the campground, you’ll be greeted by a public restroom and plenty of campsite equipped with fire pits. If you are looking for more isolation, consider hiking down one of the many trails. There are primitive campsites located throughout.

Speaking of trails, that is the main highlight of Woodridge Public Use Area. The George Latham Trail is a 3.9-mile loop that circles the park. The trail features wooded areas, a couple of meadows and also goes alongside the shore of Clinton Lake. The trail is rated as easy, and is great for hiking as well as bird watching. Even if you are not planning to camp, I would suggest making the visit just to experience this well-kept, and interesting trail.

It can be easy to think that you need to drive hours away in order to decompress from city life. But with camping locations such as Woodridge Public Use Area, escaping the hustle and bustle of your daily routine is less than an hour away. Whether you are looking for a multi-day excursion or an overnight camping trip, this campground at Clinton Lake is one to consider.

Exploring Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park

Finding adventure in Kansas is not a difficult task, especially when you consider the 28 State Parks that dot the map. In 2018, a new State Park was opened in western Kansas, but the contents in the park are anything but new. Because Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park contains a Niobrara Chalk formation that was established millions of years ago.

In late July, some friends and I decided to visit this treasure to see a landscape that you may not expect in Kansas. And after a roughly six hour drive with a stop in Hays, KS, we arrived. Because of the length of the road trip, we opted to do a two-night camp at nearby Lake Scott State Park. This park offers a range of amenities, but we decided to keep it simple with a primitive camping site adjacent to the lake.

Not to detract from the beauty of Little Jerusalem, but Lake Scott also offers some awesome views. We were also pleasantly surprised to find a complex systems of trails that provided decent elevation above the camping area. So, shortly after setting up camp we gathered some water, and started to explore the trails that surrounded the lake.

While we hiked roughly a few miles, there were trails on all sides of the lake. Had we chosen to camp on a cooler weekend, we may have been able to explore more. But be advised, on a hot day, shade is hard to come by in this region of Kansas. So plan accordingly with plenty of water and snacks to help with the heat.

When hiking these trails, you may be surprised by some of the terrain. We found the trails to be well-maintained, but there are certainly some steep and rocky areas. So be sure to hike with care, there were a few times where I found myself having to focus on balance more than I expected.

As the sun set, the campground we were at was relatively quiet. There were some groups who were partying but also a fair amount of families. From what we could tell, Lake Scott is a favored fishing location for locals as well. I wish I would have brought along my pole and tackle box!

On our second day at camp, it was time to enter Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, which is roughly 20 minutes from Lake Scott. And to say we were impressed would be an understatement. The formation itself was priorly a part of McGuire Ranch for five generations. And it is astonishing how well-preserved this location is. In order to continue this, hikers are required to follow strict rules, that way the park can remain in pristine condition for more to enjoy.

The rock formations tower nearly 100 feet above the plains. This, combined with the wide-open skies make for a sublime feeling. And needless to say, it made the cross-state drive worth it. With temperatures reaching into the mid-90’s we spent about three hours in the park itself. Various wildlife can be spotted, as can plant life unique to the area. There is also plenty of informative signage throughout the park.

On our final day of camp, we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise with some welcomed cloud cover. And on the return home, I believe we all felt a deeper connection to the state of Kansas.

So, should you make the trip to Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park? If you are looking for a new side to Kansas, I think so. We are lucky to have public access to a place like this, and once you visit, that is something you are sure to feel as well.

Hiking The Elk River Trail

In terms of outdoor experiences, Kansas has quite a bit to offer. Especially if you are someone interested in camping and hiking. A prime example of this is the Elk River Trail located near Elk River, KS. A 15.3-mile point-to-point trial, the Elk River Trail offers unique landscape, awesome views and more.

In 2020, a friend and I decided to tackle this hiking trail over a two day period, camping roughly seven miles in. We started out early Saturday morning, and were immediately impressed with the upkeep of the trail and how quickly its characteristics changed. While many recommend starting the trail at the east end, we opted to start on the west side near Highway 160, parking another vehicle at the end of the trail.

The beginning of the trail is relatively flat, but as you progress you will find yourself consistently going up and down hills. Overall, the Elk River Trail has an elevation of 977 ft, which makes for some intense hiking for Kansas. In terms of water, a major benefit we found on this trail was the abundance of filterable water. If you plan to hike the Elk River Trail on a hot day, that is something that you are sure to appreciate.

By starting on the west end of the trail, we hiked along the Elk River for about seven miles before setting up camp. The trail starts off in a heavily wooded area with interesting limestone walls throughout. There are plenty of primitive campsite located throughout the trail, making an overnight excursion an easy task.

About ten miles into the trail, you will finally arrive at Elk City Lake. And if you were not impressed by the views prior, you are going to appreciate the atmosphere that this area provides. I suggest taking the final 5 miles slowly, to fully take in your surroundings. Enjoy the landscape and all of the wildlife, especially the waterfowl. After all, that’s the point of this hobby, isn’t it?

If you are interested in The Elk River Trail, check it out on All Trails. The trail is well marked, but it is nice to check your progress on the map.