Sunlight streams through cracks in a cave formed by a rockfall on the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma.
I have visited the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge since I was a young teenager. Over the years I checked off one area after another, but on this occasion, I explored the one area I never visited, the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area. Charon in Greek mythology is the ferryman of Hades who carries souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron that divided the world of the living from the world of the dead.
On the way to the Refuge, I stopped by the Trading Post in Cache, Oklahoma, to inquire about touring Eagle Park, a long-abandoned amusement park I visited when I was a kid. The owners, Wayne and Ginger, were unable to take me on the tour because Wayne away at a farm sale, and Ginger needed to mind the store. I told them I hoped to return soon with my wife.
My first photo in the Refuge itself was of this handsome adult American Bison who was grazing by the side of the road.
The Charon’s Garden trail head is at the end of a short paved road north of Treasure Lake Job Corps. The Corps was slated for closure earlier this year, and appeared abandoned.
Near the trail head I spotted these white tail deer.
The Wichita Mountains are quite beautiful, as in this image made along the trail early in my hike.
About a mile from the trail head is a spur trail that leads to Post Oak Falls.
Approaching Post Oak Falls, I discovered it was down to a trickle.
This view from the base of Post Oak Falls wouldn’t be feasible if the falls was flowing.
This is the view from directly above Post Oak Falls.
I journeyed father up Post Oak Creek. Along the way I found this elegant composition.
Near the headwaters of Post Oak Creek I found this formation.
Though dry during my visit, this rockfall is the headwater of Post Oak Creek.
This panorama shows the area around the headwaters of Post Oak Creek. Click it to view it larger.
Back on the main trail at Charon’s Garden, I photographed some of these plentiful flowers in the creek bed.
Though it wasn’t flowing (as is often the case), there was still some water in the creek bed.
Farther north, I found pool after pool.
I met a nice family hiking south from the Sunset trail head (which is at the north end of the Charon’s Garden trail), and they made this picture for me.
Approaching a large boulder field, the area surrounding the creek became steeper.
A large boulder field forms a network of cave-like structures near the north end of the Charon’s Garden trail.
A small tree takes in what little sunlight it can from inside the boulder field.
On the peak above the boulder field are these two large boulders known as the Apple and Pear.
Moving south toward the trail head, I came across these millipedes seemingly sunning themselves.
I took a slightly different route back to my car, farther east past Treasure Lake.
Near the trail head above Treasure Lake I spotted these drill holes in a boulder. I don’t know their use.
Since I made this hike clockwise, I didn’t see this sign until I was almost back to my car.
With a half day of daylight remaining, I wanted to hike more, so I made the short drive to the other side of Charon’s Garden, an area I have visited since I was a teenager, which was named the “Glacier Rocks.”
This is the view from the start of the approach at the Glacier Rocks. The stone in the center is known as “Heart Rock,” and a friend’s daughter got married there this spring.
At the top of the large granite dome of the Glacier Rocks is this crevasse, where I kissed my first girlfriend Tina for the first time in 1980.
I think this giant boulder looks like an ancient sea creature.
Stones line up as I transition from the Glacier Rocks to the nearby peak we always called, “Sitting Rock.”
On a ridge above the approach to sitting rock is this odd conglomerate arch. The opening is large enough for an adult to sit in it.
Another autumn treasure in bloom, these flowers clung to a cliff face near Sitting Rock.
Much of the Wichita Mountains have an increasing number of dead trees, creating a grey forest.
More grey trees cover this slope. These tree were alive for many years of my visits, and have died only recently.
This view looks west from near Sitting Rock toward the Charon’s Garden Wilderness.
Seen through a super telephoto lens from Sitting Rock is Treasure Lake and the Charon’s Garden trail head.
On the way down from Sitting Rock, I passed this handsome cliff face.
30 years ago Scott and Robert hiked this area with me. At one point, they attempted to ascend this face. By the time they got near the top of the route, they felt they couldn’t go back down, nor could they climb any higher, so they decided to leap across an eight-foot gap onto a ledge.
Read the short story that includes Scott and Robert’s climb here (link).
I found more grey forest on my way down from Sitting Rock.
Finally, I stopped to make this image on my way out of the Refuge, at One Tree Hill.