Freezing in Oklahoma (and Rules of Travel #3)

Trip Start Mar 30, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Cherokee Landing State Park

Flag of United States  , Oklahoma
Monday, April 6, 2009

So I knew this McDonald's existed, but never paid attention to where, so imagine my shock when this monstrosity appeared... I'm quite proud to say that I got the camera out if it's case, took the lens cover off, powered it on, opened the screen, and fired off one shot - all within 1/2 mile at about 80mph! (Oh, and didn't run anyone off the road in the process. ha) So if you were wondering, it's in Vinita, Oklahoma. Or over Vinita, to be precise.

I'd planned to stay at Sequoyah Bay State Park just south of Wagoner, but it was bordered by rows of disheveled trailers and houses that were only separated from the park by a small fence. They were like an audience to the campsite, and it just felt creepy. I did see a few bison, but they weren't friendly enough to make me stay. On to the next spot...

I couldn't find a hotel, so I arrived at Cherokee Landing State Park just south of Tahlequah around 9pm. Luckily, the office light was on and the ranger gave me advice on a campsite. Just imagine finding a site in the dark, setting up a tent in 40mph gusts, in about 35 degrees. I had to hold the tent parts in one hand while putting it together with the other. I now know how to hold a stake and hammer it into the ground with one hand so the tent doesn't take off across the lake like a $250 beach ball.

Cold.  C O L D.  Long johns, pants, undershirt, capilene top, insulated vest, wool socks, gloves, furry hat, sleeping bag, Italian army surplus wool blanket. C  O  L  D!  Added emergency blanket. 5 degrees less COLD. Yes, I'm complaining, but I'm also bragging. I camped out in 28 degree weather with 40+mph gusting winds, and neither I nor my tent flew away! 

No hiking trails, but I walked all around one side of the lake. The winds were still extremely hard and cold, but the sky turned china blue, with lots of sunshine and fluffy cumulus clouds everywhere. This park has a golf course and tons of campsites; I'll bet they have lots if visitors later in the year. The people are extremely nice, and the park is in great shape. 

Linda at the office (possibly my long-lost sister!) recommended the Cookson Smokehouse, just down the road. I had a tasty southwest brisket salad and the last piece of pecan pie -- fabulous! They had a large wood fire going, so it was very cozy.

I decided it was worth a few minutes to move my tent between two trees, and also moved the FJ close, but the wind was coming from so many different directions I wasn't sure if any of it was going to help.  I was so pooped from the night before I just hung out in the tent reading and sketching. Oh, and cleaned up my mess from where I'd slung things around the night before. The wind did calm down and the temp rose to about 38 degrees (woohoo), so the second night was a bit better. But, good grief, my feet keep getting crammed into one end of the tent: why is all this camping stuff so damn slinky?  Therefore...

Marijka's Rules of Travel #3:  Beware the slinky stuff. 

No campsite is perfectly level, so I always seem to be sliding somewhere. I mean, the sleeping bag is slinky, the Thermarest is slinky, the tent floor is slinky -- If I left the zipper door undone, I swear I'd slide right out of the tent!!  I end up crammed against one end of the tent, or laying half off the pad, and it's driving me nuts. I thought it was smart to sew strips of elastic to the back of my sleeping bag so it would grip my Thermarest, but evidently my ass is stronger than the elastic. The bag just slides anyway!

So the next time I pass one of those obnoxious Wal-Marts, I'm going to buy a roll of that rubbery shelf liner and layer it on. I'm sick of sleeping perched on top of these slinky layers -- I just know it's keeping me from truly sleeping well. Okay, rant over.

So on Tuesday I was excited to visit the Cherokee Heritage Center.  I spent over an hour viewing the Beadwork Storytellers, A Visual Language exhibit. No photography is allowed, but several items are shown on their site, and I bought a program if anyone wants to see more. I learned so much about the differences between Cherokee beading and other styles. For example, the geometric designs we're used to seeing are from the Plains Indians, since they're the ones who had PowWows and were featured in movies. Cherokee designs are more floral, and allow more fabric to show. Beading was almost lost after "the removal", which is what Cherokee call the Trail of Tears. Because European glass beads were luxuries, they started to do more embroidery. The Heritage Center gives beading classes and is helping to revive the art, so there were many beautiful modern items on display as well.

I just didn't have the emotional strength to view the Trail of Tears exhibit. I know it's important, but I could barely read about it in school. I'm ashamed to admit I couldn't visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC for the same reason. It just stays with me for too long. I'm grateful there are people who can document these times in history, but I just couldn't do it.

Okay, time to head further south...
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