Ghost of the Wichitas, 1971-2006

The beautiful Narrow of Cache Creek shine in afternoon sun in November 2006.
The beautiful Narrow of Cache Creek shine in afternoon sun in November 2006.
This image of "shelf rock," in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma, was made on color slide film in 1978.
This image of “shelf rock,” in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma, was made on color slide film in 1978.
This is one my earliest images from the Wichita Mountains, made in 1979 in the vicinity of Mount Lincoln in an area we miss-nicknamed the "Glacier Rocks."
This is one my earliest images from the Wichita Mountains, made in 1979 in the vicinity of Mount Lincoln in an area we miss-nicknamed the “Glacier Rocks.”

Decades before I discovered the adventure playgrounds of the American southwest, I learned to enjoy wild places by hiking and exploring the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma. For ten years, 1971-1981, I lived in nearby Lawton, Oklahoma.

In 1977, the father of our good friend Wayne Littlefield, the late Cloyce Littlefield, wrote and published “The Ghost of the Wichitas,” after which this post is titled.

This is the Kite Trail. In the distance is Forty Foot Hole.
This is the Kite Trail. In the distance is Forty Foot Hole.
A lone hiker moves along a ridge at on The Narrows trail in November 2006.
A lone hiker moves along a ridge at on The Narrows trail in November 2006.

I remember the very first time my family and I went to the Wichitas, for a picnic and to drive to the top of the area high point, the 2464-foot high Mount Scott. My sister and I, age 5 and 8, were extremely excited about the notion of driving up a steep road. That was not long after we moved to Lawton, in 1971. Mount Scott provides a good view of much of southwest Oklahoma, and we were impressed.

At one time in about 1973, my neighbor Rusty tried to convince me that there were two mountains named Scott, Mount Scott and Mountain Scott.

My boots and Michael's on the Granite dome at the "Glacier Rocks," 1982. In the very upper left corner of the frame you can see my first car, a 1973, VW Beetle.
My boots and Michael’s on the Granite dome at the “Glacier Rocks,” 1982. In the very upper left corner of the frame you can see my first car, a 1973, VW Beetle.
Your host prowls the area of The Narrows, November 2006.
Your host prowls the area of The Narrows, November 2006.
Michael photographs Forty Foot Hole in November 2006.
Michael photographs Forty Foot Hole in November 2006.
The author hikes in the vicinity of Bat Cave Mountain in 1995.
The author hikes in the vicinity of Bat Cave Mountain in 1995.

My family and I drove out to the Wichitas frequently, and enjoyed picnicking and hiking a few of the trails there, like the Dog Run Hollow trail at French Lake.

My first real experiences with off-trail hiking, though, came when I went with Michael, whose family picked out a wide spot in the road and hiked from there. That section of wilderness, in the Charon Garden Wilderness Area, sported a huge, smooth granite dome, so someone misnamed it the “Glacier Rocks,” thinking the dome had been smoothed by glacier movement.

I made this image of the "Glacier Rocks" on a hike in 1978.
I made this image of the “Glacier Rocks” on a hike in 1978.

In 1980, I had my first real kiss, from a girl named Tina, at the Glacier Rocks.

I made this image with my first girlfriend, Tina, in January 1981, using my first SLR camera, the Fujica ST-605.
I made this image with my first girlfriend, Tina, in January 1981, using my first SLR camera, the Fujica ST-605.
Snow and stream, Dog Run Hollow trail, French Lake, 1981.
Snow and stream, Dog Run Hollow trail, French Lake, 1981.
Your host makes pictures near Sitting Rock, 1999.
Your host makes pictures near Sitting Rock, 1999.

Near the top of the first section of the Glacier Rocks is a high point, a secondary peak to Mount Lincoln, which we named Sitting Rock because we hike up there and, with a little luck, watch fighter jets from nearby Air Force bases make practice runs on the west range at nearby Fort Sill. Part of sitting rock is Gravel Rock, which I climb every time I go there.

See Michael’s images from a 1999 visit to the Wichitas here (link.)

This is a view looking south from Forty Foot Hole, November 2006.
This is a view looking south from Forty Foot Hole, November 2006.
This was the largest hiking party in which I participated, in October 1993. There were 17 of us, and we broke into three groups. By the end of the day, one of our entourage had gotten lost, then was found after a brief search.
This was the largest hiking party in which I participated, in October 1993. There were 17 of us, and we broke into three groups. By the end of the day, one of our entourage had gotten lost, then was found after a brief search.
Stones jut from the banks of Cache Creek in The Narrows, November 2006.
Stones jut from the banks of Cache Creek in The Narrows, November 2006.

From Mount Lincoln we sometimes go as far as the Whale Hump, which is north of Mount Lincoln almost to Elk Mountain.

Warm afternoon light graces stones in a creek bed near Lost Lake, November 2006.
Warm afternoon light graces stones in a creek bed near Lost Lake, November 2006.
The "Whale Hump" is between Mount Lincoln and Elk Mountain.
The “Whale Hump” is between Mount Lincoln and Elk Mountain.
David Martin rests during a hike near Bat Cave Mountain, 1995.
David Martin rests during a hike near Bat Cave Mountain, 1995.

Hiking in the entire area is mostly off-trail. My favorite hiking partners for the Wichitas are Michael Zeiler and David Martin.

From Wikipedia: The mountains are a northwest-southeast trending series of rocky promontories, many capped by 540 million-year old granite. These were exposed and rounded by weathering during the Permian Period. The eastern end of the mountains offers 1,000 feet of topographic relief in a region otherwise dominated by gently rolling grasslands.

This unnamed conglomerate natural arch halfway up to Sitting Rock is large enough for an adult to crawl through.
This unnamed conglomerate natural arch halfway up to Sitting Rock is large enough for an adult to crawl through.
The author prepares to hike the "Glacier Rocks" in November 2000.
The author prepares to hike the “Glacier Rocks” in November 2000.

Other fun stuff in the vicinity:

• Bomb fragments, presumably from an errant practice bomb from nearby Fort Sill.

• Rappelling lugs on a clean western face on the saddle between Mount Lincoln and the Whale Hump.

• Buffalo, rattlesnakes, and elk.

• The Meers Store, a restaurant and post office just north of the Refuge. The Meers restaurant is famous for its plate-sized longhorn beef burgers.

This is the Meers Store and Restaurant as it appears in 1987; the menu brags of "World Famous Meersburgers!"
This is the Meers Store and Restaurant as it appears in 1987; the menu brags of “World Famous Meersburgers!”
A cliff juts up from The Narrows of Cache Creek, November 2006.
A cliff juts up from The Narrows of Cache Creek, November 2006.
The author photographs the Parallel Forest, 1999.
The author photographs the Parallel Forest, 1999.

Near Meers just outside the Refuge to the north is the “Parallel Forest,” a patch of land planted densely with pine trees in perfect rows. Stories abound about ghost that lives in it.

The Parallel Forest, CCC planting project, has been a frequent destination of ours over the years.
The Parallel Forest, CCC planting project, has been a frequent destination of ours over the years.
This is another haunting view of the Parallel Forest, made with my Fuji GW670III medium format camera.
This is another haunting view of the Parallel Forest, made with my Fuji GW670III medium format camera.
Frequent hiking partner David Martin poses with a piece of deadwood near Bat Cave Mountain in 1995.
Frequent hiking partner David Martin poses with a piece of deadwood near Bat Cave Mountain in 1995.
 after a particularly dangerous and challenging day in the Wichitas, to which I refer in my short story "The Acsent of Man."
We nicknamed this face “Anderson-Stinson Point”
after a particularly dangerous and challenging day in the Wichitas, to which I refer in my short story “The Acsent of Man.”

To the south of the Glacier Rocks is Bat Cave Mountain, part of a ridge that extends west. Along that ridge are several cliffs, one of which became knows as “Andersen-Stinson Point” after two of my friends took an ill-advised climb up it. I tell the whole story in a short story called The Ascent of Man.

In addition to Mount Scott and the Glacier Rocks, I have hiked and enjoyed many other sections of the Refuge over the years, including areas such as The Narrows, Forty Foot Hole, Lost Lake, the Kite Trail, and Prairie Dog Town.

A popular and excellent trail is the Elk Mountain trail, which features excellent vistas to the east and south, showing some of the lakes of the Refuge, as well as Mount Scott.

This is a closer, lower view of the infamous face we nicknamed "Andersen-Stinson Point."
This is a closer, lower view of the infamous face we nicknamed “Andersen-Stinson Point.”
Michael made this image of my Fuji GW670III medium format camera sitting in my hat. Putting it there served two purposes: to keep the camera from getting scratched, and to keep my hat from blowing away.
Michael made this image of my Fuji GW670III medium format camera sitting in my hat. Putting it there served two purposes: to keep the camera from getting scratched, and to keep my hat from blowing away.
This is from the October 1993 hike. I am section from the left in my white Misal of India t-shirt and grey Leica Pro hat.
This is from the October 1993 hike. I am section from the left in my white Misal of India t-shirt and grey Leica Pro hat.
This is another image of the October 1993 hike, farther along in the day.
This is another image of the October 1993 hike, farther along in the day.
"The Crack", a formation in the Glacier Rocks, in 1978.
“The Crack”, a formation in the Glacier Rocks, in 1978.
"The Crack" in 1999.
“The Crack” in 1999.
The author photographs Sitting Rock in medium format black-and-white in 1999.
The author photographs Sitting Rock in medium format black-and-white in 1999.
This view near Sitting Rock shows "the Mitten" and its surroundings in 1999.
This view near Sitting Rock shows “the Mitten” and its surroundings in 1999.
This view of "the Mitten" was made five years later, in December 2004.
This view of “the Mitten” was made five years later, in December 2004.
"The Mitten" is visible in this view, with Sitting Rock in the background.
“The Mitten” is visible in this view, with Sitting Rock in the background.
The "Lock Rock," photographed in about 1995; we nicknamed it "Lock Rock" because if you were to get on top of it, you would have a great deal of difficulty getting back down.
The “Lock Rock,” photographed in about 1995; we nicknamed it “Lock Rock” because if you were to get on top of it, you would have a great deal of difficulty getting back down.
I made this bold, dramatic view of "One Tree Hill" in 1983 on Kodak Technical Pan Film.
I made this bold, dramatic view of “One Tree Hill” in 1983 on Kodak Technical Pan Film.
The aptly-named "One Tree Hill" south of Charon Gardens, 1999.
The aptly-named “One Tree Hill” south of Charon Gardens, 1999.
Stones shine in afternoon sun in a stream along the Kite Trail, November 2006.
Stones shine in afternoon sun in a stream along the Kite Trail, November 2006.

When I feel like too much time has passed since my last hike, it’s just a two-hour drive from my home in southeast Oklahoma to the Wichitas, where hiking feels like coming home.

Deadwood and granite slickrock, 1999.
Deadwood and granite slickrock, 1999.

The author hikes near Sitting Rock in December 2004.
The author hikes near Sitting Rock in December 2004.
This is a December 2004 view from Mount Scott looking east toward Lake Lawtonka.
This is a December 2004 view from Mount Scott looking east toward Lake Lawtonka.
Boulder Cabin, November 2006
Boulder Cabin, November 2006
Your host hiked in The Narrows in November 2006.
Your host hiked in The Narrows in November 2006.
The Narrows of Cache Creek, seen here in November 2006, are one of the garden spots of The Wichitas.
The Narrows of Cache Creek, seen here in November 2006, are one of the garden spots of The Wichitas.
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11 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing these photos. We ride a motorcycle up to Mount Scott at least once a year, but have not seen the sites you can only hike to. We will share these pix with our riding buddies.

  2. Simply amazing work Richard! You’ve captured the beauty of our beloved mountains (yes, others laugh when we call them ‘mountains’). Those that are looking for ‘big’ will never understand the ‘grand’ beauty and hidden treasures our Wichitas possess. My mother grew up in those mountains as did you and I, and now I take my daughter. She has already fallen in love with them as well and we visit often. There is something almost mystical and it’s undeniable. I can’t wait to see more pictures! Keep up the good work. 🙂

  3. Wonderful pictures! My son, Randy Stotler, was photograher for the Lawton Constitution for nearly 19 years. Is there any wonder that the Wichitas were so dear to his heart. He loved them and spent countless hours enjoying what you have pictured here. When he died I received most of the images that he shot during his time there. A large number of them are of the areas you have here. Please keep on sharing your work.

  4. Just beautiful… I kept coming back to this page since you published it, but only got a chance to finish viewing the images just now…

    This looks like my kind of place, and we’ll add it to our list of places to visit…

  5. Loved the pics and history

    Wondering if you happen to know the history of the tower by Jed Johnson Lake? Thanks

  6. Thank you for sharing. Great pictures. Have you or anyone been to the maple trees? It’s a mile long walk through the only stand of maples outside of the northeast U.S. they used to let you tour the area years ago. It was called The Maple Walks. Not done anymore. I feel so lucky to have experienced the walk. I remember now, it was the late 80’s to 1993.

  7. Wonderful photos. I have hiked most of these trails myself and find the area as enchanting as any other area I have hiked. I was surprised you didnt include a photo of love rock as you were within a few feet in several photos! Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing!

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