We arrived at Wichita Mountain National Wildlife Refuge a little after noon. Immediately, Matt pointed to the top of a mountain and declared, “Guess where we’re going?!” I was grateful for two things right away:
- I had already popped a Dramamine on the way to Southwest Oklahoma because car sickness can hit me on flat land anyway, especially when it’s overcast. I’m a big sissy.
- This isn’t like Chimney Rock in North Carolina. Out there, the canopy of trees blocks any focal point you might need to keep from getting queasy while winding up a mountainside road.
On the way to the top of Mount Scott, I was constantly surprised at every turn. Sure, Oklahoma is flat and dry, for the most part, but the number of lakes and rivers in this region of the state is impressive. Maybe only to me, as I’m still a newbie, but seeing as this was my first look at the Wichita Mountains, I found it all to be quite beautiful. Also, you can’t go wrong with being so high up that you are treated to earth curvature.
About an hour later, we were the first to choose from a number of campsites with a gorgeous view of Quanah Parker Lake. Elle and I helped with pitching the tent and unloading the van, but Matt is really the go-to guy when it comes to this stuff. So while my husband actually did most of the work (like setting up camp and cooking dinner and, well, everything), Elle and I headed down to the lake to take in the scenery. We all took a few more walks around the shoreline throughout the day and were pretty excited to find a beaver dam, a great blue heron, and animal tracks.
Our campfire was roaring away before dinnertime so Matt grabbed a book to read while relaxing in his hammock and I pulled out my copy of The Beak of the Finch to read fireside. There is something romantic about studying the evolution of Darwin’s finches while surrounded by nature. The kiddo brought her camera and props to make a new stop motion movie and keep her from being too bored out in the woods (sadly, this didn’t last long).
After a delicious meal of pork chops and green beans, we feasted on s’mores and headed to bed. It was warm enough inside the tent to be cozy and I attempted to read a few more chapters on the Galapagos finches. Sleep didn’t come easily, though, and the kiddo and I had already realized hours earlier that we are just not cut out for camping.
As we tried to drift off and catch up with my husband in the world of sleep, Elle and I were constantly reminded of the wild animals that lived outside. There was a lot of splashing coming from the lake behind us (so much that I thought the dam was releasing water!) and I’d actually fallen asleep long enough to dream a wolf was sniffing near Elle’s head and I had to punch it to save us all from certain death. Of course, my tiny bladder was extremely uncooperative that night, too. Prior to choosing our campsite, I insisted on being close to a regularly cleaned park restroom. None of that matters, though, when you have to leave your tent twice in the middle of the night to take care of business and dozens of coyotes are howling nearby. For the record, a nearby cedar tree is just as fancy and probably safer.
After my last visit to the cedar tree, during which I scared two large animals that ran for safety into the lake, I crawled back into the tent and tried to comfort Ella who had again been woken up from a fitful sleep.
“Mom, what is making all that noise out there?”
And, with all the love in my heart and respect I could ever have for this child of mine, I lied through my teeth. “It’s just the elk and bison talking to each other. They do that at night.”
Did you really think I was going to be honest? “Oh, honey! That’s the wolves and coyotes looking for something to eat!” We would have been better off packing up our stuff and heading back home right then and there. Of course, we didn’t, and that is why we were able to enjoy the park during our hike the next day…