WICHITA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE – May 23-24, 2014
The Wichita Mountains were a favored camping destination for my family when I was a young child and are located about 80 miles north of Wichita Falls, just west of Lawton, Oklahoma.
More than half of the park’s 59,000 acres is a fenced off protected area to allow the white tailed deer, mountain elk and buffalo an environment void of human contact. The remaining refuge, which also has wildlife roaming freely through it, consists of campsites, public hiking trails and a vast wilderness area.
Setting up camp was a bit of a wet experience, but we were able to do so quickly and managed to keep the inside of the tent dry along with our sleeping bags and mats. Despite the rain, the campground was full.
We awoke Saturday morning to unseasonably cool weather and sunshine – it was beautiful! We decided to start the day with a short hike to the top of Elk Mountain. The trail was marked moderate to easy being a rocky, but scenic trail.
The Elk Mountain trail head was at the west end of the park and led into a large designated wilderness area where hiking and backcountry camping are allowed by permit.
The entire “wilderness area” seemed to be visible from the peak of Elk Mountain beginning with a gradual slope of stacked pink granite boulders.
Trey wanted to venture out on the rocks for a better vantage point. Unsure at first, I mustered up the courage to join Trey, which required stepping over deep crevices between the large boulders that seemed be vicariously sitting on the mountain’s ledge.
Elk Mountain trail was a great first choice, but unfortunately, was our only hike and adventure in the wildlife refuge. I turned my ankle about ¾ of the way down the mountain. I heard a crack, but convinced myself that it was just a sprain so that I could make it the rest of the way down the mountain – which I did with help from Trey.
An x-ray at a Lawton hospital confirmed a small fracture of the left distal fibula. The advice of the ER physician was to see an orthopedist after Memorial Day.
At that point, we decided it was best to pack up our campsite and get a hotel for the night, and then head to Austin in the morning to seek treatment. We were mostly disappointed that our time was cut short in Oklahoma, as we were very much looking forward to reunions with cousins and exploring Tulsa and Tahlequah.
Interest facts about the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (from their website):
- More than 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on this important refuge
- The buffalo herd is maintained at 650 through annual public auctions
- The granite mountains date back 500 million years