For years, I've been wanting to do Ellenbrook's refuge tour partially explained in a book called Outdoor and Trail Guide to the Wichita Mountains of Southwest Oklahoma complete with a map featuring a little sombrero-wearing dude riding a donkey. If that doesn't add credibility to the adventure factor, then what would? I'm all about turning left at the cactus...until you find out that the cactus that was there in the 1970s isn't there anymore. Bummer.
Skeptical was my middle name when prepping for this tour. Especially after reading the route description. A tiny paragraph (I'm talkin' a two sentence paragraph) covered 75 miles of travel all on dirt roads. I thought the directions were sucky to say the least. Based on the route the donkey was on and GoogleMaps, I pieced together what I thought an accurate route description. I probably shouldn't make fun of Ellenbrook's sucky directions since I beat his sparse paragraph with a post-it note. Unfortunately, the ladies who were driving Miss Daisy had even less faith in my post-it note and brought a GPS.
"Where's y'all's sense of adventure?"
"It's out for pie."
Cruising the back roads of Oklahoma made Ellenbrook's sucky directions not so sucky all of a sudden while stopping next to thousands of sun flowers...then again those weren't mentioned in the map. The Post-it Note directions worked well...with the GPS. Turns out street signs aren't really used out in the boonies. And, if they are, it's for target practice.
75 miles and only one car seen. We passed more cattle on the road than cars. I warned #333 and #273 of their fate, pleading with them to stage a revolt and run before it was too late. Not sure they believed my facts to be on the level. Cows. People told me I lived in the sticks. I was tempted to offer a trade at one of the ranches. Figure I'd go back once I've found a nice way to market a neighbor who moves mailboxes at night.
This adventure gets travelers the closest they'll ever get (without trespassing) to Baker's Peak and Cutthroat Gap. Story time, yo:
Cutthroat Gap is located next to Cut-Off Head Mountain. One leads to the other, I guess. In the spring of 1833, Kiowa warriors were off on a raiding mission. The remaining (mostly women, children, and the old) were attacked by the Osage tribe. The Osage unmercifully killed most of the Kiowas who were camped in the valley. The heads of the dead were cut off and placed in brass buckets throughout the camp. There's a nice surprise when one's looking for a cup of sugar. Among the dead was a chief who had led a war party attack earlier in the year on traders coming back from Santa Fe. They do say Karma is a bitch. From this raid on traders, the Kiowas allegedly stole silver coins ($10,000 worth back then). Legend has it that coins were still popping up in Cutthroat Gap years after the massacre.
Moving on a couple years, Baker's Peak gets its name from PFC Baker who was on a scouting mission from Camp Radziminski (historical marker picture from blog post Cold Springs...sort of) with another scout in 1859. The story goes that they found themselves surrounded by 200 Comanche and Kiowa warriors. Baker's companion was killed, and Baker sought refuge on higher ground (isn't that a Star Wars concept?) In a battle that lasted two days, Baker is said to have killed over 80 Native Americans. He was rescued by a search party from Camp Radziminski. 1 vs 200 sounds somewhat like an exaggerated bar story for the guys. I wasn't there, so I'll just give him the benefit of the doubt.
Ellenbrook's map went well (with the Post-It and GPS) until the water tower. Not to be seen were (possibly) the Taylor Ranch house, an old wooden windmill, a natural spring, and cemetery (I do love cemeteries!). Maybe they all got sucked into the Twilight Zone since Ellenbrook's excursion in the 1970s. Someone should have sucked the map up, too. Utterly confused about where the hell we were on Ellenbrook's map we trekked on. I now have Googlemaps homework. Does Googlemaps cover the Twilight Zone? It's Google, I'm sure it does.
Gorgeous Oklahoma scenery on the tour. Worth the trip even if the windmill, spring, and cemetery can't be found. Sucky directions and all, Ellenbrook's book is highly valued in my personal library with all of its trail recommendations and area history. I'll upload my Post-It note to the Facebook album. Happy pre-Tuesday!
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!!