I met fellow photographer and lifelong friend Robert Stinson for a New Year’s hike in the Wichita Mountains of southwest Oklahoma, a destination I have been visiting since 1971, and which my sister recently described as a “gem” or “jewel.”
All the photos of me are by Robert, who made a point of shooting lots of images of me.
We arrived early for a quick bite of breakfast. The day began cold and cloudy, and stayed that way all morning, but we were undeterred.
By about midday, the sun came out, but it remained quite cold, never rising above about 40 degrees.
We had good hikes in familiar areas, and they were all relatively easy, and very fun.
On the Elk Mountain trail, we followed a creek and it’s runoff area, which lead us off trail. We topped a prominence, and while Robert was handing me a lens, we lost a lens cap in a crack about eight feet down, just out of reach. Robert dove in head-first, but was unable to reach it. If we’d had any chewing gum with us (we had plenty in the cars), we could have grabbed it with the gun-on-a-stick method. For a while, Robert planned to hike down and get a “grabber” he had in his car, but decided against it.
We decided to name that particular hill “Z5” after Robert’s Nikon Z5 and the lost lens cap.
While returning to the parking area, we veered north into some woods, and discovered we were well off-trail. I was able to see our location on a satellite shot that we were only a short distance north of the trail head, but Robert insisted we cross the creek at that point (maybe feeling lost). I leaped over the creek, but Robert took off his shoes and vest so they wouldn’t get wet. I hung his vest on a branch and told him to take it when he got across, but he didn’t, so it remained on the branch.
We had a very quick snack break, then made our way around to Heart Rock, a formation I have been visiting for decades, but only recently discovered it was called “Heart Rock,” and has become a popular spot for engagement photos. When I was growing up, we called it “the glacier rocks,” based on the mistaken notion that the big, smoothly-curved boulders were formed by glaciers.
One of my favorite things about this spot is that you can tailor your activities to your desired difficulty and ability. You can take it easy, or challenge yourself. It really is a hiking and bouldering playground.
We hiked and shot well. The sun was finally out, and the light was maturing nicely.
At one point, I noticed how the sun was shining through my water bottle, and photographed it. Robert saw me doing this and photographed me backlit in the sun with water bottle, then spraying the water into the sunshine. It was fun and funny.
Next we drove over to Burford Lake, which I visited 15 months ago. On this occasion, we approached it on the road to the west, giving us a different view than last time.
Of note, “…in the 1920s the lake was named in honor of Judge Frank Burford… but it never made it onto the map, and was largely forgotten for many years. Burford Trail was ‘rediscovered’ after the wildfires of 2011 .”
Water was running steadily and loudly across the dam, which it wasn’t on my past visit, and it made very nice images.
Our final photo op was at the top of Mount Scott, the high point of the Wichitas. It was very crowded, but it was fun, and not as cold as it was the last few times I visited.
When we had arrived in the morning, we saw the top of the mountain was in low clouds, and by the time we were there at sunset, we discovered the trees at the top were covered in frozen fog from earlier, which was very interesting.