Volcanic Ash Pit, Pratt County Kansas

Five deposits of volcanic ash have been located and sampled in Pratt County, Kansas. The thickest of these (pictured) has 14 feet of volcanic ash exposed in a pit.

Ashy and glassy.

Ashy and glassy.

Have you ever rolled around in the dirt just because it’s there? Ever wonder where that dirt came from? Me too!

Greetings. I lived in Pratt, Kansas once but am “from” Pratt in a cosmic sense, as my great-great grandfather Whitney Bailey arrived in the county in 1887 at the age of 15. He was a wheat farmer in McPherson and Saratoga Townships.

I enjoy learning about the past, especially about where I live. I am a history buff who is heavily interested in genealogy and geology. And I roll around in dirt.

I was at the Pratt County Historical Museum one day pouring over historic maps of the county. Wallowing in a pile of old maps is how I roll. Pratt County landmarks like Skunk Johnson’s Cave, Pilot Knob and Arrowhead Hill made my imagination whirl. Fascinating.

Then something called “Volcanic Ash Pit” caught my curiosity. The tiny drawing on this aged 100-year-old map was akin to a modern orbital satellite photo of the fictional Sarlacc pit, the Great Pit of Carkoon, in “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi!” A nerdy rock hound from Colorado, a geologic paradise in its own right, I am in love with rocks and the stories they tell. And, being a dirt flounderer, I immediately knew I needed to find out more about this pit. Who doesn’t like to visit pits? Pits are exciting. Pits are amazing. If I had a nickel for ever pit I’ve visited I would have a gaggle of nickels.

I scoured over satellite imagery of Pratt County in search of the pit. I searched the internets. I spoke with local old-timers. I became obsessed with this mysterious oddity.

A friend of a cousin’s cousin made me privy to an enigmatic area called the “silica pit,” a place in the county where generations of children played in the dirt. Corroborating this first-hand knowledge with information gleaned from a 1973 Kansas Geological Survey Bulletin #205 and a thesis about the “chemical fingerprinting” of volcanic tephra found in Kansas by Brian T. David of Kansas State University, I was pointed to what I believed was the “Volcanic Ash Pit.”

I went there. All of my pit dreams came true.

My eyes did behold the majesty of the “Volcanic Ash Pit!” It was an old pit with layers of volcanic ash 14 feet thick along the walls! The ash, essentially fine shards of white to grey glass spewed from a volcano, was once excavated from the site and used in concrete for roads. Others uses for “silica” included soaking up blood at meat packing plants and in bathroom cleansers. Long abandoned, this pit was now just a hole in the ground inhabited by animals and plants.

Where did this “dirt” come from? The ash, from an erupting volcano, was carried by winds over Kansas many years ago and settled to the ground. Streams washed the ash into shallow depressions.

Could this Pearlette ash bed be Lava Creek B Tuff of the Yellowstone Caldera, the last major eruption from the Yellowstone volcanic center 640,000 years ago? Was it derived from the explosion of Valle Grande Caldera supervolcano in north-central New Mexico roughly 1.2 million years ago? That was a time when humans were an endangered species! I am filled with questions.

The debate is still out on the origin of the ash and where it fits on the geologic time scale. Regardless of its origin, it is a superb geologic site. Especially for Kansas. It is doubly superb it exists in Pratt County Kansas.

My mission complete and personal dirt quota satisfied, I prepared for another learning adventure into the surrounding area in which my ancestors, and myself, called home.


Gluten-free biscuits and dairy-free sausage gravy

I made gluten-free biscuits and dairy-free sausage gravy as an experiment because I am President and Founder of the Biscuits and Gravy Society

The biscuits, made with egg whites, almond and coconut flour, were awful. They were dense and did not absorb the white country sausage coconut milk gravy. They were dry. It was as if I were choking down tablespoons of baking powder. I was excited to make them and made a double batch. I couldn’t finish the first plate. I threw the rest away.

The gravy was decent.



Not my best creation. Oh well. I’ll try another recipe.

Elsewhence Brings People Together

Park County Colorado, Fhloston Peak, near Bailey.

Park County Colorado, Fhloston Peak, near Bailey.

Elsewhence is a big family camping trip. It’s food. It’s a smallish gathering of people numbering in the hundreds; a collaborative outdoor art, music and camping experience held in the beautiful mountains of Colorado.

The three day big family camping trip, held in Park County, was birthed as an alternative to the cray bureaucracy that is woven into the fiber of Burning Man culture. Know of Burning Man? Me either.

It’s not an official burner event but the event is attended by burners! It’s not a Regional Burn like, say, Colorado’s wildly popular Apogaea or Utah’s Element 11. Despite not being a sanctioned Burning Man event, Elsewhence meets all of the criteria to be a Regional Burn, such as adherence to the 10 Principles.

Elsewhence 2015

Elsewhence 2015

Elsewhence is comprised of many older burners who wanted to start something new. It’s being kept simple. I prefer the intimate gatherings with hundreds of people instead of thousands myself. Elsewhence will not grow to over 400 people at least for the next several years. Or ever right? It’s more of an ‘underground’ event and not wildly known.

It’s “an experiential forum that celebrates creativity, participation and unconventional thinking,” says the Elsewhence website. Sort of like a thematic art party with no spectators, only participants. Unlike Burning Man, where many people take but do not give, Elsewhence is 100% participants and 0% spectators. Everyone who attends is required to volunteer at least one shift. They have many people who fill important volunteer leads in medical, Ranger, fire, gate, MOOP (trash), greeters, tickets, art grants, sound, stage, performance aspects, permits, ticketing and accounting. It’s great that all participants volunteer towards the realization of Elsewhence.

Elsewhence takes place near Fhloston Peak, on 20 acres of the 1685.33 acre Berger Land Company property off County Road 68, south of Bailey, Colorado. Berger Land Company has held the property for approximately 140 years. The available acreage for the event is approximately 160 acres, but, due to unusable areas caused by topographic conditions, this limits the actual event venue to encompass approximately 20 acres. It is a beautiful place. A magical place with rich history. Use of this land is such a blessing. Thanks Bart!

Night at Elsewhence 2015

Night at Elsewhence 2015

Elsewhence 2014 was a grand, friendly and wonderful event. According to Elsewhence, “We all come from some other place, but in this vessel we journey together across space, time and consciousness.” It’s so very true.

About 242 people attend the peaceful September 2014 ‘Leave No Trace’ event. ‘Leave No Trace’ means participants will pack in, and pack out, all necessary food, supplies, trash and water. There are volunteers who constantly work the MOOP (Matter Out of Place) trash patrol throughout the duration of the event. I have done my share of MOOP patrolling.

There was one noise complaint each night in 2014.

Elsewhence 2014

Elsewhence 2014

Elsewhence 2015, the 2nd annual affair spectacular, took place in September 2015. 323 people attended with zero noise complaints. It was relaxing and fun good time with art, music, dance, cooking, sharing, laughter, frolic and fun. “All participants are expected to share a creative and positive interactive experience with their fellow lifeforms,” says Elsewhence. And it happens time and time again.

In May 2016, there was an Elsewhence Family Reunion at The Oriental Theater in Denver, Colorado, with proceeds going towards art and music for Elsewhence 2016. The event had aerialists, Burlesque performances, music and more.

Propane art was approved for Elsewhence 2016. NO ember producing fires were allowed. Depending on conditions, there was potential for a Stage 1 burn ban.

Elsewhence Family Reunion in May 2016

Elsewhence Family Reunion in May 2016

The financials from Elsewhence, such as profit and loss statements, are transparent. If anybody wants the total breakdown of where every penny goes, feel free to contact Uncle Dave to set up a lunch where he will show you everything you want to know from current to past events like where the money came in and where it went.

Yay for urban-wildland zone agri-tourism music and art events! 380 people attended in 2016. The event was even more enjoyed than ever by attendees.

Elsewhence 2016

Elsewhence 2016

Elsewhence 2016 had the Wingnut Lab of DJ Shenanigans chillout lounge.

The Chong Twins were on MOOP patrol. Chong Kitchen served up succulent meats at Camp No Name. Lake Mayhem enchanted all during the Opening Ceremony. The exotic beats of Just Ben brought all through through feast and dance. There was Pancakes at Midnight with spiked coffee and bacon at WonderLounge/Hippie Dome with gluten-free and vegetarian options!

Elsewhence 2016

Elsewhence 2016

Pickle Lickin’ with Evan was amazing at the north neighborhood, Camp No Name. DJ Gibby provided some grand epic tunes.

Elsewhence 2016

Elsewhence 2016

“River Canyon Trace,” a sculpture by Bailey, Colorado artists Alice Pierson, ceramic artist, and Anne Valenti, sculptor, was dedicated for permanent display at the Bailey Public Library in Bailey, Colorado on February 4, 2017.

The artwork was created in part with the help of a grant provided by Elsewhence.

River Canyon Trace

l to r: David Wellhauser, Rex Alford, Alice Pierson, Anne Valenti, DM, Bonnie Bickel

The dedication was a great event that helped in building formal relationships with the Bailey community and community members. It also formally recognized Elsewhence art and the whole art grant process.

“River Canyon Trace” is a sculptural homage to the geological wonders, flora and fauna of the surrounding Bailey, Crow Hill and Platte River Canyon in Colorado. The mixed media sculpture consists of a 20-inch diameter glazed and fired medallion supported by a steel brace with a 375 pound pyramidal base of stacked native sandstone.

It was completed September 15, 2016 and donated to Elsewhence. It was then donated to the Bailey Library on December 10, 2016 and dedicated for permanent display on February 4, 2017.

Rex and Marshall Alford also helped with welding and shaping of the piece.