With a couple of extra days off this week, and spectacle weather, I was aware that my longtime friend Michael recently mentioned that it had been 18 months since he and I got together to make pictures. I called him and asked if he could swing a short-notice day off, and incredibly, he had nothing on his slate.
We met at a truck stop near Medicine Park, Oklahoma, and after a quick break for Michael to buy water and a couple of snacks, we drove into one of our oldest haunts, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Michael and I have been hiking there since we were young teenagers.
On our drive to the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area, the trailhead for which we long-ago incorrectly named “Glacier Rocks,” we saw a very unshy coyote (perhaps rabid?), and a large number of wild turkeys.
The hiking itself was a lot like it’s always been with Michael: since there are no trails in the Charon’s Garden, we follow our explorative instincts. We hiked and explored for a while, and it definitely made pictures. Our rally point was the “Lock Rock,” a huge boulder we have been hiking around and photographing for many years. We call it “Lock Rock” because it’s one of those formations that you might be able to climb, but you would not be able to easily unclimb, and would find yourself “locked” on top of it.
After more than an hour at Charon’s Garden, we took a short break, then drove up the road a piece to the Dog Run Hollow trail, which is actually a network of trails. We hiked the western portion of the network, ending at French Lake.
After dropping by the visitor center to fill Michael’s water bottle, we made the short drive to Lake Quanah Parker. Passing the top end of the lake, we saw what looked a little like a cypress swamp. We were able to walk out on the playa of the lake for some distance and discovered that it was a cluster of dying water lilies.
Heading east from Quanah Parker, we came across a rock house I’d seen several times but never photographed. It was an odd combination of a derelict structure and a historical monument. A road led to it, but there were no signs about it. Someone had brush hogged around it, and it was full of graffiti. We spent a few minutes photographing it, which I found fruitful.
Our final venue was Mount Scott, the high point of the refuge, which is our typical way to end the day in the Wichitas. It’s an easy drive to the top, and we sort of decompress from a day of hiking by finding where we’ve been and decide where we might go next time.