Monday, September 23, 2013

Campground Hosting at Chickasaw N.R.A.


There’s a lot of history here in the Sulphur, OK area.  We assume we’ll get to exploring more of that one day.  For now, we have been focused on the wonder that is Chickasaw National Recreation Area. 


The seventh National Park created and once the smallest of them all, Platt National Park (with it’s natural mineral springs) was created on land purchased from the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations in 1902. 

The Arbuckle Mountain Range (pictured above) is one of the oldest ranges in the country and once stood at close to 20,000 feet tall.

In 1976, the Platt area was combined with Lake of the Arbuckles and other surrounding lands to become the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.  It’s name honors the Chickasaw Nation whose foresight in fearing the healing waters would suffer from uncontrolled use prompted them to sell it to the government so that the springs would be protected.


As of our arrival, the springs are flowing but not full.  They have gone dry in the past sometimes for years at a time.  So, we are thankful to have seen them with at least some water.


Meanwhile, we’ve been focusing our exploration energies on the Lake of the Arbuckles area which is where our campground host position is located.

Thanks to the National Park Service we are a two car family for the next few months.  This little GEM (pun intended) is a sweet, street legal, electric car / campground workhorse and we thoroughly enjoy tooling around in it.


There are four campground loops and about the same number of day use loops within short drive of our site.  We make a point to explore them all whenever we have time.

                                          Our favorite ‘get away’ spot

Two of the campground loops are actually closed for the season and we have taken a special interest in ‘Loop A’.  A wonderful breeze blows off the water in this cove so that is where we head on our days off to lull under large shade trees and watch the critters.


                            So far, we’ve mostly spotted various birds

                                              like this Osprey,

                                              a Great Egret,

                                                Black Vultures,

                                     the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher,

                                     and a juvenile Great Blue Heron.

               We also saw a roadrunner but he was too fast for our camera!

DSCN2554 DSCN2553
Well preserved evidence of four legged critters is found in the mud each morning.
We’ve been told that there are big cats in the area.  Hopefully we’ll catch site of one of those soon.


The campgrounds have been busier than anyone expected for this time of year.  In just our first week we’ve logged over 70 miles on our GEM car.  It’s nice to see folks getting out to enjoy the cooler weather.  After two weeks of temps nearing 100, we’re welcoming some that prompted us to get our heater out.  We never thought that 80 degrees would feel chilly!

These cute little flowers popped up on the beach the other day sporting some pretty big pods considering their demure size.

         Well, it’s almost time for yet another beautiful sunset over the lake.

                          So, time to wrap this post up and take it in.


“Let me say to you now that to do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the
     world, the most difficult and the most intellectual.”  - Oscar Wilde  (1890)


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On The Move Again…



You know how places, things, people and such have slogans?   Things like, “I left my heart in San Francisco.”  Well, we left our suspension in Indiana! 

Thankfully, that is not entirely true and our suspension happily managed to stay intact.  But our entire trek across that state and part of the way into Illinois as well the suspension was tested above and beyond the call of normal duty.  There was little one could do.  Avoiding a very large pothole would throw you A) into another lane and thusly another car or B) into another even larger pothole.  We opted to avoid the other cars and therefore hit one or more often both potholes instead. 

We should mention that our method of travel as of late has been atypical of our usual fare. 

                 Yes, that’s right.  We’ve been taking… THE HIGHWAY!

              Which apparently is not entertaining enough for these guys.

Heck, at one point we counted 16 total lanes of traffic.  That’s some crazy stuff.
You know what else is crazy?

                               The Worlds Largest Wind Chimes!

                Bridges that look like wishbones and split the state line.

               Kids playing hide-and-go-seek who will never find each other

                                                 or their dog

                                despite all hiding at the same tree.

                Grasshoppers we spotted on this super cool mosaic wall.

      And another blending into the mosaic created by the leaves of a plant.

                                           Nifty spider close-ups!

                                            Dew drops in a web.

                                         And, pollinators at work. 

It seems we definitely left all of the rain behind and things have been heating up pretty good.  With afternoon temps peaking near 98 we hosted the bulk of our (air conditioned) driving mid-day and toured around wherever we found ourselves in the early morning or evening.


We moved at about double our usual wandering pace and achieved just over 200 miles per day.  Annie loves this pace and she rewarded us with an average of just under 13 mpg.  That combined with the constantly dropping gas prices (lowest so far $ 3.33) has made for a great trip statistically speaking.


One afternoon, Annie started squealing at us.  Just a little peep now and then at first but as we continued driving she gradually grew louder and filed more and more complaints!  So, we opted to cut the day short and rolled into the first town we could find with a Super Walmart (the theory here was not actually sleeping but that most towns with a Walmart also have a car parts store).  She was too hot to handle until the morning so we settled into a cool McDonalds for some internet research on the area we will call home for the next few months.


In the a.m. Nicole popped the hood to discover that our alternator was ‘just hanging out’.  The nut on the top bolt was just a few minutes from disappearing and had loosened itself enough for the belts to flop around and leave slap marks on the radiator hose.  Nothing was actually damaged however so a few cranks of the wrench and off we went to explore another day.

                                               All who wander…

                                                   are not lost.

Annie’s ‘issues’ brought us to a town we hadn’t planned on exploring and led us to an experience we didn’t know was out there.  Labyrinth walking!  Highland, IL is probably one of those places you would normally drive past without blinking but we are glad that we didn’t.  Thanks to our girl, Annie, for yelling at us when she did!  This little Swiss inspired town had some really neat things to offer.  Probably the coolest was this labyrinth in one of their local parks.  We’ve since found a new website ( and will add this to our list of now-and-then experiences as we continue our ventures.


One day after our alternator incident we put our Walmart stays behind us and settled into a beautiful primitive camping spot on a lake.  We also added “need new motor for driver’s side window” to our list of things to do with Annie when we get a chance.  We knew it was coming.  The motor had gradually been slowing down so the fix was anticipated.  Thankfully, the motor died in the UP position.

View from our lakeside campsite.  It is actually a decommissioned COE camp from what we can tell.  We were getting closer to our final destination so we stayed only one night due to the excitement and anticipation of seeing our new ‘home’.  Still we were there long enough to take in our first western sunset in a good while.

                                          Boy have we missed these!

             And, in the category of:  You know you’re in Oklahoma WHEN…


Did we mention that we were in Oklahoma?!  Whoops.  We are.  For at least one month, maybe three.  Speaking of… time to go enjoy the park.

Blue dragonfly next to one of the many natural springs in Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

Until next time…

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Early Bird… Blogs Too Soon!


Remember (in our last blog post) when we said that we would be returning to our wandering ways after leaving Pennsylvania?  Well… shortly after that post went up we received a call from a National Recreation Area.

And just like that, our wandering days are over before they’ve begun!

We’re excited about it.  This was a place we had applied to a while back.  It’s in a location we were very interested in exploring and volunteering at.  The gig is short.  A month (maybe two if they need us) and in direct line of our previously estimated direction of wandering.  We had plans to go by and check the place out whether we got the gig or not.  Also, it’s with the National Park Service (an organization we’ve been wanting to check out).  It hosts natural springs, cool animals like bison and beavers, 300 million year old rocks and a beautiful lake.  Oh, and they give us a golf cart to use.

Sheesh!  Can it get any more perfect?  Fun times ahead!

Well, more on that in a future post or two.

Moving backwards now

Our time at Tub Run Campground has come to a close.  The leaves have begun to fall, the campers are gone, the gates are locked and we are off visiting with branches of Nicole’s Family Tree for a few days before leaving the state.  As usual, we continued to take random photos around the campground before we left.  Here’s the final collection from this location for your viewing pleasure.

                                The Creek … Usually

                      The Creek … Flash Flood Status!

This is not an exaggeration.  The first photo is what the creek looked like in the a.m.  Above is what it looked like later in the afternoon after a short rain.

                          Falling Water at The Creek

              Same spot at The Creek during “Flash Flood”

The water was moving so fast on this day that it started a whirlpool where it entered the lake and in that whirlpool (besides a whole lot of trash and debris) were large lengths of trees circling about as if they were small branches.

After a full season of rain after rain after rain, the lake has finally started to push back.  The dam can only release so much water or it will flood Pittsburgh.  So, as it began to rise, the lake started taking over some of our tent camping sites.

Site 8A currently under two feet of water.  Sure makes a pretty picture.

Shifting back to the usually peaceful and contained waters of The Creek…

                          Water Strider at The Creek

       Banded Water Snake who likes to play peek-a-boo at…
                                     The Creek

                         In keeping with the theme…

                      here’s some shots of flowers…


                               down near The Creek.

This cutie actually prefers the bathroom area and not the creek.

      Darlene caught this one hanging out on one of our chairs.

These two were hanging out upside down.  One of them was eating and we think the piggy-back rider was taking advantage of the first one being pre-occupied.

Speaking of ‘hanging out’, we participated in a bat study the other night. 

(This photo is from our Nebraska Zoo collection… it was dark for our study and we assumed we’d be otherwise occupied and unable to multi-task so we didn’t bring the camera.) 

At sundown, we were to assist in counting the bats that departed an abandoned building here at our campground.  Given previous numbers (1200 or so a few years back) we were actually a bit concerned about our ability to be accurate with our counting.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have to worry too much.  The drop in numbers was significant this year (only 53 bats) and indicates that White Nose Syndrome is having a large impact on the population.  We were told that Laurel Caverns count went from 2300 last year to 13 (no, that’s not a typo, just THIRTEEN) this year.  On a positive note, reportedly any surviving babies born during this time are thought to be immune to the disease.  So, hopefully the numbers will start to climb again soon. 

Back to a few more random shots…

Darlene was sitting on a bench the other day and this frog hopped up, dug a hole and backed into it.

                              Wild and Crazy Flowers!

                                         Bee Butt!
      Suppose this is where we get crafty and say, ‘The End’.

We had a really nice time this summer, made some great friends, learned some new things and even managed to release the last of our (Florida obtained) Asian Beetle infestation. 

After the beetles left, the flying black ants moved in to keep us and our ‘Bug Cup’ on our toes.  They seem to be under control now though we anticipate a few of them will travel onward with us.

Oh, the rain let up for a while.  Ha Ha.  Ha Ha Ha Ha HA!  Just long enough to upload our last post where we reported that it was slacking off.  When it returned, we smartened up and improved our water conservation and overall work effort by putting anything that needed washing (dishes, clothes, etc.) outside for their ‘first rinse’.  Seriously, it worked brilliantly!

We also smartened up and hunted down that the very imposing new smell in the van.  It was yet another gift from Pennsylvania that we shall take with us on down the road.  Aided by a combination of constant rain and little to no sunshine in our new camp-spot we are now the proud recipients of a healthy dose of Mildew & Mold.  Given that our van design is relatively open, we’ve been able to locate and eradicate the majority.  The remainder shall begin to dry out on its own (so long as we don’t feed it by hovering in a moist area for too long again).

   Suppose that brings our Summer in Pennsylvania to a close.

                                A Pre-Fall Collection.

                                       Its coming…

                               in a Really Big way.

   ‘So long’ to the beautiful rolling hills of the Laurel Highlands.