I am a child of the mountains. As some people hear the call of the sea, it is the mountains which beckon to me. So when I cross the USA on my motorcycle, I look for routes that will keep me in the mountains as much as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to jump from the Appalachians to the Ozarks before the long push across the Great Plains to the Rockies.
The southern Ozarks reach a long arm into Oklahoma. This is not Steinbeck's Oklahoma, but rather a mountainous region of breathtaking views from along the razorback ridge of the Talimena Skyline Drive. Alas, after a few dozen miles of high country bliss, the roads eventually give way to the flat, open ground of the plains. Glancing at a map leaves the impression that there will be nothing but dead straight, level highways until halfway into New Mexico or Colorado.
Not so! In the southwest corner of Oklahoma, just above Lawton near the town of Medicine Park, are the Wichita Mountains. Though really more big hills than mountains, what they lack in stature they more than make up for in wildlife viewing opportunities. This is the home of the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, an area where bison, elk, and even herds of wild Texas longhorn cattle are free to roam.
I have been through the refuge three times now on cross-country trips, unfortunately each time only for a couple of hours as I pressed on to my next night's stop. Each time I have visited, I was treated to the sights and peaceful quietness of several groups of bison and longhorns. Only once did I get to see the elk, and that was from far off. I would really like to go back sometime and camp there for a few days, to experience more of what those hills have to offer.
The most recent trip provided an extra special treat. I was there two months earlier in the year than my prior July journeys, arriving in early May, and so this meant I got to see the young offspring of the bison, of the longhorns, and of prairie dogs. It was a really wonderful experience.
The links below are to picture galleries in the usual interface for my site: on the thumbnail page, click for a 600x400 picture, and for an even closer look click that picture for a 1600x1200 one. The thumbnail page has been culled down to just the pictures I thought were most interesting; the "Unabridged" link goes to a much larger thumbnail page of all the pictures I shot.
Bison Longhorns Prairie Dogs Scat