Incredible and unexpectedly amazing place!
Whoa. Oklahoma! You guys, what if we love Oklahoma?! How unexpected is that?? First off, everyone here has been so incredibly nice. From giving Richard a very wide berth when he’s biking, to a checkout clerk at Walmart spotting me a bunch of pears because I couldn’t get my iPhone app to work with the payment thingie. People have been super friendly and helpful here.
I do wonder what this does…
We are also loving the roads. We’re taking back highways, but all of them have been quiet and in good condition. Apart from needing to consider severe weather alerts, this part of the country is generally much less stressful than traveling through California.
Crazy number of birds nesting in the picnic area shelter. What are these??
Since our routes are more remote, we’re had to be creative with the Dory of the Day quiz photos. We did find a little “rest area” (no bathrooms, just trash and picnic tables) with some interesting historical markers. Continuing in the theme of the Kiowa people, which I really only learned about because of Elvis, we are now discovering how they partnered with the Comanche people and fought against the increasing land and livestock depletion caused by white settlers. There was a Comanche Chief named Quanah Parker, and many things are named for him in Oklahoma and Texas. The son of a Comanche chief and an Anglo-American who was abducted as a girl, he is known as being the “Last Comanche Chief” and ended up peacefully leading his tribe to the reservation at Fort Sill.
Chief Quanah Parker Trail marker
We got Richard a bike ride at the end of the day by letting him ride up into Wichita National Wildlife Preserve. I drove on ahead to the campground. I was immediately blown away as soon as I passed the first crest in the road. I really didn’t expect much. These “mountains” appear quite diminutive compared to the Sierra Nevada or Rockies, but wow, does this place pack a punch or what??
Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Preserve
There are wildflowers everywhere, rivaling even the super blooms we experienced around Pismo. Apparently, this wasn’t even one of their most spectacular years for flowers. And then there is the wildlife! For some reason, I was not anticipating so much wildlife in a National Wildlife Preserve. There are free roaming Bison, Elk, and Longhorn Cattle. Plus there are Prairie Dog meadows and your random White Tail Deer hanging around throughout the park. We spied a Scissor Tail Flycatcher, which I was excited about, but later learned is the state bird. I learned that the native Elk population was wiped out and is sadly extinct, and their current herd comes from the Tetons. The Longhorn Cattle herd is a success story where they were able to identify the closest genetic matches to the native species, and were able to grow the herd successfully, even spreading to other locations.
Bison in a field of wildflowers
Once Richard arrived at our beautiful site by Arbuckle Lake, I wanted to go back and see everything again that I had driven by too quickly. We were honestly a bit overwhelmed, as we were not expecting this to be such a nice stop. After touring the preserve again, we had dinner and did a little hike up to Mt. Baldy. We could see Bison down in the lower plains, plus we got cell service enough to catch up on things. There is only occasional service in the campground, which is both a plus and a minus. Coming back to Dory for the night, we were treated to a magical showing of Fireflies. I mean. Come on. Just incredible.
Elk herd introduced from Tetons
Overnight, we were woken by some very loud thunderclaps. These were the kind that shook the whole trailer and lit up the entire sky. We’ve been used to sleeping without all of the privacy curtains closed, so that we wake up with the sunlight. But imagine having something like a mega searchlight come through the clear plexiglass fan cover, and seconds later hearing the crack and BOOM that makes you wonder if any of the glass will shatter. We had electric hookups and I did wonder if it was a good idea to be plugged in, Nothing bad happened, but I made it a point after that to keep us unplugged overnight if lightning was in the forecast. It was exciting, but also scary for these California weather wimps.
Late afternoon view from Mt. Baldy
We were loathe to leave the next day and did consider hunkering down and staying put another night. Lots of weather apps predicted major storms moving through the whole south. There was more lightning in the morning, but as soon as we got a break, I decided to try to push on to our next location. It would be a shortish drive with no highways involved and no particular difference in terms of weather. We also wanted to restock and there would be Walmarts a plenty along the way.
“My first question is: Do you like Brussels sprouts?” – Randy
We packed up and went to the Visitor Center on our way out. There, we chatted with Randy, who is quite a character. He was born and raised in the Wichita Mountains and has lots of stories to tell about growing up there. The first question he asked anyone is whether they like Brussels sprouts. If you say yes, he is your friend and will regale you with tales of the history of the preserve, plus his opinions on how it should be managed. If you say no, he will wish you a pleasant day and let you walk on by. He insisted we drive to the top of Mt. Scott and I asked him if we would get hit by lightning if we did that. “Well, prob’ly not,” he smiled. Then he gave us confusing and unnecessary directions to a Walmart in Parker, marking up a map, and the table, with a Sharpie. He wrote his name on the map, in case we forgot, and said we had to come back. After all, we both like Brussels sprouts! The other ranger chimed in, “It’s your lucky day, Randy!”
Leaving the mountains in a full downpour
We will absolutely have to come back and explore this place further. Richard has lots of FOMO about riding to the top of Mt. Scott. It was pounding rain and flashing lightning as we drove out, so no riding possible. Except, I say that, but we did see a group of bikies out there, drenched to the bone, just riding up into the preserve like no big deal.
The Wichita Mountains seem to be Oklahomas best kept secret, which I am outing here. Luckily, my little blog is not a viral thing, so I think it will be ok, and just our secret. If you go, look for Randy, and be prepared to say you like Brussels sprouts.
Total miles from Lake Meredith: 220.7, 18.8 mpg, 5 hours 56 min. Site 50 B, electric hookups. Water spigot nearby, with an advisory to boil before consumption. Not really any cell service in the campground, but you can hit towers if you hike up and out on a short trail toward Mt. Baldy. No solar, as there is lots of dense tree cover.