Granite dome and boulders, Charon Gardens Wilderness Area, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, November 2008.
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.
The author pauses for a photo op on The Narrows trail in the Wichita Mountains, 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.
This view looking east from Mount Scott shows Lake Lawtonka, December 2004.
The author hikes a portion of the slab from which was derived the nickname "Glacier Rocks," November 2008.
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.
The author hikes in the vicinity of Bat Cave Mountain, circa 1995.
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.
This image shows me near the top of Sitting Rock, with Gravel Rock slightly to the left of the center of the frame, November 2008. Gravel Rock looks like a boxing glove.
Descending from Sitting Rock can be a little trickier than getting up. You can see me doing an improper "face first" descent on this crack, but it just somehow works out better.
From Mount Lincoln we sometimes go as far as the Whale Hump, which is north of Mount Lincoln almost to Elk Mountain.
Hiking in the entire area is exclusively 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.
One of my favorite stops over the years has been this shelf of rock in the Mount Lincoln area, in this November 2008 image.
This is the same shelf of rock as in the image above, made 30 years earlier. Little has changed.
Prairie Dogs in Prairie Dog Town, 2008. The town's location has changed several times in my lifetime due to disease and predation.
Other fun stuff in the vicinity:
• Bomb pieces, 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.
The famous "Parallel Forest" was planted by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers in the 1930s.
This was the largest Wichita Mountains hiking party in which I participated, in about 1993. There were 15 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 dam, which created Lost Lake, was constructed in 1926.
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-adviced climb up it. I tell the whole story in a piece of short fiction called The Ascent of Man, which you can read here.
Fellow photographer and long-time friend Michael Zeiler shoots from the Lost Lake dam, November 2006.
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.
Abby looks over the menu at Meers, January 2012.
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. As I hike more in this old haunt, I hope to continue to update this page, so watch this space.
Boulder cabin, Narrows trail head, 2006.
Boulder field, Mount Scott summit, January 2012.
Autumn color, Kite trail, 2006.
Forty Foot Hole, 2006.
Quanah Parker Lake dam, January 2012.
Windswept Piñon and granite, Mount Scott summit, January 2012.
Weeping native stone dam, Lost Lake, 2006.
View looking south on the Kite trail from Forty Foot Hole, 2006.
Ice and snow, Dog Run Hollow trail, French Lake, January 1981.
Creek and stones, Kite trail, 2006.
Stream approaching The Narrows, 2006.
The Meers Store and Restaurant as it appeared in 1984; the menu brags of "World Famous Meersburgers!"
Interior of Meers Restaurant, January 2012.
Meers Restaurant, January 2012.
Stream below Quanah Parker dam, January 2012.
Stones and water, Quanah Parker Lake, January 2012.
Stone and water, Lost Lake, 2006.
Stream and stone, The Narrows, 2006.
Intermittent stream and bedrock near Lost Lake, 2006.
Autumn foliage, The Narrows, November 2006.
North American Bison, Charon Gardens, 2008.
Stream and stones, The Narrows, 2006.
The author hikes in the vicinity of Mount Lincoln, December 2004.
"The Crack", a formation in the Glacier Rocks, in 1978.
"The Crack" in 1999.
"The Crack" in 2008.
Photographing Sitting Rock in medium format black-and-white, 1999...
...and the result.
Sitting Rock in 2004; the granite of these mountains has changed little in the years I have been hiking here.
Photographing the Parallel Forest, 1999...
...and the result.
Shooting a tuft of grass on the Glacier Rocks Dome, 2008...
...and the result.
Michael photographs Forty Foot Hole, November 2006.
This opening in the granite near Mount Lincoln, photographed in December 2004, is technically large enough for it to qualify as a natural arch, although I don't know if it has a name.
Making pictures in the vicinity of the Glacier Rocks, November 2008.
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" nine years later.
View of "Sitting Rock" from Elk Mountain looking south, 2008.
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.
Autumn foliage, Elk Mountain trail, 2008.
Tallgrass prairie, Elk Mountain trail 2008.
French Lake viewed from Elk Mountain, 2008.
Broader view from Elk Mountain looking east at sunset, 2008.
Wind turbines of the Blue Canyon Wind Farm are visible on the horizon in this Elk Mountain view looking north, 2008.
Mount Scott is visible on the horizon from the top of Elk Mountain, 2008.
Snow and stream, Dog Run Hollow trail, French Lake, 1981.
The aptly-named "One Tree Hill" south of Charon Gardens, 1999.
The Narrows, 2006.
The Glacier Rocks, 1979.
Andersen-Stinson Point, 1997.
Despite signage like this throughout the Refuge, rappelling does take place in certain areas.
The "Whale Hump" between Mount Lincoln and Elk Mountain, 1999.
Boulders and stream, Kite trail, 2006.
It was near this spot at the top of the "Glacier Rocks" that I had my first kiss.
The author makes images on route to Sitting Rock, 2008.
View looking out from beneath "Shelf Rock," 2008.
Crack in Granite Dome, Mount Lincoln, 2004.
Granite slabs, Mount Lincoln, 2004.
Deadwood and granite slickrock, 1999.
View of "Gravel Rock" looking southeast, 2004.
Granite reflected in pool, The Narrows trail, 2006.
Near the top of the granite slab of the Glacier Rocks, 2008.
Boulders and crack, Glacier Rocks, 2008.
Stone and stream above Forty Foot Hole on the Kite trail, 2006.
The author celebrates another great day of hiking one of his oldest haunts, the Wichita Mountains.