Tag Archives: Oklahoma

Oklahoma Detour – Tahlequah & Tulsa: August 30-September 2, 2014

Reconnecting with family and friends was just one of the many purposes of our trek around the U.S.  So when the Martin side of my family scheduled a reunion, we parked the Escape Mobile in Seattle and hopped on a plane bound for Oklahoma.

 

Martin isn’t originally my family’s name, but rather the result of the U.S. government’s forced assimilation practices on America’s native people. The name change came when my Cherokee great-great grandfather, Tsunigutlâhiduñ, or Tsu-ni-gu-hi-ga, attended the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky.

Hercules T Martin
Hercules Terrapin Martin

I read that he chose “Martin” because it was a friend’s name, but my dad’s story was that he chose the name after the Martin bird.

Regardless, Tsu-ni-gu-hi-ga, which translates to Terrapin, became Hercules Terrapin Martin and thereafter his descendants were Martins.

Cousins
Martin Cousins

When we have them, the Martin Reunions are scheduled to coincide with the Cherokee National Holiday, which falls over Labor Day weekend and celebrates the 1839 signing of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s Constitution.

Cherokee Holiday Poster

The highlight of the weekend’s events is an intertribal powwow. We missed the powwow on this trip, but here’s some pics from a later visit:

Northeastern Oklahoma is the birthplace of my parents. My dad was raised near Tahlequah and mom in Tulsa. Loads of childhood memories took place in and around these communities.

Lowrey Cemetery

old church

Like the back of his hand, my dad knew the unmarked backroads surrounding Tahlequah, while Trey and I constantly relied on GPS to navigate between public landmarks…a painful reminder of regrets, squandered time, and unspoken words.

Tahlequah Roots

The trip’s first connections to family roots came outside of Atlanta when we visited New Echota and in Cherokee, North Carolina.  However, the roots in Northeastern Oklahoma are closer to the surface.

And they’re roots we can engage.

Tulsa Roots

The Martin reunion was an opportunity to reconnect with my mom’s side of the family as well.

Morris Family

We loved touring Tulsa — visiting my mother’s old haunts…

Will Rogers High School2
Will Rogers High School, Mom’s Class – 1946

its awe-inspiring Art Deco architecture…

and recalling its significance in our country’s history.

 

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge – May 23-24

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.

WMWR - Ascending Elk Mountain

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.

WMWF - BuffaloWMWR - Wild TurkeyWMWR - Trailmate 2

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.

WMWR - Near Campsite

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.

View of wilderness area from the top of Elk Mountain
View of wilderness area from the top of Elk Mountain

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.

WMWR - Top of Elk Mt

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.

WMWR - End of the Trail

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.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/wewillfigureitout/sets/72157644959209346/

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