|Have you ever just hopped in your car to explore the area in which you live?
You know, I have lived in 11 different cities over my lifetime. Yet, while I was living there, I never visited the missions in San Antonio; or the Sixth Floor JFK museum in Dallas; or Palo Duro Canyon while in Lubbock, etc. (I have visited all of them since though.)
Then, I moved to Washington D.C., and my hidden desire to discover became a passion. Since that time, I have tried my best to make the most of each location I visit. So, while planning an upcoming trip to Maine and the East Coast, I discovered I had a week with no plans. Time to go...
Why not discover more of Oklahoma? Yes, I grew up here, but based on my past history, that didn’t mean I had explored very much of the area. I looked at the map. Yep, been to the panhandle and slightly visited the Black Mesa State Park. Been to the northeast corner recently in the journey through the Tulsa/Catoosa/Pawhuska/Sapulpa territory this past June. Made the drive through the southwest corner on the journey to Colorado in July. That pretty much left the eastern portion of Oklahoma.
I found a suggested road trip that would take me through several state parks. I love state parks. They are cheap to hook up Gypsy and dogs are allowed. The best park of this trip would be the actual drive. No interstate. No toll roads. Nothing but long, winding back roads. Perfect!
Our first stop was Robbers Cave State Park located in the beautiful San Bois Mountains near Wilburton. Because of the cave’s secluded location, proximity to the Texas and California Roads, and large boulders, it is assumed outlaws, like Jesse James, used the cave as a hideout. Travelers on the roads were often victimized by robbers during the post Civil War period...thus the name. Belle Starr, who reportedly welcomed outlaws to her home, lived in a cabin about 20 miles north of Robbers Cave.
We parked Gypsy in the park, but it was quite a distance from the campground to Robbers Cave, so I was able to rent a golf cart. If only I was able to capture us on film. Getting Ossy and Presley in the golf cart was quite a challenge. I put the back seat down and picked Presley up and put her on the flatbed. She, of course, stood the entire time (even as she almost slid off on an ascent). Then, Ossy made himself at home on the front seat. The ENTIRE front seat. I had 1/2 of my hiney hanging off the seat during the trip. After the hike around the caves, we headed to the lake. Getting back in the golf cart afterwards was really fun (please pick up on the sarcasm). I had to pick Presley up to put her back in the golf cart, which meant the front of me got wet, then Ossy (once again) took up the entire front bench...muddy feet and all, so the rest of me got wet on the ride back to the campground.
From Wilburton, we headed southeast toward Beavers Bend State Park. On the way, we took the Talimena Scenic Drive along highway 259 and near Big Cedar, we came across the JFK memorial. It was truly remarkable. No town. No homes. Not even a gas station was near the memorial. I came to a four-way stop, looked to my right and there it was out in the middle of nowhere. A 6’ tall granite memorial. JFK dedicated the highway (US-259) on October 29, 1961. Bet he thoroughly enjoyed that one....
I must say the scenery down the Talimena scenic drive was remarkable. Yes, even in August. And, when we arrived at Beavers Bend, it reminded me of the redwoods in California. It was stunning. The terrain was rugged, but the huge trees provided great shading and so the hiking was fantastic.
From Broken Bow, we headed West toward the Chickasaw National Recreation Area near Sulphur. Oh so near the hometown of Ada, and very near the lake house we had on Lake Arbuckle while growing up. The area was known as Platt National Park until 1976 when it was renamed and redesignated as a national recreation area. Located in the foothills of the Arbuckle Mountains, it is known for its springs, streams and lakes. Unfortunately, I did not visit the two big draws of the recreation area (Little Niagara and Travertine Creek) because dogs are not allowed in those areas. So, we cruised down the road a bit to spend a night next to my favorite lake in Oklahoma...Lake Arbuckle. The water was so clear and clean, and the pups loved it!
What made all 3 of these state parks (and national recreation area) so special is all 3 were free! In all my travels, I can say it is rare not to pay an entrance fee (even if it may be small) to a state park. The entrance fee was free and the camping within the parks was very reasonable.
Our last planned stop was as we were heading back toward Oklahoma City. Since we were in Sulphur, I wanted to head over to Turner Falls. I went to Turner Falls numerous times growing up, but had not been there in over 30 years and remembered it being remarkable. But, as we headed into the park, there were two big signs stating no pets allowed. And, it was an $14 entrance fee. Arrrgh! It was extraordinarily hot, so I had no intention of going hiking through the park without the dogs. So, that was as far as we got. We turned around and headed toward Oklahoma City.
Since this was a back roads trip, I refused to hop on I-35. Instead, I took Highway 77 and what an enjoyable drive. Small towns galore during the 1 1/2 hour drive up north. From Davis, through Wynnewood, Pauls Valley, Paoli, Wayne and Purcell. Yes, I even drove through Slaughterville. I kid you not. Wonder how it got it’s name??
It was a fast four days and I enjoyed every moment. Yes, even when Ossy knocked the entire bowl of water over in Gypsy (when a park ranger knocked on the door). The dogs were fantastic, no one got sick, and other than the small tick I found on my foot upon the return home, it was a great journey.
The long and winding back roads of eastern Oklahoma...a road trip to remember!