Filed under: Family Day Trips, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, State & National Parks, The Road Less Traveled
Oklahoma-Where the Winds Come Sweeping…
The first stop on our summer RV trip last year was the Black Mesa Nature Preserve near Kenton, OK. The reason for our destination was climbing yet another state highpoint, Black Mesa. Our guide book had indicated that camping was available at or near the preserve, not far from the highpoint trail.
In winter when preparing for our trip, I emailed the folks in charge of the camping facilities to reserve a spot. We like to have all of those little details taken care of before we leave home when we plan to stop in several locations and time is a factor. The response I received was polite but a bit disconcerting. The gentleman in charge informed me that Black Mesa did not accept reservations; however, he assured me they would have a spot for us. Not one to leave things hanging, I followed up by asking whether, if they were full when we arrived, he would have room for us in his backyard as we were counting on staying in that area that particular evening in July. Needless to say, he did not respond.
Once we arrived, I was quite relieved to discover there were indeed plenty of spacious spots for us and that the camping fee was minimal. Two delightful surprises! The scenery was beautiful as well. The campground seemed to follow along a dry creek bed which prompted a hike the night before our climb.
As soon as we returned to our camper, however, the sky grew dark and the winds began to pick up. Winds were indeed sweeping as we hunkered down in the camper. As the velocity increased and the camper began rocking from side to side, we decided to abandon ship and take refuge in the concrete and block restrooms that looked sturdier than our tent on wheels. We noticed others had made the same decision; it seemed all campers in tents and trailers, everyone but those in the big rigs, had left the protection of their lodgings for the concrete locations. We experienced no rain, just wind, thunder and lightening. After about a half hour, the winds died down and the sky began to clear. We turned in without a fire, having had enough excitement for one day.
The following morning we rose at 6 a.m. hoping to get an early start on our hike. Trudging to the bathroom in total darkness, we waste a bit of time to allow the sun to come up, then wake Ryan who will be hiking with us. It is a short drive to the trailhead and, again, we are warned to watch out for rattlesnakes. This time we see neither snakes nor mosquitoes!
We are prepared with water as there is none at the trailhead and this will be an 8.4 mile hike in hot weather with no shade. With a predicted hiking time of 3-5 hours, the elevation gain is moderate, only 654 feet. The first mile and a half that we hike is nearly flat; a nice walk, no challenge but pleasant scenery on a beautiful well-marked trail. Then for the next mile we experience a moderate but relatively easy climb, which makes things more interesting. The final distance is again flat, as we cross the mesa to the highpoint. Without a monument, it would be difficult to determine where the actual “high” point was because everything appears to be at the same level.
We started our hike at 8 am and arrived at the top at 9:22. We spend time taking a few pictures and Ryan completes his handstand against the monument, which is quite impressive (the monument, not the handstand). We start back (I hesitate to say “down” as we were again traversing the flat top of the mesa) at 9:34 and reach the trailhead again at 10:59 a.m. We would have made even better time, as the hike was not challenging, if the guys had not been fooling around on the way back trying to see how far away they could still spot the monument!
We pack up our camper and head into New Mexico, our next destination, stopping for a quick lunch at a quaint little diner called “The Merc” in Kenton, OK. We were about the only people in the place and when we informed the owner we had “climbed” the highpoint, she pulled out a certificate suitable for framing that she then completed with our names and the date and presented it to us to commemorate our “accomplishment.” A nice touch! Except for those darn winds, Oklahoma is a very friendly place! For more camping adventures in Oklahome, browse Woodall’s listings of Oklahoma camping.