Mount Scott is a marvel of rock formations, and is the source
of all the red rocks used in the building of Medicine Park.
Mount Scott forms most of the west
shore of Lake Lawtonka. It rises 2,464
feet and is part of the Wichita Mountains.
The published height of the mountain is deceptive. Like the top of an iceberg, it is only the
tip of the mountain range that was thrust by volcanic uplift above the earth’s
crust, and has since partially sunk, or subsided, as well as eroded. The Wichita Mountains are part of a range
that runs from Lawton, OK, to Amarillo, Texas, 215 miles to the west. They were created during four distinct
geologic periods dating back 595-million years, making them the oldest
mountains in North America. The
Appalachians are often said to be among the oldest mountains, but the Wichitas
have them beat by a mere 100-million years, give or take a year or two.
View of the countryside from the top of Mount Scott
Sunset at Bahia Honda, Florida Keys, a few years ago.
Everything is covered with
ice. The blizzard stayed west of
us. What snow we did get was so weighed
down by sleet and freezing rain, it is hard to identify what layer is snow. After giving the sun and wind hours to work a
bit, (it actually hit 32.5 degrees in the sun) I was able to use a steel
scrapper to break enough ice loose from the concrete patio so we can get to the
garage door. Then the door was frozen to
the jam so we had to beat on the door until we could break the ice enough to
open the door, and then it wouldn’t close.
Bahia Honda does have a sound and feel to it, doesn’t it?
Arcadia Lake was rimmed with ice, but now everything is
covered by hard, white water.
Edith Sitwell spoke well about the
atmosphere today. “Winter is the time
for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for
a talk beside the fire; it is the time for home.” It was 70 degrees about 48-hours ago. It is now in the mid-20’s, the wind is
blowing 40-50 mph, causing blizzard conditions where it has already started to
snow. We were awakened by the noise of
sleet being driven against the windows, and it is sleet that has covered the
yard in white. As I type, it is finally
switching over to horizontal snow. The
normal time for rising had come and gone, and I thought the only justification
for getting up would be when I was driven from under the covers by hunger. But, hunger was also what was on Jean’s mind
as she crawled out, slipped into her shoes, and went out the door to spread
feed for the wild birds. The garage door
was frozen to the jam, and she had to shoulder the door a few times before it
cracked the ice bond and finally opened.
We now have a hundred or so small birds hopping about the patio to pick
up the seed scattered there for them.
My GPS odometer for the month sits
at 81.34 miles. Until now, I had no
doubt about making the 100 miles for the month, but now that sits in some
doubt. Half that distance was
accomplished while picking up aluminum cans for Canton Lake. While they were able to get the funding to
rebuild the campground’s infrastructure damaged by a tornado, there was no
money for replacing the trees. Collecting
and recycling aluminum helps with reforestation, shrubs, and flowers. Besides falling on the ice and breaking an old
bone or two, all the cans are now covered in white, so walking will be on hold
until the dead grass reappears, so yes, “it is the time for home.”
If you haven’t seen this story yet,
it’s too good to let pass. This could
well be the solution to our cast of Republican presidential candidates. Indeed, it could answer for 99.9% of all
positions in Congress. I don’t say 100%,
because I hold the constant hope that hiding somewhere in the shadows of those
hallowed halls in Washington (or Tulsa) is at least a solitary statesman,
rather than politician.
From the Associated Press comes a
story out of Siberia. In the next week,
the council for the city of Barnaul, Russia, will need to choose a new mayor
from a field of seven candidates.
Barnaul is a town 1,800 miles east of Moscow. Their 650,000 residents were asked to vote in
an online poll to express their preferences among the six human candidates and
one Siamese cat named Barsik. The voters
are so tired of political corruption and incompetence that Barsik nabbed ninety
percent of the vote. In our local paper,
this appeared in section ‘B’, page 10.
There’s a message here that’s strong enough to require that it be on
We walked through town, walked the
length of the Bath Lake Park, and then had lunch at the Old Plantation and
dined in the dance hall. The Plantation
is still famous for their steak and fish dinners where the meat may hang off
both edges of the plate. In 1960, Rex
and Ruby Leath purchased the Old Plantation from the Texas Land Company. Rex was usually found in the kitchen, and
Ruby, known to everyone as Grandma, would either be found at a table talking
with guests, or sitting in her rocking chair by the fireplace. Her rocking chair still sits where she left
it. This refers to the picture of the
fireplace and rockers in Medicine Park – 3.
The Old Plantation was placed on the National Register of Historic
Places in 1970.
This caught my eye right away. It is not only a beautiful home, but
what a nice way to have the canoe ready to quickly drop in the creek.
I do hope they spray it with 303 Aerospace UV Protectant. This
Oklahoma sun can be murder.
Our standards for proper language have been under such constant attack,
I didn't think anyone maintained any propriety any more, making me happy
to see this sign.
There were several nice pieces of metal sculpture in town, like this
peace pipe. Notice the nice mural in the background.
A sunfish swimming among some cattails.
Jean particularly likes this one---a copper mountain lion on a copper
boulder. It is also called a puma, cougar, panther, or catamount
depending on locale and the indigenous language its name comes from.
I haven't processed the last of the Medicine Park photos, so here's a diversion. Jean received a call from a farm manager right after a two-day ice storm. He had seen a great horned owl that had flown into a fence near Okeene and gotten its wing entangled. The bird was smart enough to know that its weight couldn't be held by its wing alone without damaging the wing further or even severing it, so it had reached up with one foot to grasp the fence and take most of its weight. The man felt confident the owl would get itself free, so he went on.
While making his rounds the following day, the manager realized that the owl was still hanging from the fence wire. The ice storm had completely frozen birds over in half to 3/4-inches of ice, and most of the local population of big birds has disappeared, so it's amazing that the owl had survived the cold, the ice, two days with no nourishment or water, and hanging upside down from a wire. It was after dark when Jean and the farm manager got back to the field to retrieve the bird and bring it home.
The bird was in bad shape. It took a lot of water infused with Pedialyte immediately, and Jean went to the store to get chicken livers and steak to cut up and feed the owl. The foot and leg were so sore and cramped up from being locked on a wire for two days that it couldn't stand or roost even the next day, and just crouched in a bed of straw in the bottom of the cage. Jean fed it with long kitchen tongs. It would hiss and snap at her, but after the first bite, settled down to be fed.
When it healed enough that its wild, aggressive personality and strength had returned, it made it clear that it wanted out of the cage. Since owls are very territorial, we returned it to the same spot where it had been picked up. When the cage was opened, it just sat there. Jean finally had to roll the cage over slowly to force it out through the open door. It just sat for the longest time, but finally hobbled over and got under a piece of farm machinery. It had been moving its wing, but in the confines of the cage couldn't stretch it fully or exercise it. We watched it for awhile, but it made no move to leave. It was obvious that it was sore and stiff, so we left it to give it time to stretch and limber up.
It was a restless night, wondering how the bird was doing. The next day, we headed 22 miles back out to the farm as we wondered if we'd find just a pile of feathers where something had been able to catch it. As we approached the farm, a huge great horned owl took off from a utility pole diagonally across the road from where Jean had found it. It flew strongly, circled, and glided until it disappeared over a line of trees. It had to be the same bird. Another owl's territory would be at least a mile to six miles away. To be sure, we checked all around the farm equipment and looked through the grass and cedar trees. There was no sign of an owl. Jean's rescued bird was back on the hunt for rodents, but I can't help but think it was wondering, "Hey, when is that woman supposed to show up again with the steak."
An ironic twist to the ways of nature revealed itself on our return home. After saving and treating the owl, we got back home to find another owl in the tree in our yard trying to catch one of Jean's rescued and hand-raised squirrels.
This is Piper. She looks demonic with her red eyes glowing in the camera, but she is one of the sweetest cats ever owned by a dog person. I was off on the ship when Jean decided to adopt Piper and her sister. She was supposed to be a surprise. Mission accomplished. They had been raised in a goat barn, and like the goats, could go straight up any wall and perch on any supposedly unattainable perch. Until we accomplished some behavior modification, we had some vexing times as we accumulated claw marks on walls near the ceilings. The farm had had a large population of cats until they were discovered by a pack of coyotes. The canines had cleaned house. These two kittens were the last survivors. True, she's worthless as a paddling partner or camp watch cat, but she's a good companion when she curls up of an evening in the crook of my arm and purrs a thank you for us saving her from certain death. Unlike with a dog, there's no knowing that she will be at the window or door waiting for my footsteps, but I know that as soon as I head for my recliner, Piper will race me to the chair and wait for me to pick her up and put her in my lap. The softer the sweatshirt or flannel, the faster she will nestle in and begin to sing. We don't always get to choose our friends and companions, but love is pricelss regardless of whose heart it comes from.
Below the large dam that creates Lake Lawtonka, Medicine Creek
spills over a few other dams forming beautiful pools, this one for
fishing, others for swimming.
Medicine Park was opened officially
as Oklahoma’s first planned resort on the 4th of July, 1908, by
future senator, Elmer Thomas. As a young
lawyer in 1906, he decided that while the new lake provided a reliable source
of water for the new town of Lawton, the surrounding thousands of square miles
of prairie needed a recreational area.
The new resort started with a swimming hole in the creek below the dam,
a few campsites, and a large surplus army tent with a wood floor where meals
could be served. In four years, it grew
to include two inns for meals, lodging and dancing, a health sanitarium, tennis
courts, spa, bath house, petting zoo, general store, a school, bait shop,
electric plant, and the Dam Café. The
army tent was replaced by the Outside Inn, a three-story red cobblestone
building erected in 1910. It would be
the focal point of the town, had a couple other names during its history, and
would later be renamed the Old Plantation.
Medicine Park was billed as the “Jewel of the Southwest.” The area along
the creek became the Bath Lake Park with landscaped walkways, gardens, swimming
and sunbathing area, and bridges across the creek. Crowds flocked to the community from
throughout Oklahoma and North Texas.
A cluster of wild aster defy logic to find a home among large
After his surrender in 1886,
Geronimo and his band of Apache braves were shipped by boxcar to Florida, where
they were imprisoned for eight years.
Geronimo was held at Fort Pickens, Pensacola, and his followers and
their families were sent on to Fort Marion at St. Augustine. Geronimo later joined the others at Fort
Marion as well. In 1894, Geronimo was
relocated to Fort Sill, and was baptized in the Methodist faith in Medicine
Creek on July 1st, 1903. He
died of pneumonia on Feb., 17, 1909, and is buried in the Apache cemetery at
The red cobblestones from Mount Scott provide a seemingly
endless supply of building materials. A beautiful, new home
across Medicine Creek uses just a sampling of the rocks.
While Elmer Thomas operated his resources
in Medicine Park with strict guidelines, he decided to sell the lodge to
finance his campaign for senator. The
main floor of the Outside Inn remained a restaurant and dance hall, but the
upstairs became where the ‘pretty girls’ conducted business, and a whiskey
still and gambling room found their way to the basement. It was even rumored that tunnels were built
for the escape of those that didn’t want to be found. Everyone came to Medicine Park throughout the
Roaring 20’s and into the 1930’s. It
became the playground for the elite, the rich, famous, the notorious, and for outlaws,
horse thieves, and politicians alike. Some
of the names of those known to visit were Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips
Petroleum; Will Rogers; Wiley Post; Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing and
the Texas Playboys; Al Capone; Bonnie and Clyde; Pretty Boy Floyd; Lil Hardin,
the 2nd wife of Louis Armstrong, and Her Swing Orchestra; Jack
Abernathy, the nation’s youngest U.S. Marshal; Les Brown; and Roy Rogers and
The full moon rises over Lawton Campground in SW Oklahoma.
I wanted to get to Lake Lawtonka
for some paddling, while Jean wanted to visit Medicine Park. With the help of Mother Nature’s vagaries, we
ended up doing both.
Lake Lawtonka was created in 1905
with the damming of Medicine Creek. It has a 19-mile shoreline, and a map can be
found on P.109 of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s book of maps titled
“Lakes of Oklahoma.” It can also be
found in the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer for Oklahoma, P.50, grid F-4. It is on the east end of the Wichita
Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, one of the first refuges created by
President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901, and the second-most visited wildlife
refuge in the country with over 1.5-million visitors annually. It also is located on the north edge of Fort
Sill, the only one of the original forts created during the Indian Wars that is
still operated as a military fort. It is
now the home of the Army Field Artillery School.
As the sun sets, a lone sailboat drifts south along the foot
of Mount Scott.
The forecast was for three days of
winds below 10mph, which in Oklahoma is as rare as finding the pot of gold at
the end of a rainbow. We loaded up the
RV and headed south. It was a great trip
but for the blown tire on the trailer trying to be a spoiler. I wrote about that on the 5 November post,
“Highway Angels.” Between the trip and
dealing with the tire, it was 4 p.m. by the time we settled in the campground
operated by the City of Lawton, so we just enjoyed the quiet and the sunset.
I need to make a correction. The initial text in the post has been changed for those that may not have read it yet, but for those who have, I need to make a revision. I indicated (believed) that Keen shoes are American Made. Keen is indeed a US company, located in Portland, OR. However, when my shoes arrived today, I checked the tongue to confirm the shoe size, and there before my eyes was "Made in China." With the outstanding reputation the shoes have, I have to believe (hope) that quality control in fact controls the quality.
November was a disappointing month
for getting outdoors for exercise. I
managed 59 miles for the month, but did have a higher than normal percentage of
paddling within those miles. Like most
of you, the multi-day ice event put a kink in outdoor activity, and the holiday
didn’t help either. Anticipating that
getting out on the ice could end with me laid up for weeks, I opted for
spending time with a book by Cliff Jacobson.
I’ve resolved to correct this backsliding,
so started December off with an 8.7 mile walk while collecting aluminum cans
for Canton Lake. The Corps of Engineers
got funding to rebuild the campground that had been destroyed by a tornado, but
had no funds remaining for replanting trees.
They have asked the public to help them collect recyclable aluminum to
fund tree purchases.
I have UPS bringing me two pair of
mid-height hiking shoes to also help with my 3-P-100. I’ve wanted Keen shoes for a long time. Keen Shoes is located in Portland, Oregon, and have a
good reputation. The Keen Durand was
recommended by Kevin Callan, but when I started reading reviews, I discovered two
things. One, the Keen Siskiyou is rated
higher by consumers, and two, since that model is being discontinued, they are
on sale by Cabelas’. They are now 50%
off, but my Cabela points helped by covering that remaining cost. You can’t beat two free pairs of shoes. One reviewer said that due to them being
discontinued, he has purchased three pairs.
I settled for two.
I turned to Keen to get an answer
as to why Siskiyou was discontinued.
They said that any time retailers fail to step up and make purchases of any
style, and they thus fail to meet manufacturing minimums, that style is
chopped. There was nothing wrong with
the shoe, as witnessed by them being rated very high by consumers. Cabelas’, however, had ordered a large dedicated
run of the Siskiyou, and that explains why they still have some in stock. If you want a good hiking shoe at a sale
price, get to Cabelas’ before they are gone.
The pioneer village general store is also used by the park staff
for registering campers.
Barkcamp State Park is in Eastern
Ohio a short distance before reaching the West Virginia state line on I-70. The interstate, originally called the
National Road, was the first federally funded highway in America. If you exit I-70 at Exit 208 and go south a
short distance, near Belmont, OH, you will reach Barkcamp. It has a small lake, Belmont Lake, with a 4.5-mi
shoreline for a relaxing afternoon paddle, hiking and bridle trails, and 123
large, treed campsites.
The original orchard barn built nearly 200 years ago.
The lake is fed by Barkcamp Creek, and
the name for both comes from the fact that there was actually a barking camp
here. During the great logging days,
crews that stayed in this work camp stripped felled trees of their bark before
the logs were delivered to the sawmill.
This was the first part of Ohio that was settled, with many
Revolutionary soldiers from the East pausing here to await receipt of their
land grants in return for their military service.
Shed and livery.
At that time, this area just west
of the Ohio River was called “The West.” This beautiful area of rolling, wooded hills
was valued by Native Americans and pioneers alike, which led to several battles
in the area. A reconstructed pioneer
village is here, but the barn is original.
It was built in the 1800’s by Solomon Bentley, an orchard owner, and is
still utilized at the park for nature and conservation programs. Lewis Wetzel, (1752-1808) the infamous
guerilla-style Indian fighter from what is now Wheeling, WV, frequented the
area, and is said to have inscribed a stone located near the barn. Wetzel died
in Mississippi, but his remains were returned and interred at McCreary
Cemetery, Cameron, WV, only 34 miles from Barkcamp.
The reverse side of the general store and camp office.
On the topic of conservation, Pres.
Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, was one of this nation’s greatest
conservationists, even being called the conservationist president. Upon coming to office in 1901, he created the
U.S. Forest Service, and led the way toward creating 150 national forests, 4
federal bird reserves, 5 national game preserves, 5 National Parks, and set 230
million acres aside under public land protection, along with protection of 18
National Monuments, like the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon. Roosevelt felt this nation was blessed and
made great by its gift of natural resources, but he cautioned that “to show
that this nation is worthy of its good fortune,” we must practice sustainable
usage of its resources. He would turn
over in his grave now to see that his Republican party endorses rampant stripping
of all resources, even on protected federal lands, through oil and gas
drilling, fracking, clear-cut logging, strip-mining in wildlife areas, and
mining for metals and coal on protected lands, even privately-owned lands. Last year, Ohio Valley Coal Co. filed for a
permit to run a coal mine directly under Barkcamp State Park, a move resisted
by the Sierra Club. The Columbus
Dispatch reports that in Ohio alone mineral rights have been applied for in 18
state forests, 24 state parks, and 53 natural areas, all endorsed by Republicans
who have forgotten their own heritage.
Curiosity creates wonderful things,
and curiosity is easy to satisfy. People
seldom get an opportunity to talk about themselves and share their lives, so it
is a rare occasion when people don’t take advantage of the opportunity to share
of themselves. Charles Kuralt made a
career out of following his curiosity, and it helped him build “A Life on the
Road,” which was also the title of his autobiography. It’s
a principle I’ve seldom had the chance to pursue, but here’s one small example
of the idea at work, which gave me a chance to meet some nice people.
I love the colors and the great attention to detail.
We were on our way with the family
to visit Kings Gap Mansion and state park, near Carlisle, PA. We were just riding down the road when we
passed a house that riveted my attention.
It was an old home, but it had been beautifully and tastefully
preserved. I wanted a picture of it, but
when we returned that afternoon, the sun was in the west and the house was
covered with the shade of a large tree.
I was determined to return the next morning and ask permission of the
owners to take a picture of their home.
I found the owner in the driveway
when I returned the next day. He
introduced himself as Clyde Widener. A
bit suspicious at first as to why I was there and what I wanted, he warmed
quickly when he understood that my interest was in something that he had
dedicated a lot of himself to. Their
home was the Coyle House, built in 1901, as part of the Coyle Lumber and
Millworks. The millworks, still operating
diagonally across Old York Road from the Widener’s, was started in 1879 and originally
ran off the water power created by Yellow Breeches Creek, which runs directly
behind Widener’s home. (I have paddled
the Yellow Breeches. Well, I paddled
most of it, and swam the last bit while upside down.) The millworks was operated by four
generations of Coyles for over a hundred years, being sold after the death of William
Coyle in 1992. They still make solid
wood windows, doors, and cabinetry, in addition to special custom jobs.
The cooking house still stands
directly behind the Wideners’ home.
Meals were prepared there to both reduce fire risk in the house, and also
keep the house cooler during the summer.
A hand pump by the back porch was used to pump water up from the cold
creek so they could bathe right there on the porch. There was a lot less traffic by the house in
those days. Mr. Widener took special delight
in showing me the moldings around the eaves and windows. When they bought the house, many of those
custom-made moldings were in bad condition, and several sections were missing
entirely. On a lark, he went over to the
millworks to see if there was any way they could make a molding that would come
close to matching. To his amazement,
they still had the original handmade molding cutter blades from a century
before. It’s refreshing to find that
there are indeed still a few places in America where everything isn’t thrown
out with the release of the newest catalog.
Kings Gap Mansion from the front lawn. A tent is set up to the
left for a wedding.
The James McCormick Cameron summer
mansion at Kings Gap, PA, is but a footnote in this long trail of old money,
but an impressive footnote well worth the visit. To start at the head of the trail, James’
grandfather, Simon Cameron, was Abraham Lincoln’s first Secretary of War and a
United States Senator four times. The
family began buying up land around Harrisburg, Carlisle, and Lancaster, PA,
having five simultaneous summer estates available for the family’s use during
Simon’s life. A son, James Cameron,
served as Secretary of War under Pres. Ulysses S. Grant. James McCormick Cameron was born in
Harrisburg in 1865, the end of the Civil War.
He attended Harrisburg Academy and Exeter and Harvard College, and
studied law under his father. After
college, he decided to enter the steel business, which had also been part of
his grandfather’s commercial enterprises.
James operated steel furnaces, owned the Iron and Steel Company, owned
the Elk River Coal and Lumber Company, was director of the Buffalo Creek and
Gauley Railroad Company, was director of the Harrisburg Bridge Company,
director of the Harrisburg Railway Company, and a member of the Dauphin Deposit
Trust Company bank.
The front of the mansion as seen from the driveway as approaching
the entry portico.
The panorama of the surrounding countryside as seen from the
Wanting to escape the summer heat
in the city of Harrisburg, he decided to build a mountain-top mansion in 1908
to enjoy the cooler breezes. Being
afraid of fire, the mansion was built of Antietam quartzite stone, which was
quarried from a nearby ridge. Being
innovative for the time, it was also the first structure in the area to utilize
a new construction technique employing steel-reinforced concrete for interior elements
of the building to make it as fireproof as possible. It was originally designed as an Italian
villa of 32 rooms with large windows and a huge flagstone terrace to partake of
the cooling breezes coming up the mountain.
While caretakers remained at the mansion year-round, the family only
stayed there from May until October, between 1908 and 1948.
Another view from the terrace, half of which is covered for shade,
leaving half open in full sunlight.
The water tank and tower to supply water to the gardens and the
mansion. An apartment sat below the tank.
The property also includes a water
tower, large gardens, ice house, caretakers’ house, generator building, and
carriage house. The first floor of the
mansion is open to the public on Sunday afternoons from Memorial Day until
October, and both floors are open the first two Sundays of December for the
Christmas celebration. The 200-ft. long
building was enlarged to 38 rooms during a renovation project begun in 2000 to
include an environmental education center.
The property’s 2,531 acres on South Mountain comprises the Kings Gap
State Park with 18-miles of hiking trails.
Current uses of the mansion range from an orienteering course,
conference center, educational courses, overnight lodging, and is a favorite
venue for weddings.
Beautiful gardens included flowers, herbs, and a pond.
It was a Sunday bike ride, part of
my 3-P-100 (paddle, peddle, or plod 100 miles/month), that took me by several
fields of Helianthus, a lower classification of sunflower. In this one, I found a bunch of late migrating
monarch butterflies. I was hoping to get
a picture of one with its wing outstretched, but there was enough of a breeze
that as soon as they landed, like a sailor furling his sails, they would
immediately flatten their wings. The
breeze would swing them into the wind where they could then pretty much ignore
the wind as they inspected the blooms.