Tyler Bend Campground to Natural Falls State Park, West Siloam Springs, OK
Friday, June 23, 2006 … 164 Camper Miles – Total 2,492
Mid 80s, partly cloudy, much more comfortable today.
We got underway at 8:30 this morning. On advice of Pam & Jack, we stopped in Jasper where there is a laundromat right next to a public library with wireless internet access. (Turns out that Jack was the prime mover in getting the WiFi installed.) We did e-mail, finances and research on prospective park stopovers via the internet while the laundry was washing and drying next door. We also bought several used novels and donated a few of our own. Jasper is a cute town and was setting up for an annual festival so there were tents and vendor trucks everywhere.
Later, we drove through Fayetteville and looked over the University of Arkansas campus and their football stadium. Seeing such a prominent stadium sitting right in the middle of town and campus was pretty telling about the status of football here. We crossed the border into Oklahoma and camped at Natural Falls State Park, just six miles into the state. Natural Falls is a nice small park, Oklahoma’s newest. There is a lovely, unexpected waterfall with a short, 1.5 mile hiking trail where we found several new-to-us wildflowers.
For dinner we had one of our standby meals of pan-seared shrimp over cannelloni beans and sun-dried tomatoes along with fresh green beans with garlic and butter.
Natural Falls State Park to Osage Hills State Park, Pawhuska, OK
Saturday, June 24, 2006 … 135 Camper Miles – Total 2,627
Sunny, 90 degrees, beautiful day!
We were up by 7:00 and showered, wrote travel notes for this log and checked our finances. Then, it was on our way west. We were headed to Osage Hills State Park about 40 miles north of Tulsa. Along the way we saw our first oil well as we neared Bartlesville and our destination. We set up camp and then took a drive to see the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve operated by the Oklahoma’s chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
Tallgrass prairie originally spanned portions of 14 states from Texas to Minnesota. Now, less than 10% of that kind of prairie remains and the Preserve is the largest protected remnant of it on earth. Since 1989, the Conservancy has proven successful at restoring the area to a fully-functioning prairie ecosystem with the use of 2,000+ free-roaming bison and a “patch-burn” model approach to prescribed burning. Although it was pretty short when we were there, folks assured us that the varieties of grasses in the Preserve will get to be about eight feet tall by the end of summer. We drove many miles of dirt road through the facility, across cattle/bison guards and past multiple overlooks. As expected, the Preserve teemed with bison and wildflowers and, of course mile after mile of grassland. Neat place.
The evening was very pleasant and we had smoked turkey sandwiches for dinner (thanks to delicious gluten-free bread from Cindy) and a peaches-and-cream variety of fresh, local corn on the cob.
Osage Hills State Park
Sunday, June 25, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 2,627
Mid 80s, mostly sunny & pleasant.
This morning we walked the park’s Lake, Cabin & Overlook trails around the campground. The trails were pleasant enough but we dubbed the experience our Oklahoma Tic Hike. During our showers we discovered two ticks on each of us around the underwear lines around our legs. After our tic pickin’ session, we drove to downtown Bartlesville for a delicious breakfast at Weeze’s Café (highly recommended). It’s a small city, downtown place with lots of regulars and serves tasty meals in large portions. True to our earlier experience for the day, though, Bill got yet another tic when he went out to the car to get a map!
Bartlesville is an interesting little city. It is the founding area and headquarters for Phillips Petroleum. The Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve was founded & funded by Frank Phillips, the company’s founder. You go through the Preserve on the drive to the museum. Specimens range from bison to ostriches in the free-range environment … pretty neat. The museum houses the extraordinary, personal collections of the Phillips family that encompass native American artifacts, native American crafts, western art and sculpture and a few mementos of early oil company promotions. Frank also had a lavishly decorated ranch house on the site that is also open for touring. The whole place is quit unique and well worth the time and modest admission.
We also toured Frank Phillips’ home in town. Our guide, Jeanette, gave us an outstanding house tour. It probably helped that we were the only folks on the last tour of the day. Anyway, it was very personalized and we got to set foot in a few places normally reserved for staff only. Finally, we looked over Frank Lloyd Wright’s only “skyscraper”, Price Tower. At 17 stories it certainly isn’t large, but it is certainly unique in appearance with lots of copper and glass.
We did a ham stir fry for dinner.
Osage Hills State Park to Black Mesa State Park, Kenton, OK
Monday, June 26, 2006 … 439 Camper Miles – Total 3,066
Bright & sunny, mid 80’s
We were on the road by 8:30 for a long drive to the far northwest corner of Oklahoma’s panhandle. The drive was flat and straight, peppered with oil rigs, cattle, farm fields and even salt flats. We are getting used to dry washes, arid country brush and low hills. There are even a few pheasants. As you might expect, Sinclair and Phillips predominate as gasoline brands. Out here we’ve noticed a lot of trike motorcycles, many towing trailers. Not bikers, ourselves, we guess these wouldn’t be so great for curvy eastern roads but, out here, curves are not much of an issue. The straightness can seem relentless.
At the end of a long, ten-hour day on the road we set up camp in Black Mesa State Park around 6:30 only to discover that the interior lights in the camper didn’t work! After a frustrating hour of troubleshooting, Bill relented and installed temporary wiring so we’d have light for the evening. We finally ate our dinner at 10:00: spinach salad with the remaining smoked turkey from Bay Springs Trading Company.
Black Mesa State Park
Tuesday, June 27, 2006 … 0 Camper Miles – Total 3,066
Gorgeous sunny day, mild w/ low humidity
In the morning, Bill attacked two problems. #1 was to find the source of the lighting problem. It turned out to be a faulty switch that prevents the lights from being left “on” when the trailer is folded for travel. Lacking a replacement switch, he simply bypassed it. The #2 chore was to resolve the axle situation. After another consultation with the Aliner factory, Bill ordered a replacement, higher capacity axle to be delivered to the Albuquerque, NM, area in about a week.
We then drove to nearby Kenton (a REAL one-horse town) and explored the surrounding area (it’s pretty desolate). We walked the Nature Trail where we were camped and examined their own samples of petrified wood. The wind picked up later with a threat of thunderstorms, but we had only a few sprinkles.
After dinner of home-made tacos, we enjoyed a glass of wine with Deb and Tim, graduate students who were doing zoological research at and near the park.