Where the wildthings are...

Trip Start Sep 27, 2010
Trip End Mar 23, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Oklahoma
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sometimes you just feel the need to be quiet don't you? Every now and then we have to stop to catch our breath. Some days we don't 'do’ anything, well I might do the laundry – I can’t escape from everything however much I might want to! Malc might do a bit of maintenance; he’s very good at keeping things shipshape :)

The internet is our lifeline – how else would you be able to share in our wanderings and ramblings? But the next few days saw us in retreat so to speak.

So leaving Newcastle, it was only a mile or so before we joined the free way to make our way to the next destination. We knew there would be a toll, so seeing a sign for it wasn’t unexpected – what did alarm us were the words which said 'Exact change only’ having done said laundry our hoard of quarters was severely depleted. Normally there is a person in the toll booth, so not having change has not been an issue; clearly this was not going to be so easy. OK, we had a few $ bills and if need be we could ‘over pay’ did I really say that? Heavens…anyway within a very short distance from the sign we found ourselves in the toll booth, no person…how much needed? $1.25…BUT coins only!... r- i -g- h - t .

We haven’t got enough coins, we can’t reverse, there’s no one around…

Surprisingly there was no mad panic, quiet panic- maybe. I got out and unlocked Toad in the vain hope that there would be some quarters in the space where we leave them for parking meters (I knew I had already raided these for the laundry) but I looked just in case. By this time a truck towing a transporter had pulled up behind us, ah ha maybe he has change…sadly not. What can we do? It was a question I asked out loud, but it might have had a couple of extra words in there somewhere. "Go through, they’ll just send you a citation in the mail…but I don’t have an address…they’ll send it to where your tag is registered"…not that simple we have 2 tags (number plates) Bree – Montana, Toad NH…anyway we have been ultra careful not to have any violations, don’t want to give immigration any ammunition. Minutes were ticking by, we were still there, still didn’t have the change, thankfully the guy was not impatient – yet! At that moment I spotted a car pulling away from the lane next to us, I had been so involved in the conversation I hadn’t noticed it before. I shouted after it and the kind driver and she stopped. Then in between mouthfuls of hamburger and coffee she found some quarters in her pocket book (purse, girls) Saved, we threw the coins into the container and high tailed it out of there; determined never to be caught like that again. Thank goodness it wasn’t a busy freeway or we might have been even more frazzled. :)

Oh by the way, this journey took Bree over the 40.000 mile mark –and us over 26000. That doesn’t include the miles we have done in toad!

Anyway; we have come to Wichita Wildlife Refuge in the Wichita Mountains, which are actually still in OK. There is a campsite here, we have electricity but obviously no TV or WiFi – goodness we’ll have to talk to each other! Not enough space to avoid each other when you only have about 300 sq ft. But hey we’ve conversed before – once or twice in our 37 years so I guess we’ll be alright.They have a camp ground here, which although it doesn't look like it from the map pin, is actually inside the refuge boundary.

Often in State Parks there is no one on duty all the time and you have to choose a site and pay the fee by putting it in an envelope and dropping it through a slot. So it was this time, we drove round to the electricity sites, chose one and Malc backed in. We had forgotten we needed to fill up with water, so before we settled in properly we returned to the tap and Bree ‘drank thirstily’ 'til the tank was full.

It is a lovely spot,in amongst the trees and beside the lake. What could be better?

Wasting no more time, armed with binoculars and camera we went to look for animals…

The refuge is massive, though only a small portion is open to the public and the rest reserved for animals only, this doesn’t stop them coming into "our" bit it just gives them a bit of privacy when they want it :). What foresight President McKinley had when he saved this corner of America, as a forest reserve for the wildlife and the people back in 1901. (It was renamed as a Game Preserve by Roosevelt 4 years later.) At the time land was being grabbed and ‘tamed’ all over the new world, but for him, this would have been gobbled up too.

When we arrived we saw some Longhorns grazing in the tall prairie grass, but we were hopeful of seeing buffalo and elk as well. Being a Thursday, the park was quiet and we saw few other visitors, there are lots of trails and we made plans to explore on foot – knowing full well that wildlife IS wild.  However for the time being we drove along the park roads staring out across the vast spaces. One species is certainly not shy; the prairie dogs are more than friendly. Sadly we think this is because people feed them, despite being asked not to, they are funny little creatures. We couldn’t help but laugh as they stood on their hind legs and then every now and the leapt into the air with a squeak that made it sound like someone had squeezed them as if trying to make them go pop! Not so funny was the site of a coyote we saw when we passed by again, he was in hunt mode but the little comedians were much too quick for him, diving into their holes every time he got near. I have a feeling they are not quick enough every time :(

We did see a couple of buffalo in the distance, so all in all a good first day. Next morning we took a picnic lunch and set of for the “Narrows” a hike up through the park, which one of the rangers had recommended. It was beautiful and we never saw another soul, but sadly we didn’t see any wildlife either.

After our picnic lunch we took the kite trail – following signs it took us along a creek towards a waterfall and "the 40’ hole" after this very dry summer the water levels are low, so there was no water gushing down the 40’ drop. The kite signs were rather sporadic, but we managed, again the scenery was wonderful, a real change after the ‘flat lands’ we have passed through lately.

Up early on Sat morning, we joined a ranger led walk and did part of the Charon Garden Trail, towards Elk Mountain. By this time the park was buzzing, many visitors had arrived the previous night, tenters and scout groups and a few more in campers too. But it was still quiet around our site, so quiet in fact that the first night Malc cooked over the campfire a deer came to stand close by to watch, not even scared away by the torch. The hike with Dan our ranger was great, although we had enjoyed the solitude of the day before; it was nice to hike with others. We joined a couple of young families, service men and women from the nearby Fort Sill who were in training prior to active service in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a delight to see their youngsters soaking up the outdoors, as Dan said they are the ones who need to be taught the value of what we hold as custodians for them. The animal population is carefully controlled and is actually kept to about 1/3 of what the land could support, this means they are healthy and strong. Surplus bison are rounded up and sold at auction where they are bought to strengthen other herds. We’d missed this roundup by a couple of weeks – which was a shame.  Some of the bison in the refuge carry a unique strain and the rangers actively protect these.

We hiked to the valley of boulders – and what boulders they were too must be 50ft in diameter or more! And then returned when the path became too challenging for the group. In the afternoon we took another look for those elusive wildlife, we were rewarded when we did a little hike at the other end of the Charon trail beyond the boulder valley. A few yards along the path Malc looked up to see this fellow taking a late lunch just a little way from us. We paused, but kept talking as we had been advised to do, so as not to spook them. We have seen them up close and personal before in Yellowstone, but each and every time is magical,especially this time being on foot rather than passing by in a car.. Later in the day we were lucky enough to see some elk too, though not up close and personal. Before we left on Sunday morning we walked around the lake from the campsite, it was a grey morning, though not cold. Bree and the rest of the campers were well hidden in the trees; it has been a relaxing stay this time as food for the soul was on the menu. :)

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Larry on

Nice pictures! Good thing it was cool weather, those trails are full of rattlesnakes in the summer months!! I once started a hike in that area but turned around when I saw 3 rattlers along the way.

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