Spelunking in Oklahoma

Eastern Oklahoma was nice but the wildfires that threatened our area made it a little unnerving (we were in a red flag county).  We took off on the road and found most of Oklahoma to be pretty flat and boring.  We did successfully find a place to fill our LPG tank in a tiny little town and the men who ran it were incredibly nice gentleman.  The most excitement we had on the drive was Andy taking a curve a little too fast—things got a little rocky.

Western Oklahoma is very different.  I had no idea that it was such a desert landscape and at first, it didn’t appeal to me at all.  I couldn’t understand how anything other than large birds of prey and snakes could live in an environment like this, let alone people.  The grass was dry and crunchy and everything seemed too brown (not like the lush green of Minnesota).  One step off the trail and Theodore immediately stepped on a cactus and we spent five minutes pulling spikes from his paws.

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The longer we have been here and the more that we have explored, the more I’ve come to love it and appreciate the beauty.  The dirt color ranges from brown to vibrant orange.  The variety of grasses and plants is just amazing.  And the colors, though somewhat muted, are spectacular.  They range from browns to yellows, reds, dark greens, to a strange grayish-blue and that bright green that I always seem attracted to seems too garish.  Sprigs of spring green grasses poke up and, when looked at separately, stick out like a sore thumb.  But put it all together and it is a landscape worth painting.  And I can see the appeal.

Bright orange dirt of the hills
Bright orange dirt of the hills

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We are staying at a campsite in Alabaster Caverns State Park.

Our site
Our site
Field across from our site
Field across from our site

Yesterday, we went on a hike around the campground and saw the valley that is 180 feet deep.  We tried following several trails but they were not well-marked and we were worried about the dogs and all the cacti around.  Not to mention the snakes.  There is an 8 foot some-kind-of-snake apparently roaming the property that is seen often.  Oklahoma apparently has seven species of venomous snakes (part of me wants to see one but I don’t want to get close enough to know if it’s venomous or not).  The park office did have a western massasauga rattlesnake in their care, which was pretty neat.

Top of the valley
Top of the valley

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Today, we went into Boiling Springs State Park for a short hike and to see the springs.  They are by no means “boiling” the way that the name implies.  However, the cool water bubbles up from the ground to give the illusion of boiling water.  It was beautiful but not what we expected.  We had chosen not to stay at this campground when we came into the area and, though it was beautiful, we made the right choice.

“Reflection Pool” in Boiling Springs
Nice woods during the hike
Nice woods during the hike

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Our campground in Alabaster Caverns is much smaller and so far, we have been the only campers.  Tonight is our last night here and we just got neighbors.  After our hike, we went on a cave tour in our state park.  It was awesome!  It is the largest gypsum cave in the world that does tours and one of three places in the entire world that has black alabaster.  There are several “wild” caves—caves that do not have tours but you can get a permit to go spelunking—in the area but many of them were closed down because the bats are going into hibernation and they are more active inside the caves (which we saw on our tour).

Entrance to the cave
Entrance to the cave
In the mouth of the cave
In the mouth of the cave-last collapse was in 2012
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Bat
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Crawling through a tighter spot (a little detour from the normal tour)
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Like a flock of birds, a murder of crows, or a gaggle of geese, this is a “cloud” of bats! There were a lot of them flying around the cave (and close to our heads) and a lot of guano!

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The cave tours are pretty popular on the weekends and the last two days they’ve had quite a bit of traffic.  It has been fun but we leave tomorrow for our next site which will be in New Mexico.  We will see what our next stop has in store for us!

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