Posted by: morrowsl | December 15, 2015

Room 204

SONY DSC“Hey, did you see this Groupon?” isn’t how we usually start planning a weekend getaway.  But commitments and scheduling have prevented us from spending our usual week on the coast for a couple of years and Mike had started looking really sour around the mouth.  I felt obliged to humor him on this one, if for no other reason than he was in the mood to get away and I wasn’t in the mood to say no.  The Groupon fine print said we could have our choice of a cabin or a room in the “lodge” and two Groupons could be combined to make a weekend package.  Sweet.  Our dates limited us to the room, but neither of us much cared seeing as how we haven’t been to this particular state park before and have no frame of reference.  We’d take the room and our chances.  The least thing that could happen was we’d have a crap weekend in a neat place.

Owing to my obsession with needing to come home to a clean house coupled with this being the Christmas season, I had my work cut out for me trying to simultaneously clean and decorate while juggling issues with a newly incontinent 57-pound female Husky and an equally (and recently) incontinent 5-year-old roof.  We won’t talk about the tire tracks in our front yard and possible sprinkler system damage or my 90-year-old mother’s brush with renal failure.  We’d planned to leave at noon.  At 1:00pm Mike was starting to pace.
I actually considered not going.  There was just too much going on at home.  Too much that needed to be looked after and checked on.
But there are times when you have to just let go and this was one of them.  I told myself I’d scope it out for future girls weekends and meteor shower viewings.

Living in a place where an all-day drive barely results in a change in zip code, crossing the state line is a thing.  Heading north, we were in Oklahoma in under an hour and two-thirds the way to our destination when we stopped for an early dinner.  It was suggested we try a family-owned Italian restaurant in the tiny hamlet of Krebs.  Best ravioli in all the land!  House dressing wasn’t bad either.
Buoyed by the excellent meal, I made the stupid suggestion we not backtrack to the interstate.  Push on, I say!
All forward progress was nearly wiped clean by a twisty pitch-black track leading deep into the tall pines with no cell service and very little faith in the directions we were using.  At last, we turned onto Highway 2 and shortly found the entrance to Robbers Cave State Park.

I won’t get into the whys and hows of the park, except to say that there’s almost 9,000 acres and enough stuff going on to keep pretty much anyone entertained.  All we wanted was some peace and quiet and maybe a close encounter with a few falling stars.  We dropped our bags inside the front door of the room on our way out the back to check out our little patio.  The forecast called for thunderstorms all weekend.  I was down with that.

Because Holly has been taking meds on an 8-hour cycle, I have three alarms set on my phone – 6:00 am, 2:00pm and 10:00pm.  I downed a half glass of Glayva on ice before pulling on my pjs and drifting off into a stupor of honeyed Scotch and wind whispering through the tall pines.  When the sound of the alarm finally penetrated the haze of alcohol (yes, I can get shit-faced on one drink, provided it’s Glayva), I couldn’t believe the night had flown so quickly.  Not to mention feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, which isn’t really all that new a sensation for me, but rarely comes so early in the morning.  Unless I’m sleeping on a totally disagreeable bed.  It would figure that all this nature and wind and dark and quiet would come with a bed that slept like a torture device.  I staggered away from the bed, trying to walk the kinks out of my body, snagging my phone off the dresser on my way.  When I hit the button to kill the alarm, my completely disoriented brain refused to connect the dots.  I honestly believed it was time to wake up.  I opened the back door and looked for signs of approaching daylight.  Nothing but black.  I stumbled to the bathroom to turn on the light and try to make sense of things.  And realized pretty fast that it really was 11:00pm and I’d only been asleep a couple of hours.
Please God, let me fall asleep again…

I am an early riser, even after an hour of stumbling around incoherently in the dark the night before.  Waking at my usual 5:40, I made a pot of coffee, grabbed the camera, and slipped out the back door.  Mother Nature did not disappoint.  The late fall sun climbed up the valley and over the hillside, setting the clouds on fire on her way.


Just off our patio were several picnic tables and, beyond those, a pair of wood and steel benches situated along the edge of the cliffs.  I tucked inside long enough to pull on my clothes then made for the outermost bench to meet the day.

The “lake view” was a bit misleading.  You could, in fact, see the lake, but only from certain spots and then only the opposite shoreline.  But the view was still incredibly beautiful.  I poked around and discovered two trail heads, both marked in red, leading in opposite directions.  One went decidedly down almost from the first few steps.  The other seemed to meander a bit and I decided to see if Mike was game to check it out later.  While most of the deciduous trees had shed their leaves, there were a few hangers on under the protection of the tall pines.  Those had likely been brilliant a week or two before.  I made a mental note to come back in mid-Autumn next time.  One was completely devoid of leaves and so twisted it looked more vine than tree.  I circled around it, trying on several angles before choosing my favorite, and almost demolished a lovely button mushroom in the process.

We headed into town for breakfast at another highly-recommended cafe, Eaton Hole Corner Cafe, where camouflage is considered “dress-up” and the NRA has a booth of honor.  I had to cut ’em some slack because the pancake I ordered on the side was the size of the plate and so light and fluffy I had to slather it in syrup to keep it from floating away.  Stuffed to the gills, we headed out for some retail therapy.  A quick look ’round determined that “winter hours” meant everything was closed on Saturday.  We decided to walk it anyway.

Across the street a cop was standing by while another man situating a ladder upside the front of a building with no apparent cause that we could determine.  Suddenly, I heard a squawk and my eyes scanned the brickwork, landing on a lively patch of brilliant green that turned out to be the man’s pet parrot!  How it ever got up there, I have no clue.  We watched in amazement as the fellow stood near the top rung and talked to his little friend the way a concerned parent would address a frightened child.  He patted his chest and encouraged and called until, finally, the bird took flight and executed a perfect landing at the base of the man’s neck, then walked to the edge of one shoulder for the ride down the ladder.  As he passed in front of us to deposit the bird into his car he claimed, “Never again will I bring both birds to town at the same time.”  I was shocked to see a full-sized metal cage taking up most of the backseat and even more stunned when the man lifted the parrot off his shoulders and onto the newspaper-covered dash.

Still chuckling at the antics of the local characters, we ducked into the only open store on the street.  It claimed to be a General Store and there were chicken coops out front, so I was thinking hardware.  We came out a half-hour later feeling like we’d just appeared on an episode of Hoarders.  Every single inch of available space was covered.  New and used items hung and sat and leaned from floor to ceiling.  And the owner was in the process of putting out yet more stock!  I bought this year’s White Elephant gift from him for $4.00
As we left, I really wished I’d gone back in to ask if his bait sign was for sale…

SONY DSCAfter the excitement of Wilburton, we decided it would be a shame to waste the rest of our good weather sitting in the room, but we weren’t quite ready to tackle a hike, even a short one, so we drove back to the park and turned in the opposite direction of the lodge.

There was a large swimming pool, closed for winter, as well as kayak and paddle-boat rentals.  We drove on.  The road began at Lake Carlton, then meandered alongside the feeder creek down and back until it narrowed and deepened into a fine trout stream.  Tents dotted the open spaces and fisherfolk lined the banks.  Several places were too steep and rutted for Stella, but a Jeep would have traversed the area well.

We stopped first at the dam, the backside of which was beautifully constructed in steps that created a waterfall effect.  Canada Geese lined the edge of the dam, some sleeping and some swimming.  Unlike waterfowl back home, who run at the sight of a car and the promise of days old bread, these guys were happy just to have the water and some time to stop.
I spent several minutes trying to freeze water before another car pulled up and the magic spell of the spot was broken.

We turned around and drove in the opposite direction, passing a riding stables and an area designed for trail-riders.  Each campsite came with its own metal corral for holding the camper’s horses.  I guess they don’t just tie them up along a string like the cowboy movies would have you believe.  Farther on there were a few more campsites, but far enough off the road to suggest they were either meant for hikers or possibly spots meant for those who prefer to repel.  Both are touted for the area although we never saw evidence of either.  The rocks would suggest it’s an excellent place for both.

The skies were closing in as we pulled back onto the highway for the short drive back to our turn-in.  We dropped a few things in the room and crossed the parking lot for the trail I’d noted earlier.  We immediately started down, but not to a strong enough degree to concern me.  I’m notorious for twisting my ankles and Mike made a point to mention this.  We pressed on, stopping now and again to marvel at something, note the road was still visible through the almost bare trees, or for me to take aim.  We had estimated an hour would be all the time we’d get before the skies opened and the predicted deluge began, so I made the best of what little time I would get.

We were stopped and Mike had just mentioned the prospect of running into a snake when we heard the distant snap of twigs and the approach of something a little on the large side.  Thankfully, it was only a hiker, complete with walking stick, making his way jauntily down the hill.  He stopped long enough to chat a bit, explained he was on his way back to the office before the rain caught him out, and departed as quickly as he’d appeared.  The mention of rain and the lingering thought of snakes decided for me.  The return trip was a bit slower, being completely uphill, but we made the room well ahead of the downpour.
As best I could tell it rained the entire night and dawn came with claps of thunder and heavy showers.  No need to hang around and watch it rain.  I pulled the back door open and left Mike snoring while I showered and packed.
The rain had slowed considerably by the time I was done, so I slipped out to see if I could manage to catch some of the little birds that skittered around on the rocks and in the downed pine cones and needles.  They were wise to me and never let me close enough for a clear shot.  I’d been seeing buzzards hunting overhead almost continuously and happened to find a pair of them perched on the big rocks at the cliff’s edge.  I just managed to get one shot.


The rain came and went, mostly in drizzles and fits, as I sat waiting.  I don’t have a weather body for my camera, so I’m limited by the need to keep the camera sheltered.  I also rarely use a tripod or monopod, mostly because they are excellent devices for tangling in my feet, so most of my photos are handheld.  Both tend to make me critical of the images I get, but every now and then I amaze myself.

We’ll be on the lookout for upcoming Groupons to Robbers Cave.  And the schedule that NASA releases of upcoming meteor showers.  We’ve already scoped out the perfect pair of cabins for a small group.


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