Yes, I am in Oklahoma! And yes, I feel like I should be singing. I wonder how many other people have that reaction? While I was driving, I was thinking about everything I know about Oklahoma (short version: almost nothing) and how strange it was to be in a national forest that I truly had never heard of before. Ouachita National Forest. Spell check doesn’t like that, so maybe I’ve spelled it wrong, but I think spell check is actually just as ignorant as I am.
My plan was to stay at Beavers Bend, a state park recommended by a reader (hi, Kyla!) through the weekend, at a primitive camping site — no water or electric. But when I got there, the park was bustling. So many people! So many cars! I drove slowly through the park, or maybe part of it, trying to figure out how to register for a camping site, but there was no parking anywhere and much traffic. I wound up heading back out the same way I came in, still looking for the camping headquarters, and when I got to the end of the road, I pulled into a forest service parking lot and started looking for a different campground. It really did look like a great location — there was a sandwich shop at the end of the road that had a sign up reading “organic, gluten-free” and I still can’t believe I didn’t take advantage, but even that parking lot was totally full. I’m guessing Oklahoma has spring break this week.
Reserve America had a walk-ins only campground listed that looked a reasonable driving distance away, so I got back on the road and headed north again. My bigger plan was to drive the scenic Talimena Highway into Arkansas when I’d spent a few days in Oklahoma. Imagine my surprise when I drove right by said highway on my way to my campground. Oops. Yep, I am geographically challenged. I hadn’t realized I was as close as I was to my intended final Oklahoma destination. Too long spent living in Florida and California, I guess, where halfway up the state is a long, long drive, and not enough perspective on the bits of map I was looking at.
But I kept going and made it to Cedar Lake. I drove slowly through the campground, again looking for the ranger station, the place where usually someone is waiting to take your money. I didn’t find the ranger station (it doesn’t exist) but wow, there are a ton of horses here. One loop is an equestrian campground and there are probably 30 sites occupied by people with horse trailers and horses. I really love the idea of people taking their horses on vacation with them — it just seems so friendly — but I’m guessing that there must be some horse event this weekend somewhere nearby. If I had internet, I’d try to find out, but I wouldn’t even know how to start the search.
I finally figured out that there was a fee station, where you fill out your info and put your money in an envelope and leave it for someone to collect. But this campground is also pretty full. I wound up in a spot that is just big enough for Serenity and sloped. If I had a tent, it would be perfect, because it’s a really nice tent spot. View of the water and everything. But the parking area (as opposed to the tent area) is not level enough to be an ideal camper spot.
And the weather… well, it’s not spring yet. I wish I could stay for two weeks, because it will be spring in two weeks, the hints of it are everywhere. There are violets growing in amongst the trees and the occasional pink flowering tree in full flower. But far more of the branches are barren and gray still, and the sky is overcast and gloomy and I… I am just sick of the rain.
So I only paid for one night here and my new revised plan is to head out tomorrow, drive the scenic Talimena Highway and wind up in Arkansas. A lower elevation is likely to be a little more spring-like, I think, so instead of a few days in the hills of Oklahoma — (Seriously, the hills of Oklahoma? I had no idea, my mental image of Oklahoma is entirely oil fields and plains and scenes from the musical) — I’ll have a week to spend in Arkansas.
And hopefully it will at least be nice enough tomorrow to make my scenic drive a little scenic. Today was so cloudy that at points I was driving through dense fog. Super gray, misty, beautifully spooky, but no visibility at all. If tomorrow is the same, my scenic drive will be scenic only in my imagination. It was fun driving through the fog — I like spooky in most circumstances — but I’d like to actually get to see some of Oklahoma before I leave it.