Polar Explorer Eric Larsen
Day 3 & 4: KansATHON
Eric Larsen
27 June 2020 | Kansas
The dry wheat fields and sandy soil have given away to grass choked ditches and squares of dense broad leaf forests surrounding each farm house. The landscape and climate feels more like the Midwest than West. Last night, a squadron of mosquitoes dive bombed our legs and arms as we set up camp.

But fireflies flickered all along the edge of the small field. â??I donâ??t think Iâ??ve ever seen fire flies before,â?? Gus the Colorado native exclaimed.

The first 30 miles of the day were effortless as Gus and I joked about one random thing or another. A sign in one town informed us we were entering the hometown of Jackie Stiles (a former WNBA player). It was windier than yesterday which made the roast 90 degree and above temperatures mildly bearable.

By noon the temperature was soaring in the mid 90â??s and by 1 pm, it was sweltering. So, we took a long lunch break in a shady park. Side note: even the smallest Kansas town has a really nice park. Back on the bikes, we veered north and stumbled upon some world class gravel road riding. Small narrow roads not much wider than a car rolled into the distance. Huge combines cut wide swaths across the adjacent wheat fields. We waved at them all and many had one or two kids riding along in the cabs. I wanted to veer off course and just keep exploring.

By 4 pm the temperature felt like an oven, and after stopping for five minutes to mount a camera on the front of the support vehicle with Tanner, Gus became overheated. We didnâ??t think much about it at the time but after 15 minutes of riding, he was becoming disoriented and overly tired. Heat exhaustion with a little bit of dehydration mixed in for good measure. He had been eating and drinking a lot but it wasnâ??t enough to combat the effort we were exerting in the late afternoon heat.

Immediately, we stopped where Tanner was waiting and poured ice and water over him. Then, then got him into the car with the air conditioning blaring. He started to feel better right away and after 45 minutes, we decided to keep riding. But he didnâ??t feel good and we again stopped. This time for the night. While we didnâ??t make our 130 mile objective (we rode 100 miles) for the day, Gus was safe (and alive) which is the most important thing.

By the next morning, Gus was feeling better but still a little foggy so we decided it would be best for him to take a rest day and I would carry on solo.

The rest of the 30 miles was a dream ride. Rolling expanses with views across vast fields. My legs felt strong and I was happy to be in Kansas. By 10, I was at the start of the Flint Hills Trail in Council Grove, a nearly 170 mile converted rail road grade.

Gus and Tanner got a hotel for the night and I continued on solo carrying seven liters of water. I had my water filter along but I wasnâ??t super keen on drinking out of any of the small cow ponds I had seen along the way so far.

I walked slow and steady in the heat, stopping at several shady spots for extended breaks. By 5 pm, the heat became unbearable and I took another long break, this time, laying down in the gravel along side the trail in another shady spot. I was tired and set my alarm to ensure I wouldnâ??t sleep the rest of the night. By 6:30, I was hiking again in temperatures that seemed to be cooling slightly. I watched the sun melt big and orange into the horizon, and as night descended, walked through black tunnels of trees glittering with hundreds of fireflies.

I set up my tent around 11 after having covered 18 miles hiking. Not a bad dayâ??s effort. It was hot and I thought about not putting on the rain fly, but the lightening in the distance made me think twice.

Three hours later, a torrential down pour brought sheets of rain and blinding lightening. I was glad I had put my rain fly on. With my small tent shaking violently in the wind, I snuggled down in my sleeping bag (it was much cooler now) and fell soundly asleep.
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