In the northwest, you even have a bit of desert at Little Sahara State Park.
So you can climb, hike, kayak and otherwise play outside to your heart’s content.
If you’re willing to drive.
It’s two or more hours of driving for me to visit my favorite places in the state. Tulsa residents might have it a little easier for some things, but for those of us in central or western Oklahoma, you’re going to drive unless you’re OK hanging out in our plentiful prairies.
At least that was my initial thinking. But as it turns out, urban outdoor adventure exists, right in the middle of Oklahoma City. I did a little thinking and came up with a few ideas for those who want to get outside but can’t commit to a longer trip.
Climbing: Go downtown to Rocktown. The former grain silo’s interior is fitted with climbing wall handholds and footholds, with routes of varying difficulty. They’ll teach you the basics of belaying and climbing, and it’s a cheap outing right downtown. When you’re done, all of Bricktown awaits. Check them out here: http://www.rocktowngym.com/index.html
Offroad biking: Check out the trails around Lake Thunderbird. I know the lake water there isn’t the prettiest, but the trails are good, plentiful and challenging. And it’s close. Cap off a solid day of biking with a few celebratory cold ones and some food in Norman. Plenty of trails also await bikers at Lake Stanley Draper.
Hiking: You’ve got your choice, though they will be mellow hikes short on challenge, but long on nature viewing. Good trails await at the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge west of Bethany or the Martin Park Nature Center in north Oklahoma City. These places are also pretty kid-friendly, as the hikes are fairly short and are on easy-to-follow and well-maintained trails.
Water sports: This is where Oklahoma City excels, and it’s a scene that is diverse and growing. Outside of motorsports and fishing, there are plenty of options for human-powered water sports: kayaking in many metro lakes; rowing at Lake Hefner and the Oklahoma River; windsurfing at Lake Hefner. Later on, expect a whitewater kayaking course to be developed at the Oklahoma River as development downtown – and particularly at the river – continues.
Oklahoma City suffers from many of the same geographical limitations as other cities in the Great Plains, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to do outside here. We’re blessed with fairly mild winters, and the spring and fall seasons are nice (outside the occasional severe storm).
Check out these opportunities (and these are not all of them by any means) and get outside more. You never know what you’ll see, do and grow into.
A little dry lately, but some good snows this week, particularly in central and northern Colorado. A bit dry thus far in New Mexico, but it’s early yet. These figures are courtesy of skireport.com. Have a look…
Base Lifts Surface 24-hour 72-hour
Ajax (Aspen) 23-25″ 5 of 8 PP 0″ 5″
Arapahoe Basin 35″ 5 of 7 PDR 0″ 9″
Beaver Creek 21-25″ 16 of 26 PDR 0″ 8″
Breckenridge 38-47″ 21 of 30 PDR 0″ 16″
Copper Mountain 42-52″ 11 of 22 PP 0″ 13″
Crested Butte 24-31″ 4 of 16 PDR 0″ 5″
Echo Mountain 18″ 3 of 3 PP 0″ 0″
Eldora 24″ 5 of 12 PP 0″ 0″
Keystone 24-29″ 13 of 20 PP 0″ 6″
Loveland 42″ 8 of 9 PP 0″ 14″
Monarch 28-31″ 3 of 7 PDR 0″ 5″
Ski Cooper 27-28″ — PDR 0″ 4″
Snowmass 19-36″ 11 of 24 PP 0″ 5″
Steamboat 40-57″ 8 of 20 PDR 0″ 8″
Sunlight 21-24″ 3 of 3 PP 0″ 2″
Telluride 28″ 7 of 18 PP 0″ 2″
Vail 20-31″ 26 of 34 PDR 0″ 14″
Winter Park 36-41″ 18 of 26 PP 0″ 7″
Wolf Creek 26-29″ 6 of 7 PDR 0″ 1″
Aspen Highlands: Plans to open Dec. 11
Buttermilk: Plans to open Dec. 11
Durango: Plans to open Dec. 10
Kendall Mountain: OpeningsSoon
Powderhorn: Plans to open Dec. 16
Silverton Mountain: Plans to open Dec. 11
SolVista: Plans to open Dec. 15
Base Lifts Surface 24-hour 72-hour
Ski Apache 12-14″ 3 of 10 PP 0″ 0″
Taos 12-15″ 4 of 13 HP 0″ 0″
Angel Fire: Plans to open Dec 16
Pajarito: Opening Sson
Red River: Plans to open Dec 10
Sandia Peak: Plans to open Dec 18
Sipapu: Plans to open Dec 10
Ski Santa Fe: Plans to open Dec 10
If you want more information on other states or the latest conditions, go to www.skireport.com.
A few weeks ago, Matt Patterson wrote about hiking the Skyline Trail at Beavers Bend State Park. He enjoyed himself thoroughly, and wrote up a good trip report for the rest of us to read and study.
The trail itself is designated as being one for experienced hikers only, mostly because of the elevation loss and gain as well as the ruggedness of the route.
Those are my kind of hikes. Challenging, scenic and, because of their difficulty, low on human traffic and high on wildlife.
But that’s not for everyone. In fact, the bulk of the visitors to the park are people who love the scenery of the park and Broken Bow Lake, but maybe aren’t up to some of the rigors of routes like Skyline.
Thankfully, there are trails near the state lodge that offer good hikes and are an intermediate step up toward some of the wilder routes.
The state park system built the Lakeview Lodge trail system — three loops that are accessible from the lodge parking lot. The first loop is the easiest and is about a mile long. The second loop has a bit more difficulty (classified “intermediate”) and goes about two miles.
The third loop is the best, winding a little over four miles. The last mile or so that goes back toward the lodge follows the shoreline of Broken Bow Lake, making it the most scenic part of that particular trail system. The lake is beautiful (better water clarity down there than what we see here) and is dotted with a few pine-covered islands visible from the shore.
All three loops go through a mix of pines and hardwoods. In the fall, that means much of the trail is covered in fallen leaves, but the routes are easy to follow, and signs let you know when the next loop begins.
There are a few spots where the trails steepen, but only for short distances. The whole loop system fits comfortably within a Class 1 rating (out of 5, with 5 being technical rock climbing).
Also something to consider: Hardcore hikers often find their meals on the trail, but on this particular trail system, you’re close enough to some area restaurants to enjoy a post-hike meal in style. Brick oven pizza and Choc beer, anyone? Not a bad way to end the day.
I know a lot of the stuff I write about here may seem a little out of reach for some (though that’s really not the case). But in this post, I’m hoping you can find a nice “baby step,” a decent hike that is truly doable for anyone. Pick which loop you want to do based on your fitness level. If it’s too easy, take the next loop, and the next. If you can do the four-mile loop of the lake lodge trail, perhaps it’s time to start looking at Skyline or even some of the bigger routes along the Talimena/Winding Stair area further north.
Awhile back, I posted a video of Steph Davis doing some seriously technical free solo climbs in Utah and on the Diamond on Longs Peak in Colorado. If you haven’t seen those, just type in her name in the search function on the main page and it will take you there.
Anyway, its seems this woman is pretty fearless when it comes to challenging gravity and big air. She’s now into wingsuits. This video is about 9 minutes, but it has some pretty cool footage of Davis doing her latest adrenaline act in the Swiss Alps. BASE jumping, wingsuit flying, well, you can’t say that we’re not trying to entertain you! Have a look and enjoy.
This is a link that I feel compelled to post, if for no other reason than to satisfy your curiosity:
I had considered writing about “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” before it aired, but decided not to because it seemed to be more of a reality show about the former Alaska governor and her family than Alaska. But this is kind of interesting, just for pure entertainment reasons. Will you watch? If you do, I’d love to know what you thought of the episode.
Here’s a video promo of the episode:
News and notes from the outdoors…
Fans of the book “Oklahoma Hiking Trails” can meet Ken Frates and Larry Floyd, author and illustrator of the book, Saturday in Edmond.
From 1 to 2:30 p.m., the two will be at Best of Books, 1313 E Danforth Road.
If you’re into hiking and would like to pick their brains about new places to go and see, tomorrow would be a good opportunity to do it.
The United States Mint announced the designs for the second set of coins in its America the Beautiful Quarters Program. The 2011 quarters will bear reverse (tails side) designs honoring Gettysburg National Military Park (Pennsylvania); Glacier National Park (Montana); Olympic National Park (Washington); Vicksburg National Military Park (Mississippi); and Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Oklahoma).
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area quarter design depicts the Lincoln Bridge, built of limestone and dedicated in 1909 to celebrate the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The bridge was the first constructed improvement in the national recreation area and a favorite scenic spot.
In celebration of the holiday season, Superintendent Bruce Noble invites the public to a holiday open house at Chickasaw National Recreation Area. The open house will be held at the former Superintendent’s residence from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 15. The residence is at 716 U.S. 177 South, approximately one-mile south of the intersection of State Highway 7 and U.S. 177 in Sulphur.
Park staff would also like to invite the public to enjoy the park this holiday season. The park is open daily for wildlife observation, hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities. The Travertine Nature Center is open daily 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day.
“As we celebrate the end of another year, we are thankful for the opportunity to protect one of America’s treasures and provide visitors with a place to relax and reflect,” Noble said. “We hope you will join us at the open house for light refreshments and conversation as we celebrate the holidays.”
It’s that time, folks. Time to make you ski plans. Here’s the first set of snow reports, courtesy of skireport.com. Have a look…
BASE LIFTS SURFACE 24 HR 72 HR
Ajax (Aspen) (1 day old) 25″ 3 of 8 PP – –
Arapahoe Basin 33″ 5 of 7 PP 3″ 4″
Beaver Creek 24″ 13 of 26 PDR 2″ 4″
Breckenridge 36-39″ 21 of 30 PDR 3″ 4″
Copper Mountain 35-39″ 9 of 22 PP 3″ 4″
Crested Butte 23-30″ 3 of 16 PP 1″ 1″
Eldora 20-26″ 4 of 12 PP 1″ 1″
Keystone 24-27″ 13 of 20 PDR 1″ 3″
Loveland 35″ 7 of 9 PP 4″ 6″
Monarch 27″ 3 of 7 PDR 0″ 2″
Snowmass (1 day old) 18-36″ 8 of 24 PP — –
Steamboat 41-59″ 4 of 20 PDR 1″ 10″
Telluride 30″ 7 of 18 PP 0″ 1″
Vail 20-26″ 20 of 34 PDR 2″ 7″
Winter Park 35-41″ 18 of 26 PDR 2″ 6″
Wolf Creek 24-32″ 5 of 7 PDR 0″ 0″
Aspen Highlands Plan to Open Dec 11
Buttermilk Plan to Open Dec 11
Durango Plan to Open Dec 3
Echo Mountain Plan to Open Dec 1
Kendall Mountain Opening Soon
Powderhorn Plan to Open Dec 16
Silverton Mountain Plans to Open Dec 4
Ski Cooper Plan to Open Dec 3
SolVista Plan to Open Dec 15
Sunlight Plan to Open Dec 3
BASE LIFTS SURFACE 24 HR 72 HR
Ski Apache 14-16″ 3 of 10 PP 0″ 0″
Taos 12-15″ 4 of 13 PP 0″ 1″
Angel Fire Plan to Open Dec 16
Pajarito Opening Soon
Red River Plan to Open Dec 3
Sandia Peak Plan to Open Dec 18
Sipapu Plan to Open Dec 4
Ski Santa Fe Plan to Open Dec 10
If you want to see more reports from other states, go to http://www.skireport.com/
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
– 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.”