A member of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation stands armed
and ready atop a Hummer during a manhunt Tuesday morning along
Jeremy Gaston | Editor
A group of riders brought a new level of use to the Flint Hills
Nature Trail this week, crossing Osage County as part of a horseback
on a six-day forwarding ride.
The ride was organized and led by Carol Retzer and Rick Antisdel
of Salt Creek Ranch, near Lyndon. The couple invited 20 riders
for nearly 100 miles of riding, primarily along the converted
“Our goal was to include as much of the Flint Hills Trail
as we could,” Retzer said. “It isn’t all complete,
but we rode where we could.”
The group camped just west of Osage City after riding 17 miles,
almost entirely along the trail, becoming one of the bigger groups
to cross the recently opened pedestrian bridge spanning U.S. 75
along the trail.
“It felt very secure,” said Linda Eichorn, Emporia.
“I didn’t feel like the horses were going to jump
Eichorn’s horse, Blue, crouched down when a semi and trailer
passed below the bridge, but was otherwise okay. Most of the horses
were broken-in to such rides, and passed with ease.
In addition to the ride, several members of the group were also
using the experience to help train horses in a live environment.
“It’s an opportunity to really work some of our horses
outside of a pen,” said Jon Kinsey, Las Vegas, N.V. “I’m
impressed with what they’re doing with the railroad.”
Kinsey rode with his father, Mike, who runs a horse and rider
training school in Belton, S.C. Two of his interns also joined
the ride, Lori Childress, Greenville, S.C., and Yasmine Ouertani,
Mike Kinsey had joined a previous trail ride with clients and
another with his daughter. This time he rode alongside his son.
“I get a chance to meet my kids this way,” Mike Kinsey
Childress hoped any exposure of the ride would entice more people
to the trail.
“Maybe more people will see it and get some use out of it,”
The experience has kept Retzer involved in trail rides for 20
years, organizing three rides in recent years.
“I’m addicted to the horse side of it, along with
the people and history,” Retzer said.
Retzer is a regular rider and user of the trail. As much as she
can, she takes a bicycle or horse to work, a 4.5-mile ride down
the trail from her home to Rural Water District No. 3 in Vassar.
“It’s one of the prettiest parts of the trail, in
my opinion,” Retzer said. “I’m seeing more and
more involvement. I see a lot of walkers and bicycles. I’ll
see a tree that needs trimmed or something that needs fixed on
my way to work, and plan to get to it on my way home when I have
more time, and it’ll be repaired before I get to it. It
tells me the right clientele are using the trail.”
The Rails to Trails program has its opponents. Cases misuse along
the route, including unsafe fires, vandalism and dumping, have
been fueling their cause.
“I don’t blame them,” said Sandy Wilkes, Stillwell,
on of the riders in the group. She felt the situation has improved
as rail beds are being converted into usable trails.
“Conscious users is not the issue,” Wilkes said. “It’s
also better now that it’s developed.”
“Since the railroad isn’t there, they think they can
drive right up onto it,” said Joleen Day, who joined the
riders west of Osage City Monday evening. Day lives along the
Flint Hills Trail at the Morris-Lyon county line, about seven
miles east of Council Grove. She has experienced minor issues
with trespassing since the railroad cleared the right of way.
“Our biggest issue has been having to lock our gates,”
Day said, noting that the problems do not necessarily justify
closing the trail. “It doesn’t keep me from riding
on it, but it makes you think about it.”
Day and the others were to ride through the area toward her land
on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I’m excited about riding it,” Day said. “It’ll
be our first time to see what that section of land looks like.”
One solution to the associated problems has been to install posts
at entrances to the trail from roads, but they too come with caveats.
“The barriers prevent cars, but also block wagons,”
Wilkes said, noting that similar trails have been operating successfully
in the northeast states for years. “Places where they have
lots of trails, they learn to live with them.”
Many of the riders in the group shared the opinion that the solution
to keeping the wrong people off the trail is to keep the right
people on it – maintaining and using it for its intended
Retzer believes the area between Osage City and U.S. 75 is one
of the areas needing the most work.
“It needs people willing to take an hour on a Saturday to
clip branches,” she said. “It doesn’t take any
training, it’s good exercise and it would be a wonderful
The riders appreciated the trail and sung the praises of those
who maintain it.
“They’re very good trails,” said Denise Valdois,
Haven, who was making her first forwarding trip with her husband,
Mike. “I’m jealous. I wish we had some close to us.”