Some news from the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur. The good news: Federal stimulus funds are going to pay for some upgrades at the Travertine Nature Center. The bad news: During renovations, some parts of the nature center may be closed. But overall, it sounds like a good thing. Here’s the details from the National Park Service.
Beginning in December and continuing into the spring of 2011, construction crews will replace the historic building’s heating and air conditioning system and roof. Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the improvements will result in a more comfortable environment for visitors and will increase the building’s energy efficiency. While the work is expected to have minimal impacts on visitors to the nature center, it is possible that parts of the facility may be inaccessible or closed for brief periods of time during the project.
The Travertine Nature Center was completed in 1969 as part of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program, which provided national park areas across the United States with much-needed infrastructure improvements. The facility has served as a visitor contact station, environmental learning center, and hub of the park’s interpretive program efforts since it opened decades ago. An important part of the history of the National Park Service and Chickasaw National Recreation Area, the nature center was recently nominated to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Travertine Nature Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day. For more information about the rehabilitation project, contact Landscape Architect Ken Ruhnke at (580) 622-7253. For current Travertine Nature Center information call (580) 622-7234.
Yep, the Thanksgiving blog entry (obligatory things we are thankful for) is a bit cliché. But hey, it’s never a bad thing to think about the things for which we are grateful and then give thanks. There are the obvious — family and friends, to name a few. But there are others.
So here are a couple of things from me…
I’m thankful for the Wichita Mountains. There are some amazing places in Oklahoma, but to me, the Wichitas are this state’s natural jewel. Rugged, beautiful, and as wild as you want them to be. Just being there makes me happy.
I’m grateful for friends, new and old, with whom I’ve shared the trail. Friends who will drive for hours just to tag one summit. Friends who just a few months ago I only knew from their online profiles on a climbing and hiking website. And a dear friend and brother with whom I hope to share some adventures again. Get well soon, Mike!
I’m thankful for the elements. Good weather, bad weather, it’s all good. Sometimes the elements aren’t very friendly, but many times the cold, rain, snow, wind and sun are ingredients in the stew of adventure that make the outdoors experience that much richer.
I’m thankful for the fact that I didn’t get gored by that buffalo back in June. Close calls are fun — in retrospect!
I’m grateful to the readers of this blog, and the input you’ve given me.
Thanks be to God for bluebird days, grand vistas and the health and opportunity to get outside and soak it all in.
Happy Thanksgiving, folks!
Urban development or urban wildlife? Wetlands near Oklahoma City’s Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge debated
This was an interesting story that appeared in Monday’s Oklahoman. Be sure to read the story pasted below, but the bottom line is this: Resident who live near the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma City are concerned over a proposed apartment complex that would be built near the refuge and would likely consume a wetlands area just to the west of it.
This is an oft-repeated conflict: business development vs. natural environments. The man proposing the complex owns the land and it is zoned for such a project. But natural wetlands are a valuable (they help clean natural water sources and provide habitat for wildlife) and diminishing resource. The people who live in the area like having a natural setting to look at and prefer it to a block of apartments.
So what do you think? Read the story here and comment here in the blog or e-mail me at email@example.com
– Bob Doucette
DEVELOPER HOPES TO BUILD GROCERY STORE, SMALL SHOPS, 300 APARTMENTS
Residents near wetlands leery of owner’s plans
By Michael Baker
Jean Braun moved into Stonebridge Lake Estates in July after being captivated by the natural beauty of the area just north of Lake Overholser.
The transplant from the Washington, D.C., area was attracted by the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, trails around the lake and the wooded neighborhoods.
“It’s one of the last sort of urban wilderness areas,” she said. “They’ve kept it beautifully wild.”
Braun and other area residents worry their oasis in Oklahoma City faces the prospect of becoming a mirage because of a planned residential and commercial development just across NW 39 Expressway — traveled as Route 66 by those not from around here.
Residents worry about traffic, crime and the destruction of the natural habitat if the high-density Route 66 Landing — with more than 300 apartments — is built on the other side of The Mother Road.
“My major concern is the destruction of the habitat out here,” she said. “Once it’s gone it will be gone forever.”
Developer Ken McGee said his plans are much more in line with the area than what the current zoning would allow, such as a mega shopping center with a large box-store anchor tenant.
“I think once they see all the ponds and the trees and the way that we’re going to be able to make that development look, I think they’ll be proud of it,” said McGee, the majority property owner with McGee Investments. “There’s a significant difference in what we’ve been able to protect and take care of compared to the old plan.”
Near the refuge
McGee’s 60 acres lie between Morgan Road and the Kilpatrick Turnpike. The land is a mix of pasture and woods, crossed by a stream. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory shows a forested freshwater wetland area near the middle of the property.
To many area residents, the land fits in with the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge, which is less than a mile to the east. The refuge is home to deer, beaver and many types of birds, and is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, hiking and fishing.
“We are concerned about the pollution, the chemicals, the runoff, the traffic, the humans,” said Lynda Bahr, a resident on the east shore of Lake Overholser. “What does that do to the wildlife?”
Except for the wooded area around the stream, McGee’s acres are mostly pasture. Kilpatrick makes it accessible from just about anywhere in the metro area. Route 66 gives the property access from the east and west. Yukon is directly west and Bethany and Warr Acres are just east. Southern Nazarene University is just down the street.
There is a void for a grocery store and limited competition for quality apartments, McGee said.
He filed a request with the Oklahoma City Planning Commission on Friday to add a residential element to the current commercial zoning.
McGee’s plans include a neighborhood grocery store and small shops on half the property. On about 25 acres would be 300 to 375 apartment units, divided into eight to 12 units per two-story building. A common area with a pond, stream and trees runs through the middle — where the wetland is designated — and divides the commercial from residential.
‘A natural barrier’
“With the wetlands and that greenbelt, the ponds area, it’s really creating a natural barrier between the two, which I think is going to be a beautiful thing once we get it completed,” he said. The existing zoning does not protect the wetlands area.
Oklahoma City Councilman Gary Marrs, who represents area residents, said under current zoning building could begin.
“It’s zoned commercial and he could put all that commercial there now without having to put anything in front of the planning commission,” Marrs said.
Not all residents he’s talked to are opposed to the plans, Marrs said.
“I’ve had a few of them that have contacted me that think it’s a great idea,” he said. “They don’t think it’s going to hurt at all. There are some benefits coming along with it but we’ll just have to wait and see how it all pans out.”
Looking for a spring and summer gig in the outdoors? The Chickasaw National Recreation Area has some job opportunities for people who would like to work at the park’s campsites as hosts.
Below is a summary of the job and information about how to apply, with information courtesy of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Spring/Summer 2011 Volunteer Campground Host Opportunities at Chickasaw NRA
Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Oklahoma, is now accepting applications for multiple campground host positions for the 2011 season. Positions are available at the Point, Buckhorn, Cold Springs, and Rock Creek campgrounds.
Campground hosts are the eyes and ears of the park campgrounds. As a campground host, you will help visitors relax, find their campsite, and settle in for their stay at the park. Hosts greet visitors, answer questions, inform campers of rules and regulations, respond to minor emergency situations, conduct light grounds maintenance, and restock restroom supplies. Training and support will be provided. An RV site with full hook-ups and uniforms will be provided. Start/end dates and length of stay will vary based on park needs and volunteer availability.
All volunteers should possess a desire to learn, excellent communication skills, and have an interest in park resources. These exciting volunteer positions are wonderful ways to meet interesting people and to learn about the National Park Service. For more information or to apply, visit www.nps.gov/chic/supportyourpark/volunteer.htm, call Volunteer Coordinator Lauren Gurniewicz at (580) 622-7282, or e-mail at Lauren_Gurniewicz@nps.gov.
Sounds like this could be a good gig. Anyone out there done this job before? I’d be curious about what it’s like to be the “eyes and ears” of the recreation area…
I saw an interesting post on The Adventure Journal’s website, and I just had to explore it.
There is a park ranger at Yosemite National Park in California who is trying hard to get more black Americans to visit America’s parks, Yosemite in particular.
His efforts already got Oprah Winfrey to camp at the park.
Next up: Getting rap star Snoop Dogg to set up camp and enjoy some time in the great outdoors.
The ranger, Shelton Johnson, is black. He’s the only African American park ranger at Yosemite, a post on the change.org website says. Johnson, originally from Detroit, estimates that less than 1 percent of Yosemite’s visitors are black, despite the park’s proximity to Oakland and several other major cities in California.
“All Snoop Dogg has to do is go camping in Yosemite and it would change the world,” Johnson is quoted as saying. “If Oprah Winfrey went on a road trip to the national parks, it would do more than I have done in my whole career.”
I think this is a very interesting take, getting famous black Americans to endorse visiting national parks.
If you think about it, the world of the outdoors doesn’t seem to be as cross-cultural as many other facets of life. Music, art, film, television, sports – all of these elements of American culture have seen a growing and healthy representation of many ethnicities. But when you look at ads for ski equipment, outdoor gear or the like, it’s pretty much as lilly white as it gets.
I’ve seen people of color on the slopes and on the trail, but my own experience seems to point toward the idea that all this camping/climbing/hiking stuff is mostly done by white folks. I know that’s not 100 percent true, but that perception is based, at least in part, in reality.
I’m curious about what you all think. Anyone out there who bucks the trend? I’d love to hear from you or anyone else who’d like to chime in on this subject.
If you want to read more about this, check out these two links:
With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, many Rocky Mountain ski resorts are getting ready to open. A few others already have their lifts running. Skiing and snowboarding are on the brain.
Last week, I posted something about fitness tips to get ready for ski season. But once you’re in shape, there are other considerations to prepare for. One of the biggest challenges we flatlanders face is dealing with altitude issues.
Here in Oklahoma City, most of us live somewhere between 1,000 feet and 1,300 feet above sea level. The air here won’t be much thinner than it would be at sea level. It’s thick and oxygen rich. The highest elevations people in Oklahoma live at are somewhere around 4,200 feet – thinner, but still pretty reasonable. Others live at elevations just over 400 feet.
Contrast that to what you’ll find at the base of most Rocky Mountain ski lifts. Most of them start somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 feet. The air is remarkably thinner up there. At the top of a lift, you might be as high as 12,000 feet.
Altitude at these heights does a number of things to you. Since there’s less oxygen, your heart and lungs work harder. To compensate for the lack of oxygen, your body will try to make more red blood cells, which in turn will thicken the blood stream, making your circulatory system work even harder.
Vigorous exercise at high altitude will make you burn calories at a much higher rate than normal. Since you’ll be breathing more and harder, you will lose a lot of moisture through exhaling. This dehydrating effect is compounded by the fact that the air in the Rockies is already pretty dry.
Thickening blood and dehydration can cause headaches. Worse, these conditions, plus the increased calorie burn at altitude, can bring about altitude sickness.
The only cure for altitude sickness is to go a lower elevation. But prevention could help stave off this condition. Some things I’ve learned:
Hydrate early and often. Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your trip. Don’t wait till you get to the ski lift to pound down a bottle of water. Start pumping the water down a few days in advance and keep up your hydration pace throughout your stay. You should have water with you as you ski and ride, and drink often, even if you don’t feel thirsty. If you wait until you’re thirsty, it’s pretty much too late. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol will work against you, so if you’re drinking coffee or chugging back a beer or two, you’ll need even more water to compensate.
Eat well. Get in a good balance of carbohydrates and proteins. Bring snacks with you on the mountain and stop to munch every now and then. Keeping your energy level up will help fight the effects of altitude.
Pace yourself. Even if you’re in good shape, you’re not in mountain shape if you live down here on the plains. Your first day on the hill should be measured. As your body acclimates, then you can push yourself more.
Speaking of acclimatizing… You need to give your body time, particularly if you’re flying in to your destination. Spend at least a day getting used to the altitude by taking it easy, going for brisk walks and just allowing your body to adjust.
Learn to love the baby aspirin. This is a standard part of my first-aid kit on the mountain for this reason: Aspirin helps thin the blood, allowing for a more free flow of your bloodstream. Start popping low-dose baby aspirins a day or two before your trip and in the mornings during your stay.
There are probably other tips to help deal with altitude issues, so do a little research and act accordingly. Have fun on the slopes!
I find that hiking and backpacking this time of year is pretty great. The weather is cool, but not cold, and there tends to be fewer people out on the trail. That said, here’s a good opportunity to enjoy what I’m talking about. Backwoods is sponsoring another group hike in the Wichitas this weekend, and the group will be going through an area I find particularly interesting: The Narrows. The information below is from Backwoods’ Facebook page. Read on, and if this sounds like something you’d like to do, join ‘em!
Wichita Mountains hike through The Narrows
When: Saturday, Nov. 20
Time: 7:45-11 a.m.
Details: Beginning at the Boulder Picnic Area, we will hike through The Narrows (a very popular climbing destination). The trail in The Narrows crosses West Cache Creek a few times, so be prepared to hop across slippery rocks. Lunchtime destination will be the abandoned Pennington Silver Mine. The group will break there, check out the remnants of the mine and have lunch. After lunch, the group will turn around and head back to the trailhead via an off-trail bushwhack through Panther Canyon. The canyon can be muddy, slippery and full of sharp green briar, but it is a unique and seldom-travelled path that is well worth the extra effort.
What to bring: A daypack with 3 liters of water per person, snacks and a lunch. Wear pants and boots. Trekking poles are not necessary, but can really help when bushwhacking and crossing streams. Also, bring any personal first aid items/medication that you may need. This particular hike is not recommended for children under 10 or dogs.
More: Meet at Backwoods in Norman around 7:45 a.m. to organize carpools and sign liability waivers. Carpooling is the best option, since parking is limited at the trailhead and the tolls add up to nearly $7 per car round trip. The gorup will leave the store promptly at 8 a.m. There is also the option of meeting the group at the Visitor’s Center at 9:30. If you plan to meet at the Visitor’s Center, please RSVP so we know to look for you there.
Enjoy the day Saturday, folks!
I like it when my friends write about their experiences in the outdoors. Friend and co-worker Matt Patterson went to southeastern Oklahoma for a few days of hiking in Beavers Bend State Park. This is a good report, and I hope you enjoy it. And if you have some stories of your own, feel free to e-mail me your story and photos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a read…
Beavers Bend State Park
Oklahoma may not be Colorado when it comes to its sheer trail miles, but there are a few hidden gems within our borders.
One is Beavers Bend State Park near Broken Bow. The park is home to the David Boren trail system and its 16 miles of wilderness adventure. With leaves peaking with color, fall is as good of a time as any to visit.
This was my second trip to the park with my hiking buddy Dale Moody who lives in Hartshorne, about two hours away.
The first time we did a section of the trail that is less strenuous. This time we took on the full might of the David Boren system – a three-mile section of Skyline Trail which runs about 4.5 miles total.
The sign at the trailhead says “For experienced hikers only” and they mean it. They don’t do switchbacks at Beavers Bend. There are tons of up and down, including two sections on the inbound hike that were close to a mile each straight up hills.
And when you aren’t battling hills, you’ll be battling ankle-busting sections of trail that wind around the mountains. Trekking poles are a must for these spots and negotiating the many gulleys along the way. Foot bridges not included.
On this trip our destination was Bee Creek which, was about 3 miles from the trailhead, but we stopped just short of the campsite since we found out on the way in from people we passed it was occupied by a troop of Boy Scouts.
There are several places that would make nice backcountry campsites along the way, with water sources in the form of creeks fed by Broken Bow Lake.
This system doesn’t loop so you backtrack on your way out, and our trip out was generally easier than it was going in. But regardless, it’s fun to test yourself on these trails. And when you’re not hiking you can throw in a line at the river where the trail begins. On the days we were there the banks were loaded with fly fishermen.
Red tape: There are no fees for overnight camping at Beavers Bend, but campers are encouraged to register with the park office before setting out. As with most state parks, fires are prohibited.
How to get there: From Oklahoma City the park is about 250 miles. Take Interstate 40 east to Henryetta. At Henryetta get on the Indian Nation Turnpike south. Exit at Antlers/Atoka State Highway 3 for 52 miles then get on US 259 north a short distance to reach the park.
Bring: A good pair of hiking boots with plenty of ankle support. In the fall, a 20-degree bag and a decent single wall tent will do. On the night we spent on the trail the temperature hovered in the mid 30s. It can get a little cooler if you overnight on top of one of the mountains.
Wildlife: This is bear country. Black bears, to be precise. We didn’t see any, but they’re out there. There were a couple of dumpsters along the way that looked like they had been raided the night before. If you see a bear count your blessings and enjoy the experience as most in our state are fairly timid and avoid humans.
The park doesn’t require bear cans or for campers to hang their food, but it’s probably a good idea not to keep food in your tent just the same. Besides bears, other assorted animals like raccoons and opossums populate the area.
– Matt Patterson
It’s cool and misty outside, and more chills are on the way. Further west, however, it’s snowing.
You all know where I’m going with this. Winter is no time to slow down, and for a lot of us it means it’s time to break out the skis and snowboards, grab the rest of our gear and head west to the Rockies.
A couple of places – Loveland and Arapaho Basin – are already open, courtesy of late fall snows and snowmaking machines. More places will be opening in the next couple of weeks. By mid-December, expect nearly every ski resort in the west to have their lifts running.
So now is the time to broach the subject of getting ready (physically speaking) for the slopes. I’ll get to the whole altitude thing another day. Let’s focus on physical preparation first…
Skiing and riding is about leg strength, core strength and balance. All these work hand in hand. So here’s some ideas on things to do to prep yourself for ski season:
Let’s start with the legs. Some of my favorite exercises:
1. Squats. With or without weight, depending on your fitness level. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart, toes slightly out and back straight. Squat down until your legs are parallel to the ground, then stand back up. Do eight to 10 repetitions. Take a short (1 minute) break, then do that again. Do three sets. This works both the front and back of the thighs as well as your buttocks. Squats are widely considered the best overall exercise for legs, and if done right, also strengthens your core.
2. Lunges. Again, this can be done holding a pair of light dumbells or no weight at all. From a standing position, lunge forward with one leg, then push your body back up to a standing position. Alternate legs for eight to 10 reps each leg, again, for three sets. This works the same muscles are squats, but in a different way. If you are a telemark skier, this exercise is one you should do regularly anyway. If squats are considered the No. 1 leg exercise ever, lunges are No. 1a. For an extra twist, do walking lunges up and down the gym floor or lunges to the side.
3. Calf raises. With your feet close together and legs straight (not locked), rise up on your toes, then down again slowly. Three sets of eight to 10 reps. Your calves do a lot more work than you think when you’re on the slopes.
4. Core work. Crunches, leg lifts and other abdominal exercises should be a part of your routine. They’ll help stabilize your upper body as you maneuver and reduce upper body fatigue. It will also help support the weight of your upper body, allowing your legs to be more focused on maneuvering. Also, don’t forget to work your lower back with exercises like supermans and back raises.
You can use other leg weight machines at your gym or at home, but I stuck with the squats and lunges because they are compound exercises, where you are teaching your body to use several muscle groups in conjunction. I think that’s more realistic.
Lastly, work on your cardiovascular strength. How you do it is up to you, whether it’s running, elliptical machines, bikes or something else. But you should try to get in 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous cardio work three times a week.
There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, the majority of us ski in the Rockies. Unlike east coast ski resorts, the Rockies are high elevation sites, with most runs starting above 9,000 feet. Most Oklahomans live at or below 1,200 feet. So the air is much thinner on the slopes, which will make your heart and lungs have to work harder.
Second (and this works in conjunction with the effects of altitude), a person who has a strong cardiovascular system doesn’t tire as easily as a person who is out of shape. And it’s when you’re tired that you’re more likely to have an accident. According to the netfit Web site, most accidents occur in the afternoon, when you’ve been at it all day. The unfit person will be on the low ebb of his or her energy; a fit person will remain strong right up to the time when the lifts are closed.
Ideally, you should begin training eight weeks before your trip, according to netfit. So there’s still plenty of time to get your body ready.
Yes, this is a marketing deal for a deodorant manufacturer. But it’s still at least a little rad. It has Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant challenging TV survival star Bear Grylls (“Man vs. Wild” fame) to perform a different kind of stunt: running off a 50-foot cliff into a net dangling from a moving helicopter. Check out this video…
And here’s a short behind-the scenes video…
Anyone up for Kevin Durant’s alley-oop challenge?