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