Posts Tagged ‘Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge’

Hiking Elk Mountain, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK

27 March 2013

On 16 February, I hiked Elk Mountain in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge (WMWR). The hike was 4.5 miles and 1,124 ft of altitude gain.

Pictures from the hike are here on Google+.

I tried to park at the actual trailhead, but for the nth time, a Park Ranger was blocking the road, and he rudely told me to go elsewhere (this same guy I’ve seen several times over the year, and he is uniformly unhelpful at best). I drove over to Caddo Lake a mile or so to the west, parked there, and headed out overland at Elk Mountain.

I popped over a ridge after a bit and found myself near a herd of bison. I move away from them, but the herd crossed in back of me, and one of them charged me; it was a bluff charge, but it was intended to get my attention, and it succeeded.

I got to the parking area for Elk Mountain, and went over to the Charon’s Garden trail, as I thought that was also the trail for Elk Mountain. It wasn’t. I decided to bushwhack straight up the slope. It was pretty tough. I used bouldering and some rock climbing techniques.

When I got to the top, I was amazed. I had sort of thought that Elk Mountain was very much a peak, but it wasn’t; it was a jumbled almost-mesa! Probably 20 acres of area. There were numerous “high points”, and I walked around up there a while looking at all of them.

Eventually, I worked my way to the eastern part of the top, and found the trail down. It was a nice trail; I got to the bottom in short order, and walked cross country back to my car.

I really enjoyed the hike; I have wanted to hike Elk Mountain for a number of years, and on other trips to WMWR, I either didn’t have time, or the parking area was full. I’m glad I took the cross country route this time, it was well worth it.

A Bit More Hiking in WMWR

1 June 2012

Memorial Day, Ian and Erin and I went down to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. My objective was to hike down into the Narrows and hike Elk Mountain. We needed to go into the Narrows as Erin had lost her phone somewhere in that area and we wanted to look for it.

I’ve posted all the photos from this hike at Picasa.

BTW, there seems to be NO water at the camps. We filled up at the Visitor Center, and then refilled at the Refuge Headquarters (there is a pump in front).

We hiked down into the Narrows area first. There are few marked trails here. We had to walk over a gate that protected the Boulder Cabin; the trailhead is on the far side of the cabin. We went down and looked for the phone for a while, no luck. There is a nice small lake in West Cache Creek that has a bluff overlooking it. I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t take the time to hike farther down the Narrows. I want to go down to Panther Creek next time; we didn’t get a quarter of the way there.

Here is the trail we took; it’s 0.9 miles total.

Next Erin wanted to see Lost Lake. I knew there was trail on the south and west sides of the lake. We drove there, parked, and headed out. It’s a nice walk out to the dam, and easy crossing of the dam, and then you are on the Bison Trail part of the Dog Run Hollow trail system. We followed it to the next dam, Fish Lake. We crossed the top of the dam. It’s only about 18 inches wide, and was slick in spots. If you slip, it’s either into the lake on one side, or down the face of the dam about 30 feet.

On the other side, we looked around and thought we found a trail. It petered out, and I took a bearing towards the nearest road, and so off we went cross country. I kept a close eye out for snakes. Eventually we found the road, and walked back to the parking lot on it.

Here is our trail. It was 1.3 miles.

We went over to Elk Mountain. We got flagged down by a Ranger, who would not let us onto the road since the parking lots were full. So that didn’t work. It was about 1215 at this point, so I made a command decision, and we headed off to lunch, then back home. There were only more people coming into the Refuge, so I figured that our chance of getting to Elk Mountain was nil.

On reflection, I should have gone back to the Narrows. I will head back down there at some point, maybe int the Fall.

Hiking Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Lawton, OK

26 May 2012

Hike summary: 6.1 miles through amazing terrain. About 240 ft of altitude gain.

I took a group of Scouts to WMWR last Saturday. Our objective was a shakedown hike for a backpacking trip to New Mexico in July. We wanted to do 10 miles. We ended up getting 6.1 due to a late start out of camp (and we were at Quartz Mountain, so we had an hour drive there and back).

We met another leader at the Visitor Center. A number of swallows have built nests above the entrance door. If you go there, cover your head! The Visitor Center has some really nice dioramas and other displays about the Refuge.

We drove a couple miles to the trailhead and loaded up. Here is the crew:

The hike follows Cache Creek for the first part. The river is really pretty.

After hiking up a while, you get above a really unexpected site, which is a medium deep canyon with Cache Creek flowing through it. It’s BEAUTIFUL! There are a number of pools of water that are swimmable in here, and if it were hotter, that would have been a real treat.

This is looking back into the canyon. It’s stunning!

If you stay on the trail, which is the east side of the canyon, you hike on to Lost Lake. However, we climbed down into the canyon and crossed the creek, the climbed back up on the west side to join the Bison Trail. It runs along the west side to the other side of Lost Lake. You do some climbing along here.

At one point, I used my cameras panorama feature to sweep from Lost Lake to the canyon.

Past Lost Lake, you hike along the creek a lot farther. There is good water all along the route. It’s nice and clear, so it’s filterable.

After a bit you vector away from the water. Ian had sharp eyes and saw this collared lizard right next to the trail. A bit farther on, we saw some bison in the distance.

We stopped at some point and had lunch on a rock outcropping. You will want to know that unless you get down near the shore, there is little cover along this part of the trail. We were running short of time due to our late start, so we detoured on the Longhorn Trail.

I was really surprised by how green it was. All of my previous experience at the Refuge has been in the Winter or Fall. With our good rain so far this year, the Spring in the Refuge is green and beautiful. I was constantly amazed by the carpets of red and yellow flowers.

We had some sprinkles as we walked, but the clouds had moved in shortly after we had lunch, so the temperature was very comfortable. We turned back to the southeast as we continued along the loop, and camp back to the river canyon. We crossed over again, and made it back to the van after about five hours on the trail.

Note that while there is some water on this side of the loop, there’s not that much.

Here is the hike path:

There is a lot of terrain down there left to cover. I’m looking forward to going back down there again. I want to hike Elk Mountain, and the lower part of the Narrows.

I took a lot more photos (and they are the full resolution pictures). They are uploaded to my Picasa site.