Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Jim and I stopped at Tallgrass because we had learned about the importance of this ecosystem when we visited Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in northeastern Illinois the previous year, which had been undergoing a massive restoration project at the time. Many endangered species now have a fighting chance because a portion of the prairies that once swept the Great Plains is being restored. It’s a cooperative effort between the non-profit group The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service.
We knew this. We knew it was important. At that moment, though, all we cared about was that it was quiet. It was peaceful. It was beautiful. In March, the tallgrass wasn’t tall. It was a field of pale yellow that rolled and stretched, and the short grass bent with the wind. We followed a gravel path past a cattle guard and saw bison in the distance. At the entrance to the park had been a warning that these great beasts had been feisty as of late so we kept our distance. We turned around, crossed back over the cattle guard and took a lone, solitary hike through the softly rolling hills. The landscape looked so gentle, but underneath were minefields of limestone and shale. We didn’t mean to be gone long, yet our trek took nearly two hours.