Aug 18, 2010

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

The world's coolest parking lot on top of Mount Scott

I have a certain amount of disdain for routine. The continual cycle of work and weekly obligations instills within me a certain drive to discover new things. Yet despite this continual quest for new experiences, I find myself looking forward to a handful of annual traditions that cannot be skipped.

One of these said traditions is a visit to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge located outside of Lawton in the south west part of the state. There's a certain magic about this place that draws me back year after year. Its one of those rare places where a person can look out over the expanses of the horizon and really feel comfortable with how existentially insignificant they are in the grand scheme of the universe. Its a cool feeling...

Just a little background; the refuge is 59,000 acres of protected land for buffalo, prairie dogs, longhorn cattle, elk, and deer. It's also home to one of the highest peaks in the state of Oklahoma, Mount Scott, which is 2,464 feet tall! The refuge is part of the Central Great Plains Eco Region, making it a unique setting perfect for hikers, nature lovers, photographers, and anyone else willing to have their mind blown by the beautiful surroundings.

Of all the animals that live on the refuge, this guy somehow ended up being our favorite.

Lacey and I began our yearly visit to the refuge painfully early. We knew we had to get there in the wee hours of the AM, or else the sun would have its very unloving way with us. The payoff was well worth enduring the acidic fast food coffee and maddening grogginess, as we arrived just in time to see the mountains break through the flattened plains in the light of the morning skies.

We stopped right outside the entrance to take a look at some cactus plants that had sprung up on the side of the road. While we were snooping around the goofiest little Ren Hoek dog popped out of nowhere to see what we were doing. We knew we were in for a good trip already...

Where the buffalo roam...

The Refuge itself is an incredible sight. The landscape alternates dramatically between vast plains of wavering tall grass, stone mountains that seem to spring out of nowhere, and curious patches of desert-like earth that seem surrealy out of place.

The landscape seems to change depending on which direction you look

While we didn't catch them on camera, herds of buffalo were meandering about the landscape, honking out peculiar cries that droned into the open sky. We made sure to keep our distance.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Looking out over Mount Scott

The beautiful landscapes are perhaps best appreciated on top of Mount Scott. As mentioned before, Mount Scott is pretty much the highest spot you'll find in Oklahoma, and the view from the top certainly confirms just that.

Of course the mountain top itself is quite beautiful, playing host to a number of unique plants and birds, as well as some of the most vividly colored rocks you'll find in nature.

These rocks are totally psychedelic...

Part of the greatness of Mount Scott lies in the very real danger present in exploring it. Getting around the top of the mountain can require some serious rock climbing, and one clumsy step can lead you careening over the edge in a very permanent way.

Those a little more aware of their mortality can enjoy the view from safe spots, complete with guard rails, that are readily available on the mountain top.


We spent nearly two hours gazing upon the open landscape just hanging out and talking. Being in the presence of something so awe inspiring really gets the mind moving, and is an incredible way to find some inspiration.

Very Tolkien-esque

Eventually the sun began to make its presence well known, so we decided to head out. This year's visit did not disappoint, and I most certainly look forward to returning.


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