Friday, January 25, 2013

Hiking Bootcamp

Since the weathermen predicted a gorgeous weekend, I pulled out my best salesperson skills and pitched the awesomeness Oklahoma's hiking adventures has to offer. A couple people showed interested in going on Saturday; the same guys who probably thought I was trying to kill them on the last hike (Eagle Mountain). It turns out that when most people hear "hike," they understand something different from what I consider a hike. I've learned this early on, so to make the decoding process easier and more accurate, I usually offer the explanation that hiking means no trails, lots of climbing, and potentially some low-crawling. Oh yeah, and amazing views! They bailed on me. On Friday, I was able to convince some others to go on Sunday. After the Sunday plans were made, I even managed to sweet-talk the bailees into going. Plus two unsuspecting victims. They later suggested that I should add blisters and muscle soreness into my decoding help. But, I just don't think that's a great way to convince people to go.

Sunday rolls around, and, wouldn't you know it, the weathermen had actually predicted accurately. I guess that is possible once in a while, or maybe it was just a lucky chance happening. Either way, I pulled my Ballistic pants over my hiking jeans and rode out to the visitor center on the Wildlife Refuge. I have to say that the ride all the way to the hiking spot was one of the best rides through the refuge in a long time. On the way to the visitor center I passed through many herds of longhorn. Everyone and everything seemed to be enjoying an awesome chillaxin' Sunday morning. Arriving early, I seriously thought about getting gas since I was really starting to run low. Laziness won, and Blueberry and I stayed put. Eventually, I wasn't waiting alone; four of the guys had shown up. Just before we decided to leave, one rider pulls in. After turning on the road heading to headquarters, the last rider joins us. Impeccable timing, if I do say so myself. We saw all kinds of coolness. Buffalo were chilling on the road in many spots. I slowly cruised through as quietly as I could. Had an elk run out in front of me, too. I slowed down because I figured there were more. A few seconds later, a huge elk with a gigantic rack runs out to join the others on the side of the road. He was an amazing sight. Saw some deer on the side of the road, too. I was surprised that they didn't run out over the road. The only animal we didn't see on the road that morning was turkey.

The hike was a blast. We didn't do a big round, but enough for the suggestion that I should offer a hiking bootcamp. Now, there's an awesome idea! I think it was meant more as a dig and came from a decoding process gone haywire.

Victim Hiker #1:"I thought we were going on an easy hike!" 
Me: "This is an easy hike."
Hiker #1:"My foot!"
Hiker #2:" On a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the hardest, how would you rate this hike?"
Me:" A solid 2."
Hiker #2:" The hike the other guys went on last time?"
Me:"Three. It would have been a 3.5 if we'd scurried up the other side of the Narrows."
Hiker #1 and #2:"You're crazy!"
Me:"I have yet to be diagnosed."
Our group divided into three groups. One group stayed back, and the other two split up half-way up the mountain to take different routes to the top. We ran into a buffalo half-way up (and half-way down), I managed to get stuck in a little opening (I was,however, determined to get out the way I wanted), we didn't run into any hiding serial killers or angry wild hogs, didn't run into any treasure hunters looking for Jesse James' loot or the Spanish Gold (people are so unadventurous these days),and I had a porcupine scare the living daylights out of me. Yes, I saw a porcupine! Those who made it to the top ended up saying that the hell I put them through was worth it just for the view. I even got asked when we'd be going again. Who'da thunk that?

After a greasy cheese burger, Blueberry and I actually made it home with the little fuel we had left. Figured we'd baby it to a gas station another day. Pictures can be found on Facebook album.
This blog is brought to you by the lovely (biased opinion, we know) Stone Turtle – Lodging, a small family owned and operated hotel / lodging business near Lawton, Oklahoma, Fort Sill,  the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Meers and Medicine Park. Yeah, that’s right we’re a small lodging business close to all the awesomeness Oklahoma has to offer!!

An Impromptu Ride

On Friday I met up with a rider who's always nice enough to let me know when he's riding. He even has this habit of asking if I want to join (imagine that). So after the "Are we riding?" question, we decided to meet up in an hour. When I get there, his friend's already there waiting. Eventually after getting gas, lunch, and bs-ing with his friend, the other rider rolls in. First time I've not adhered to my 5 minute wait policy in years. If you're not there in 5 minutes, I won't be there either.

Awesome weather for a ride...if you were wearing synthetic gear. I was quite cozy in my Ballistic 5.0 pants with long underwear. That and winter riding gloves (how did I ever live without them!?!), and it's like riding in Florida sunshine even with the gusty gale common in Oklahoma. The windy city sure ain't got nothin' on us. We did a general 100-mile loop starting out in Meers to ride HWY 115 north. We did it just before they closed off HWY 115 to do whatever construction they're now doing. There goes my Meers and Saddle Mountain cemetery plans. 

I don't think my riding buddies had ever been on that road (not really explorers those two, but not everyone can have a job as an explorer like me). First corner comes up; I look in my mirror to see one of guys take it too wide. He reacted fast, straightened out his Harley, and did a little off-roading before rejoining us on the paved street. I'll admit, it was a pretty sweet save.We continued on- enjoying the weather, the scenery, and the ride. I love riding with people who ride to ride not to do moronic stuff. That last curve by Saddle Mountain is a doozy. It has an odd inclination and usually has grit or water on half of a lane. Creeped around that very slowly. Also, that last section (and I fear all of Hwy 115 may have the same fate) is only tightly packed gravel. I wouldn't be doing any track-style riding on it.

As we headed to Apache, I saw a lot of old barns I want to get on film. Some I've ridden by but were always hidden by trees. I love riding because I always notice something new. The Mobetta (mobetta than what, I always ask) building has long been transformed into a tanning salon in Apache. Because here in Oklahoma, we never see the sun... I think I'd rather get skin cancer from the sun than from whatever chemical reaction goes on in one of those weird booths. 

After Apache we went to Medicine Park because I had to go to the Post Office. Don't know why I didn't go in Apache. It's got to be that detour problem I have. While in Medicine Park I managed to convince the guys that they wanted to go hiking with me on Sunday since the others had bailed for the Saturday plans. I think I need to take some classes in guilt-tripping. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Day Before

My first ride in 2013 was not on January 1, 2013. Traditionally, I can be found cruising around on the first day of January every year; this year, however, it just did not work out. Many  factors pulled together to work against me. I guess beggars just can't be choosers. 

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and I had the opportunity to meet up with some climbers in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Who could resist to ride on a 39 degree windchill day? Not this rider who was suffering from major withdrawals. I had it timed perfectly. Or, so I thought. But it turns out that my gear/prep checklist took a tad longer than I thought. Mainly due to my brain being on standby. When I remembered I needed keys and went to go get them, I forgot what I wanted by the time I got to where I thought my keys had been. This happened a lot while getting my stuff together.

  • backpack
  • camera
  • cell phone
  • wallet
  • hot tea
  • water
  • notebook
  • book to read should I get there first
  • upper body layer #1
  • upper body layer #2
  • upper body layer #3
  • upper body layer #4
  • upper body layer #5
  • long underwear
  • synthetic wind resistant pants
  • jacket
  • winter gloves
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • boots
  • keys 
  • scarf
  • helmet 
  • music player
  • glasses so I can see stuff
Yes, I make winter riding complicated. But, at least I'm warm and hydrated. I think what I love most about motorcycles is that every ride is an adventure. Cars are my fire breathing dragons.  Undecided squirrels are my strategy changing enemies. Perception really is everything. I love every moment, road, and tree I see while riding. 
So I got off to a later start than I thought. Since it had snowed, the road from Meers into the Refuge was covered in dirt, gravel, and other nasty stuff. Good thing my music was playing. Otherwise the cussing echoing in my helmet may have turned my ears red. I lost a little bit of time making my way down yucky gravely hell since my tires were cold.

I saw a lot of buffalo along the road in the Wichita Mountains. They have a whole 59,000 acre refuge to chill out on, and they pick the area along the road. As I approached the prairie dog town, there was this one buffalo rubbing his neck on an open gate onto the restricted area. He was slightly surprised when Blueberry's exhaust caught up with him. So surprised that he freaked out and stormed off to the other buffalo who then proceeded to freakout. Yes, Blueberry and I actually started a small stampede. I was very tempted to get off my bike and dig out the camera, but I thought stopping in the middle of a buffalo stampede might not be such a good idea. I would like to avoid using the phrase "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

I, therefore, continued on my way. Shortly before the turnoff to the Sunset picnic area, I came across a flock of turkey. I turned around, put Blue in neutral, pulled the gloves off my frozen fingers, shimmied the backpack off my heavily layered upper body and dug for my camera. The Refuge cop probably thought I was having a fit of insanity as I was prancing around trying to get the feeling back in my toes and fingers. 
They were a pretty cool bunch. Didn't have a lot to say, though.
 When I finally made it to the parking lot, the car I was looking for was already there. I hadn't been to this parking lot in years since, next to Mt. Scott, it's a tourist trap. There was still one parking spot left. Now, I had no idea where Echo Dome was (and still do not know) other than it can be found in Charon's Garden. I assumed it was to be reached from the trail going around on the west side of Elk Mountain. I packed my stuff and started on the trail. It wasn't long before I came across a huge longhorn on the trail. Usually, I'm not worried about large animals on trails, but not being properly dressed to run from a longhorn kept me at bay. I decided I'd turn around and get some more miles under my belt. 

When I got back to the parking lot, I pulled out my notebook and wrote a note for the climbers. As I was looking for a place to stash it, I found the note they had left for me. Figures that I'd see it too late.

On my way over to Little Baldy, I saw some buffalo playing or fighting. I was brave enough to pull over and watch them for a bit. They calmed down and then started up again which is when I thought it best to leave. I do believe a buffalo would win in a buffalo vs. bike battle. Especially when the rider still has to put up a camera and pull on gloves.

 As I headed towards Cache, I eventually realized that I was singing off key in my helmet which is also when I realized that my music had disappeared and my mp3 player had turned itself off. By the time I reached Lawton, the resistant part of my pants decided to stop working and it got very cold very fast. So I headed back to Meers. It really was a great day to ride, but the cold kept all but four riders (including myself) from enjoying it. I was surprised that I only saw one cruiser out and about since usually they're always out riding.

Cold Springs...sort of.

It was a cold, dreary January day. Not even the sun felt like making an appearance. It was a day to spend on the couch next to a warm fire while reading a book and sipping coffee out of a 44oz cup. That's the kind of day it was. Of course, one can spend a day reading any day. The opportunity to go out on a small adventure presented itself (and with a partner in crime, at that) so I thanked Serendipity and took it.

It's funny how when there's no rush and no specific plan that things just tend to work better than when a lot of planning is put into a trip. We left Stone Turtle Ranch at leisure and no designated time. Blueberry, unfortunately, was left in the warm garage. I can't expect Blueberry to always want to go ride when I do. Vain of me, isn't it?

I thought it couldn't hurt to swing over to the Narrows in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife refuge since I had a hunch the climbers I missed yesterday may try their luck there if they hadn't frozen to their sleeping bags the night before. I, of course, had to stop (yes, again) to take some pictures of some buffalo relaxing along the side of the road into the Narrows. As we approach the parking area, I spot the bright yellow car I left a note on yesterday. Was my hunch dead-on or what? I think I've still got some intuitions to gain before I apply to a sleuthing school. And, wouldn't you know, Serendipity was still with me because just as we got closer to the car, one of the climbers came back to his car. We had managed to catch them just as they started out to find the trail.

Since Serendipity had been so kind to me today, I had absolutely no concerns about being able to take the time to share the beauty of my stomping grounds with the climbers. Since my adventurous partner in crime had no qualms with taking a short spontaneous walk into the Narrows, off we went. I was a little surprised to find the water in West Cache Creek was still frozen. Had I known, I could have brought some ice skates since Lawton is not up to speed when it comes to winter activities.We let the climbers start climbing and started on our way back to the car. Not much was seen on the way out of the refuge, just the three buffalo who I captured on film. Because captured on SD card just doesn't  sound as good.

The general idea was to find a little abandoned mining town called Cold Springs. But, since Roosevelt and Mountain Park were in that area, we were in a car, and Serendipity was being so good to us, we cruised the streets/junk yards.  Roosevelt is filled with junk yards. If you have a project vehicle and need parts, try going there. I'm sure you'll find what you need. The old Arts and Crafts building is crammed with bumpers, hoods, doors, etc. The old high school (built in 1930) across the street from the Arts and Crafts building is surprisingly big for a rural school built in 1930. Found the old, old school house, too. We found a small cafe which was currently open and closed. Both signs were hanging in the window. Since there were no lights, we figured it was currently using the closed sign. I thought I had a post with some Roosevelt/Mt. Park history, but I couldn't find anything. So look back for another post soon!
Found at Roosevelt's bar.
After checking out Roosevelt's Cemetery and driving by a haunted house (or so it was labeled), we made our way south. I was very excited to go looking for Cold Springs along the north shore of Tom Steed Reservoir. Now, I'll admit some of my appeal for Cold Springs comes from the legend that the stolen loot of a stage coach headed to Fort Sill circa 1885 is rumored to be buried on the banks of Otter Creek. I counted county roads utterly confused when 1530 came after 2320 only to find out that Cold Springs has a gigantic sign along the highway. We turned onto the dirt road and started driving towards the reservoir. There's a tiny community back there and no more signs to be found. There was a road crossing over the railroad in two spots, but since someone forgot to bring a map, we weren't sure if that was a good idea since two locals had just ambled back over the tracks. I always think that in places like Roosevelt and the country surrounding it, they'd never find the bodies. Keeps me from places I probably shouldn't be exploring...sometimes. Since we were running out of daylight hours, we called it good for the day, and started looking for the Gold Belle Mine. 

The remnants of the old mine are right off the highway and easy to find if you're driving north on HWY 183. As far as I was able to find, this smelter was part of an illegal miner camp, Wildman, established in 1901 which was destroyed by Fort Sill's soldiers. The only things left to see of the cyanide ore mill (which never processed ore) are the cooling tower and the concrete foundations. It looks to be the local hangout judging by the trash at the bottom of the old cooling tower. 

After efficiently braking for the first historical marker once I had the notion I wanted to see the marker, I had my buddy holding on to the handle next to the passenger seat for the rest of the ride along with the comment "Jesus! You need a bumper sticker that reads I brake for historical markers." Well, I think I need a bumper sticker that reads I randomly decide to brake for weird things whenever I please.
Before turning around, we cruised through the six or so streets that make up Mountain Park. They have a post office, a bank, a small park, and a closed cafe (surprise, surprise). Mountain Park never experienced the glory it could have since the guy who was supposed to sell his land to the railroad back in the day thought he could get more than $6,000 and demanded more money. The railroad altered its plans, left Mountain Park in the dust, and made Snyder fit into the plan instead. All but seven of the businesses which had been established in Mountain Park then moved to Snyder. A lesson about the effects of greed.

For pictures from this adventure please check out the Facebook album.
This blog is brought to you by the lovely (biased opinion, we know) Stone Turtle – Lodging, a small family owned and operated hotel / lodging business near Lawton, Oklahoma, Fort Sill,  the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Meers and Medicine Park. Yeah, that’s right we’re a small lodging business close to all the awesomeness Oklahoma has to offer!!