Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

revisited ghosts of belle starr

I hit the road  to southern Oklahoma at 6:30 a.m. During the nearly three-hour drive, I passed small towns in very rural areas. Non-chain businesses had names like Big Foot BBQ or Six Feet Under Gun Shop.  Every small town had a football field with a sign that said "Home of the [team name]".  A Greater Roadrunner ran in front of me. A horse in a very rural place was loose on the grass. I wanted to phone somebody, but then I realized I had no idea what town I was near or what county I was in. The horse did look reasonably safe and comfortable and not near the road. I spent most of my day in the Choctaw Nation.

I arrived in Wilburton, Oklahoma at 9:25 a.m.  Wilburton is a town of 3,200 adjacent to the San Bois Mountains. I liked its vibrant downtown, and the brick buildings of its small university, Eastern Oklahoma State University. I drove to the Belle Starr lodge. I stayed there once when my mother took my siblings and I there when I was 11 or so. I remember enjoying that trip. I paddled a kayak on lovely Carlton Lake on that trip. It was my first time to kayak. I can hardly imagine a more lovely or safe place to do a first kayak then little Carlton Lake..

Robbers Cave is amid small mountains.  The San Bois chain is the western end of the Ouachita Mountains, It is what happens when a mountain range moves west and drops huge boulders of sandstone.

My old friend Gene drove down from northwest Arkansas. We linked up and drove to the park store. There we got maps of where to go and some good guidance. We drove my car to a parking lot and parked it.  Then we headed to the cave trail.  The cave is a small cave, not one of those caves with stalactites and stalagmites. It was instead reputed to be a hideout during the 19th Century for outlaws like the James Gang and Belle Starr. Belle Starr was killed by gunfire mysteriously not that far away. We enjoyed the 8/10th of a mile trail. It involved lots of huge boulders. I wore my walking shoes and not my hiking shoes. Once I fell because a rock was too slippery. I seem to be okay. Hiking in prairie made me forget to wear my hiking boots to this rocky hike.

The cave was smaller and less steeply placed than I remembered as a kid. But it was great to see a vista of the San Bois Mountains from the top.  The park was lovely--lakes with stone panoramas, deep woods, and lovely hiking. We hiked the short learning center trail. We took a longer hike on the Belle Starr trail to Coon Creek Lake, which involved lots of climbing down and climbing up.

We headed into town for lunch. The Chinese place had a sign that its owners were gone for 3 weeks. The bakery reputed to have great sandwiches was not open.  But Adelita's, the Mexican place, was open and great. I had caldo de cameron. After I ordered, the young server repeated my order, "shrimp soup".  My soup was great--just the right amount of hot seasoning.

We both headed home after lunch. I took the wrong little country highway, a bit by accident and a bit on purpose. In one rural area, I passed a sign that said "Farmer's Market" and "this is the real kind--we grow everything on our farm".  I pulled over onto a gravel road. At its end, a small house and a smaller building that served as the vegetable market were there. I went in. It was air-conditioned and full of fresh produce. But nobody was inside.  I looked at the great wares---watermelons and tomatoes and onions and blue potatoes. I decided to buy blue potatoes. They were five dollars for a sack.  A hand-written note signed "Liz" invited buyers to buy what they want and leave the money in a little locked box. I slipped a five into the box and took my potatoes. A camera apparatus in the store made it all less quaint than a picture-book but it was charming.

My on-star navigation service could not get a good cell to give me a map home, but ultimately my Verizon phone gave me a google map. I had lost a little ground in my wandering but only a little.  I drove on lovely rural roads until I got on Highway 69. I found myself driving by massive Lake Eufaula. I decided to stop at Arrowhead State Park, near Canadian.  I had hiked there with my friend Gene four years ago.

A nice volunteer at the state park office told me how he felt a bit weary but he was still there. "That's the spirit", I said, but he said "I'm not sure I have that spirit". He gave me great directions on where to hike.  I hiked for 90 minutes. The last 45 I switched from trail to road to try to see more birds. I did not see many, but I saw more on the road than in the woods.  This is not unusual--Summer birds like to flit from tree to open space to catch insects. 

The afternoon turned a bit hot. The road was longer than I expected. I kept passing signs for the Narcanon rehab facility on site. I also passed great sets of families having fun on the beach, on playground equipment, or, in the case of two fellows, walking down the road with fishing rods. Lake Eufaula is a lovely large foothills lake. I saw Barn Swallows waiting for a cooler evening by hanging out on telephone wires. I drove to Atoka Lake. I did not spend much time there. I did see a small wild canine. I thought at first it was a fox. But then I decided it was an immature coyote--more than a pup but not very far grown.  It ran to cover before I got a photo. I wish I had a picture to be sure.

All told, it was a grand day. Now the closing credits of Pearl Harbor are scrolling, I threw Beatrice's stuffed red lobster doll.

breakfast: frosted flakes and skim milk
lunch: caldo de cameron and chips
dinner: 3 pieces fried catfish, a roll and green beans.
(lovingly copied by hand from Dreamwidth by the LiveJournal cyber-angels)

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