Here’s one of many opportunities to learn about the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. I got this courtesy of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Web site. I’d recommend this hike, if only for a chance to have a guided trip in an interesting portion of the refuge that’s I’ve explored a few times. Check it out, bring your gear and enjoy a fine day in the Wichitas.
Spring Wilderness Hike
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge will be conducting wilderness hikes for the general public April 10, 17 and 24. Reservations are required and are taken on a first-come, first-served basis by contacting the Visitor Center on specified reservation dates.
The hikes provide visitors with an opportunity to experience a portion of the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area under the guidance of an interpreter. Topics for interpretation include basic geology, plants, wildlife and habitat diversity. Guides and interpreters for the hikes are members of the Association of Friends of the Wichitas.
The hikes, which include the crossing of the Valley of the Boulders, are rated strenuous for those who to not hike weekly. Persons who are not in “fit” physical condition are invited to watch throughout the year for less strenuous hikes and walks. Due to the length and difficulty of the hikes, children must be at least 8 years old. Participants must wear sturdy, rubber soled shoes and layer clothing appropriately for anticipated weather. Hikers will want to bring personal drinking water and a high energy snack. Hikes will last approximately three hours. A $5 reservation fee per participant will be collected at the time of check-in. The bus will depart from headquarters promptly at 10 a.m. Reservations will be retained until 10 minutes prior to departure on each date. After that time, standbys will be accepted.
Hike participants meet at the Visitor Center. Interested persons are advised that the Refuge’s public interpretive program is intended for individuals and family units. Only one family’s reservation will be accepted per telephone call. We regret we cannot offer group tours, but invite all interested individuals to call for reservations. Reservations must be made by telephoning the Visitor Center on the following line only: (580) 429-2151.
I realize that this will be for the more hard-core skiers and boarders only. Few people from around here travel to ski and ride after Spring Break. But for those of you who do, here’s some Rocky Mountain ski reports.
New Mexico: http://www.skireport.com/newmexico/
You might notice about half of New Mexico’s resorts have shut down for the season, which is common. But there’s still a few open, including biggies like Taos and Ski Santa Fe, among others. So there’s still time!
It’s funny how timing works. It wasn’t but a few days ago I was writing about “family-friendly” adventures here in Oklahoma when I came across a story from Outside Online about a California teen who is trying to set a new adventure record.
Jordan Romero, 13, is trying to become the youngest person to ever summit Mount Everest. If he succeeds, he’ll also be the youngest person to ever reach the Seven Summits, that is, he’d have climbed all of the seven high points of the world’s continents.
Outside’s expansive article details this kid’s life, his enthusiastic parents and all of the outside speculation on the pros and cons of this effort. It’s safe to say that this is generating a lot of controversy.
If you’re not up for reading the entire article, it comes down to this: Jordan’s supporters note that he is an experienced climber (with ascents of Aconcagua, Denali and Vinson Massif already under his belt, among others), he’s smart and he’s training hard. His parents are experienced adventure racers and have some Himalayan experience, though not much. The eighth-grader appears to be mature beyond his peers.
Critics cite a number of problems. For starters, Jordan and his team are going unguided, though they will get Sherpa support on their summit day. Despite his training, many wonder if he will be physically up to the task of tackling a 29,000-foot peak. And most importantly, they question where a 13-year-old’s brain is developed enough to fully appreciate what’s at stake. The article mentions that adolescents’ brains are not fully developed, especially in terms of reasoning, planning and judgment. Precisely the things you need when facing life-or-death decisions and other abstract ideas that will confront anyone tackling a task like Himalayan mountaineering.
Jordan’s adventure is part of a growing trend today. More teens are diving into adventures of different sorts, especially in the realm of adventure sailing. Some parents are OK with letting their teens hop aboard a boat and try to set solo navigation feats that few experienced sailors would even think about.
I’ve seen Internet discussions about kids hiking alone (or their parents far off and out of sight), and the usual reaction is outrage. An instance where a hiker found a kid wandering on a trail on Pikes Peak had people wondering if calling child welfare might be in order.
But a few others talked about how generations ago, parents were more apt to let kids explore, on their own, or at least with other kids.
I wonder if Jordan’s case is a bit of a pendulum swing of sorts. When I was young, it was nothing for me to take off on my bike alone and be gone for hours with my friends. On camping trips, it wasn’t uncommon for me and a buddy to go wandering off into the woods, sans parents, seeing what there was to see.
Nowadays, kids are rarely beyond sight of their parents, playing in more controlled areas or involved in recreation that is more regulated, like sports leagues, cheer, dance, etc. Many times they are kept busy and active with a partial goal if keeping children’s idle time to a minimum. That, or kids are so fixated on indoor activity (video games, for instance) that they rarely experience or even seek time outside.
(Saying this, I’m not knocking such activities, but sometimes they can be extremely time-consuming compared to what I experienced as a kid.)
I say all this wondering what to make of Jordan Romero’s case. His parents assured Outside Online that this was Jordan’s quest, not theirs (though they are heavily involved, for obvious reasons), that he’s hoping to inspire other kids to get off the couch. And it’s not like they’re sending him off to Tibet on his own. They plan to be there with him every step of the way.
I admire Jordan’s determination, his preparation. And without a doubt, his climbing resume far surpasses mine and just about every climber I know. Physically, this kid may be up to the task and may pull it off. But I wonder if this race to be the youngest (yet another climbing “first” being attempted) is very wise. Does a 13-year-old have the ability to make the individual decisions needed when under the stress of Himalayan mountaineering? Would he be better off trying this when he’s an adult, and just forget the record? Is this sort of goal worth a young person’s life, and could his parents ever forgive themselves if tragedy took their son?
Any time someone endeavors in something as risky as mountaineering, there are questions about why people take those risks. If you’ve never done it, you’ll never really understand. But what’s true is that for an adult, the decision of taking the risk or not is entirely up to the individual.
However, the same cannot be said of an adolescent. The decision cannot be Jordan’s alone because it’s one that he may not be truly able to make. And that may be reason enough for someone to make the decision for him and just say no.
Want to read the Outside Online story? Check this link here: http://outside.away.com/outside/culture/201004/jordan-romero-teenager-extreme-adventure-everest-1.html
Want to read more discussion? Check this thread here: http://www.14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=24007&p=287928#p287928
Some interesting information about an event down in Tishomingo, the Fourth Annual Arbuckle-Simpson Nature Festival. Got this from the state Tourism Department. Have a read and see if this is something you’d like to attend.
WHAT: This two-day outdoor experience will showcase the rich diversity of the plants, animals, birds, geological formations and history in south-central Oklahoma. This festival is a multiplicity of not only informational and educational field trips but also some hands-on workshops will be included. On Saturday, choose from a list of workshops that include bird feeder building to T-shirt tie-dyeing.
WHEN: May 7-8. We start early with sign-in at 7 a.m., with early events starting at 7:30 each morning.
WHO: Birders, bikers, hikers, wildlife enthusiasts, ecologists/biologists, artists, photographers, researchers, students, teachers, conservationists and families.
Young or old, there is something for everyone from the novice birder to the most experienced nature enthusiast.
WHY: This festival’s program includes field trips and informative seminars that will ultimately provide participants opportunities to explore private property treasures rarely available to visitors of the Arbuckle-Simpson area of Oklahoma. Through field trips and hands-on instruction, see a side of the Arbuckle-Simpson area that is available only by attending the festival.
REGISTRATION: Online at www.asnf.webs.com. Sign up early, most sessions have limited space.
For more information, contact Murray State College (580) 371-2371 ext. 101 or visit www.asnf.webs.com.
DETAILS: Join others from across Oklahoma and surrounding areas who share interests in wildlife, natural habitats, plant life, birding and historical information about this area. This year the festival will include opportunities to see sights not open to the general public, experience hands-on workshops and expert presentations by keynote speakers to be announced soon on the Web site, www.asnf.webs.com . General outings include bird banding, wildflower fieldtrips, a nocturnal life fieldtrip and T-shirt tie-dying classes using native plant life for the dyes, Bird feeder building, nature photography and nature trail/journaling workshop for both middle school age kids as well as adults.
Up for some late season skiing? Let me give you a couple of reasons to consider it. First, rates will be falling fast now that Spring Break is done. Second, the Rockies got some big-time snow this week. Cheap rates plus big snow. Sounds like a winner to me. Check out these links:
New Mexico: http://www.skireport.com/newmexico/
There’s been a few times on this space where I’ve talked about different adventures in some of Oklahoma’s wild places, or even in places outside the state.
Crab Eyes and Mount Mitchell in the Wichitas. The high peaks of Colorado and New Mexico. They have all been fun places to go hike, camp and climb. But there’s a certain level of commitment for all of them in terms of time, gear, fitness and climbing skills.
So I realize not everyone is quite ready for that. Or, some folks might like to have these experiences with their spouses or kids.
So that got me to thinking. Let’s say your husband or wife isn’t quite the climber you are. Or your kids are a bit too young to be hanging off a real rock wall or trudging up the flanks of a 14,000-foot peak. What to do?
Simple. Give them an achievable adventure at a cool place that won’t stress them out too much but will spark their imaginations when it comes to the outdoors. For that, I’d recommend Elk Mountain in the Wichitas.
Elk Mountain is more of a large, granite plateau. It’s a complicated high spot that is filled with rugged climbing routes, interesting rock formations and great views. It can be as easy or difficult as you want to make it.
But the standard trail up Elk Mountain is something just about anyone can manage without having to take any serious risks that some of the other peaks in the area impose.
To get there, go west on State Highway 49 through the Wildlife Refuge. The signs will point you to a road that goes south and leads you to a picnic area. This is where the trailhead for the Elk Mountain Trail starts.
The trail itself is well-marked and maintained. It’s considered a Class 1 hike, meaning that the grade is pretty reasonable and your footing is good. A lot of people hike it in trail runners or even running shoes, but I’d rather be in a sturdier pair of boots because of the cactus.
The trail is a little over a mile from the trailhead to the top. From Elk Mountain’s summit, you can see a lot of the other peaks that surround it. Also visible will be the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area, Crab Eyes and an array of rock formations near and on Elk Mountain.
One of its most famous is the Apple and the Pear. These massive boulders get their name from their appearance and sit right next to each other.
Wildlife is also abundant. Don’t be surprised if you spot buffalo, elk, deer, coyotes and longhorns.
This time of year is an ideal time to go, provided storms aren’t rolling in. We had a pretty wet winter and decent rains during the spring will mean lots of green grasses a variety of colors from native wildflowers. Over the next couple of months, the heat of summer is still a ways off.
That said, Elk Mountain – like all the peaks in the Wichitas – is pretty exposed when it comes to lightning. So watch the weather and don’t tempt fate by trying to beat a squall line to the summit.
Elk Mountain was the first hike I ever did in the Wichitas. I did it in the summer, so I felt the full brunt of July’s heat. In any case, make sure to bring something to munch on (even easier hiking can burn lots of calories) and plenty of water. I’d say each person should drink up before starting the hike and have a liter with you to sip along the way.
There’s a lot of places to explore away from the main trail, but that’s for another day.
I always figured Elk Mountain being a “family friendly” place to get in some decent hiking. It’s just wild enough to be interesting, but very accessible and not too difficult as long as you’re sticking to the main trail. When you finish, there’s plenty of shady areas at the trailhead to enjoy a picnic and rest up before your make your way home.
SANTA FE, N.M. – It had been nearly 24 hours since I endured my worst-ever day skiing. Old injuries piled up, piled on and left me sidelined inside the Ski Santa Fe cafeteria.
What was supposed to be a week-long tour of some of New Mexico’s finest ski resorts was a bust for me. While fellow travel writers checked out Santa Fe’s slopes, I was nursing a bad back that left me hobbled a day after aggravating it on Angel Fire’s peaceful runs.
Bad skiing and nagging injuries don’t mix well. But even in such crummy circumstances, sometimes there’s a silver lining.
Benny Abruzzo ate breakfast with the group of journalists, myself included, that had come to check out Santa Fe. While one writer persisted (in annoying fashion) that I push through it, Abruzzo understood my pain. He’d been there. And so when everyone left, he hung out with me for 90 minutes.
What a treat that was.
Abruzzo runs Ski Santa Fe. He’s an avid skier. But talk to him long and you get a sense that he’s not just a skier-turned-businessman. Abruzzo is an outdoor enthusiast who has a refreshing passion for skiing, rock climbing and mountaineering.
“If you don’t do anything else, you have to get to Chamonix,” he told me as we discussed our shared love of the mountains.
Chamonix, if you don’t know, is basically the center of the mountaineering universe. The town in France is the jumping off spot for famous climbs up the Eiger and many other choice climbing destinations. Mountaineering was arguably invented and definitely perfected in Europe, with the Alps being the setting for the exploits of climbing’s pioneers.
Run into someone who talks about their experiences climbing in the Alps (and especially Chamonix), you’re bound to get an air of elitism reserved for those been-there, done-that alpinists who would scoff at my rather light climbing resume.
Not Abruzzo. It’s just a place he’s been where he’s done what he loves. We talked about peaks in Colorado, climbing spots in New Mexico’s Sandias and even a few places in Oklahoma. More than once, he mentioned how people from his home state, as well as Texas, hone their big wall skills in the peaks not far from his hometown of Albuquerque.
In each story he told, his love was more for the activity and the place, not his own accomplishments.
And it’s something he likes to share. His dream for the near term? Taking his son to the Alps for days of hut-to-hut travels and climbs up that range’s spectacular and challenging routes.
Eventually, Abruzzo had to go tend to his media guests. I had to tend to my back and the inevitable decision to cut my trip short, head home and nurse myself back to health.
But if nothing else, I carried home a little bit of encouragement. Climbing and mountaineering are full of big egos, ambition and narcissism that encourage an unhealthy form of hero worship. What we need are a few more people like Benny Abruzzo, people who are passionate about the outdoors and not themselves. These are the people who will pass on their craft to future generations who, if we’re lucky, will not just enjoy themselves in the backcountry , but also learn to appreciate it, take care of it and pass it along.
Two ways you can look at this. The seeming lack of snowfall over the past few days will mean either A., packed powder or even somewhat icy conditions, or B., sunshine and good temps for spring breakers. Someone will have to tell me! And someone should also let me know why Silverton Mountain in Colorado plans to open March 18. Why so late? What’s the deal?
Here’s the weekly ski reports:
New Mexico: http://www.skireport.com/newmexico/
From Out There reader Augie Frost, a link and some praise for this site:
“Here’s a cool link you might want to share with your readers. They do GREAT trail work in Oklahoma and this is an amazing utility for the mountain bikers in OK looking for new trails and adventure. It also links to some wonderful trails in neighboring states, particularly in Arkansas.”
Check it out if you haven’t already.
Just got this from the folks at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. It’s always cool when people show up to volunteer for such hard work that will not just benefit them, but many others. So a big thanks to those who went down there March 6 to work on the trails. Read on…
SULPHUR — At the invitation of the park, the International Mountain Bicycling Association trail care crew recently made its way to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. On March 6, the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew, led by Chris and Leslie Kehmeier, provided both classroom instruction and on-the-ground training in support of bike trails in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Leslie Kehmeier stated that the number of participants “was one of the largest we’ve had in our eight months of traveling.”
The Trail Building School was attended by park staff, bike club members, equestrians and others from throughout the state who were interested in learning more about maintaining the trails open to users in the park. Participants traveled from as far away as Edmond and Tulsa for this hands-on learning experience. Following some classroom work the weekend’s trail building activities focused on a series of projects along the Rock Creek multi-use trail. Rock armoring, re-routes, and maintenance were conducted along several hundred yards of trail. By the end of the day the revitalized trail had already seen traffic by equestrian and mountain bike riders.
Park Superintendent Bruce Noble hiked the trail as the work progressed, and visited with the volunteers. “This kind of hands-on stewardship better connects park visitors to the resource they are using,” Noble said. “If we can work with IMBA and other partner organizations to develop our trail infrastructure, the potential for improved mountain biking use at Chickasaw National Recreation Area is very favorable.”
Today is the day when Oklahoma City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place. The actual holiday is a few days off, but what the heck. Here’s a video of a classic mountain hike up Ireland’s Crough Patrick. Watch and enjoy. And here’s a link describing the hike: http://compasspointsmedia.com/how-to-hike-croagh-patrick/