Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"I am a Bison for the County..."


Instead of camping all week while I'm off, we decided to split the difference - half camping/hiking, half garden work. After our first trick-or-treaters in years (there weren't any kids in our old apartments), we capped the Halloween weekend with Meg's birthday, some yard work and three days in the most beautiful place I've ever seen.

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is just north of Ft. Sill in Lawton, OK - 90 miles southwest of Oklahoma County. It's run by the US Fish and Wildlife service and they're very serious about conservation. They have bison, longhorn cattle, elk and white-tailed deer in a 60,000 acre park. Only 1/3 of the refuge is accessible to the public and only a portion of that is campable.

wichita mountains wildlife refuge

We spent our first day screwing around, going to the vistors center, driving up to the top of Mt. Scott and getting our campsite settled. We hit the backcountry trail on day two, hiking 9 tough miles of incline, valley and boulders. In some places the trail wasn't very well marked, and we ended up pretty far off. I'm fairly sure we were following an elk or bison trail, but we eventually wound our way back to the main route. The mile up Elk Mountain should have been easy, but the elevation (and the fact that we were already tired) made it more difficult than we'd expected. We hit the top and were headed to an outcropping when Megan whispered "Stop. Turn around.". I froze and saw a huge bison grazing by himself 20 feet to my right. We were quiet and moved slowly so he didn't see us, or if he did, he didn't see to care. It was amazing to be so close to something so huge and wild in it's natural habitat.

canyon hiking

on top of elk mountain

Later that afternoon on the hike back to our car (on the right trail this time) we were stopped in our tracks by Boulder Valley. Neither of us have ever rock-climbed before so the prospect of climbing down through them all was daunting and (for me) a little terrifying. We picked our way down, and Meg shot this picture of me to get a little perspective. Unfortunately, the "bigness" of it all can't be captured by our lens.

valley of boulders

The scale of the Wichita Mountains helps put into perspective my sense of man's relevance in the universe. To stand on a giant rock, 200 million years old and know that it will remain in place another 200 million years after I'm dead and gone is a sobering experience. Other people might find that thought depressing, but I take immense comfort in it.

On a lighter note, we saw prairie dogs!


No comments:

Post a Comment