Okie Adventures: Fossil Hunting in the Arbuckles

The Arbuckles has, by happenstance, become the theme for our 2012 summer getaways. Of course, I told you about our anniversary trip in Sulphur. What I did not mention was two other trips to the Arbuckles.

About a month after we returned from Sulphur, my in-laws wanted to drive down with us on a scouting expedition so they could decide if they wanted to take a longer trip there this fall. We scouted out cabins at Lake Murray, and also scouted out the Arbuckle Wilderness, Turner Falls, and on-the-way casinos before we asked them to take us to Rusty Nail Winery. Like us, they also fell in lust with Rusty Nail and their huge selection of delicious beverage.

But that’s not all. Around this same time, one of my buddies, Constance of Master of My Dark Twisted Make Believe, tells me that her son has been obsessed with fossils for the past several months. Everywhere she takes him, he picks up rocks, declares them to be fossils, and tells her that he’s going to be famous for his discovery. Well, I say, why don’t you take him somewhere that he is actually going to find fossils? That could be fun. She says, yes, that would be fun, and you should take us there. 

Wikimedia Commons


Ammonite in a creek bed near Lake Murray

So. I think, where did I find fossils in Oklahoma? Why, in the Arbuckles, of course. And where else can you find fossils in Oklahoma? I don’t know. An internet search shows me that Black Mesa is also a good potential place, but there is no way that I am going to Black Mesa in July. My skin would boil. Central Oklahoma is hot and sunny enough for me, thank you. So back to the Arbuckles we go.

I print up directions for us, and for the boy I print out some fossil info to study in the car. I explain to him that Oklahoma was once an ocean, and the fossils we will find will all be sea creatures. I show him pictures of what to expect. I totally forget to bring my camera. I know, I’m bad. So bad.

In order to give him 100% success rate, we take him to WhiteMound first. It’s a pay-to-dig limestone deposit on a private ranch; just getting there and finding the place was an adventure in itself. The boy seemed a bit nervous and amazed as the car drove through the tall grass and huge grasshoppers burst out in all directions. We made jokes about charging cattle and took great care in opening and closing the gates. Finally we found the dig site, and it was awash with brachiopods. We collected a ton of them! They were everywhere. I had high hopes of finding a trilobite, but alas, no luck. The rascally trilobite still eludes me.
Brachiopod found at White Mound, from Wikimedia Commons

When we got tired of this spot, we head towards the car, and the boy finds the one fossil of the day from White Mound that was not a brachiopod. I have no idea what it was. Boy was excited. He snuggled up to it in the back seat, a content grin on his face when we told him that might be his famous discovery!

On the way back into town we stop at a roadside blast way. You know… where the hills were blown open to make room for the road to go through? So that all the strata are exposed? I thought it would be good to look for fossils *there*, and maybe more exciting, since it wasn’t a sure-thing-finding, but an adventure-finding. I climbed up the ledge and tried to locate the fossil strata as quick as I could so I could then help them out with finding it… after a few minutes I found some fossils along a line where the rock changed from white to orange. I found some cool things there! Some coral and a sea urchin, crinoid bits and other smatterings… but the boy had cut his finger on the shale and it was hot outside, so we wrapped up the fossil hunt and went to lunch. After that we had a quick dip in the Chickasaw Recreation Area. (I tried to show the boy how to go upstream along the bank, then stand still and find fish. Sunfish and mosquito fish eventually came out to investigate our toes. I don’t know if he cared about all that, but I had a good time!)

We were back home in time for dinner. Thus ends another summertime adventure in the Arbuckles.

As a side note, I’ve also had success in fossil hunting around Lake Murray. I saw some nice ammonites in that area, and a ton of crinoid stem segments. Finding those places again, however, would probably be pure luck. Might be half the fun I guess?


Pictures Without Pictures

A post at Rogue Priest’s blog started me thinking about the whole process of picture taking. I’m not fond of taking pictures, but I do it anyway and occasionally enjoy the results. I only take photos for you. Or for family or friends. I take photos specifically to share experiences with others, simply a means to an end, and when I’m done, if I’m lucky, I enjoy them in the same way I’d enjoy any other piece of art. 

I don’t like taking pictures because the action of taking them distracts me from the experience – scenery through a viewfinder or LCD screen never does the real world justice. It’s tiny, and there’s no sense of depth or immersion. Being there, using my own eyes, is what I live for. I don’t know if I’ll remember the scenery perfectly without a picture, but I do know that I will enjoy it more right now if I’m not messing with a camera.

My memories are called up more by feeling and sound than anything else.  I hear that smell is common for this, but my own sense of smell has always been inconsistent and inaccurate. I find taste difficult to recall long-term. Thus, feeling and sound make up my memories and internal photographs. I always share my traditional-style photographs. Today I’ll share my personal-style photographs.

  • Oklahoma’s Potato Hills are the feel of tiny bits of shale sliding away beneath my sneakers; I slide one step backwards for every two steps forward. Tiny pieces of stone tinkle down, down, down the hillside.
  • The Fourche Maline Creek is soggy sneakers slipping over boulders in shallow, cool water.  Tree branches rattle in the wind.
  • Robbers Cave is hearing voices echoing off of boulders and hillsides, knowing they are close even though they sound far away. Feeling that if I were to get lost, I’d probably be found, yet I wouldn’t mind if I stayed “lost”.
  • Standing atop Winding Stair Mountain is arms wide open, sunset wind on my face.
  • The Wichita Mountains feel rough and scratchy – rough rocks, scratchy short-grass prairie.
  • At Blue River, the water trickles a calming sound. I feel peacefully alone in the world.
  • Hiking in the Ouachitas during the summer is the feel of absolute tree-blocked stillness, even though branches whisper overhead. Leaves crunch under foot. Once in a while, a puff of wind breaks through the vegetation to cool me, and I cheer.
  • Alabaster Caverns is cool and moist, a tiny flutter of excitement in my chest.
  • My earliest camping trip memory is a hot breeze through a tent flap with cicadas whirring and my cousin snoring.
  • Road trips from my younger days are windows down, fast wind rushing across my shoulders, my feet, my hands, throat raw from singing into the wind.
  • Christmas is cold cheeks and hot hands when I come in from outside to a hot mug of cocoa or tea.
  • I remember my first date with my husband as laughter, mosquito bites, and falling up into the stars.
  • Costa Rica is spongy moist ground beneath me; Howler monkeys and slurping fungus sound in my ears.
  • Baja California is a sense of slow but constant travel, the brightness of the sun on my eyelids.
  • Ireland is a fine mist and the crash of the Atlantic on rocky cliffs. The most perfect feeling of "a place for everything, and everything in its place" that I've ever had.
  • Alaska is more of a feeling in my chest, an opening, a catching of the breath.
  • New Mexico was also a feeling – a feeling of unending.
  • The Grand Canyon was a feeling of being tiny.
  • Meteor Crater, Arizona? The feeling of being a babe on an ancient earth, spinning through space.

Parting words...
My photograph of Oklahoma itself is the electric, earthy smell of a hard rain (one of my only smell memories), the crack of thunder, the vibration of the thunder in my bones, the sounds of water falling on pavement and pouring out of gutters, cool fat drops of rain plopping onto my skin without chilling me, bare feet in deep warm puddles, a fragrant, wet breeze welcomed through a screen door. I’m sure there are fantastic storms like this in other places, but I’ve only experienced them in my home state, and I love them truly.


Sunday Hike at Bluff Creek

The family and I went for a hike at Bluff Creek Sunday morning. I thought of you guys and considered bringing the camera, but it was threatening rain and I decided it was best to leave it at home. Resultingly, all pictures you will see come from another source, credited in the captions.

From singletracks.com
All the years I've lived in OKC, and I only recently heard about the Bluff Creek trail. You can find the trail on Meridian just north of Hefner Road.  The trail is 3.5 miles on a (usually) narrow dirt path that winds in and out of dense vegetation. Almost the entire trail is shaded; some of the trail is a leafy tunnel. You can sometimes see Bluff Creek off to the side. This trail is well marked. It goes up and down in small increments of elevation, over short plank bridges and logs, and winds back and forth, sometimes tracking back on itself. This, along with the shade, makes it an interesting, comfortable (yay shade), pretty route. It is my new favorite in-city hike. It took about two hours to complete, hiking at what felt like a decent clip. I don't think I'd want to hike it any faster unless I was jogging! Or at the very least travelling without dogs.

From Singletracks.com
This trail is created and maintained by the Oklahoma Earthbike Federation, and is popular among dirt bikers, so when on the trail make sure to be wary of bikers coming up from behind you and politely let them by.  If you are impressed with the trail you may consider some way of showing your appreciation for those who made the trail for you - making a small donation or at least dropping them a line to say thank you could be nice.


Blog Updates

I have made a few updates to the blog to make it easier to navigate.

First, I updated the tags in past posts with the categories.

Second, I changed the tags along the right hand column so that it lists only main category tags.

And third, I added an "About" page which explains the navigation and lists both the top five most popular posts and my personal favorites. (With links, of course.)

I hope this adds to your enjoyment and use of the website!


Random News Day

 Today shall be... random news and links day! 

Today in news from Yours Truly:

Belle Starr Land for Sale
I can't tell you for sure if this land contains Belle's grave or not, but it is at least adjacent to both the school she and her hubby funded and her burial site. 17 acres, with fishing on the lake all year. Imagine it! You! Living at Lake Eufala so near to Belle Starr's historical homestead! You could have historical tours, ghost story nights, an Outlaw Museum/Gift Shop/Cafe/Bed and Breakfast! Or you could just sit on your porch with a shotgun and cackle like the old men in Second Hand Lions.

Pros and Cons Public Hearings to be Held This Week on the Downtown Boulevard
I didn't even know there was a fuss over this project until I read the Gazette today, but the points of view are interesting and city planning is cool. Because it's like SIMs, except real. Imagine the city you want, help make it happen.

Thackerville Casino the Second Largest in the World??
Did you know this? Is this actually true?! Well, my father-in-law visited last weekend and wistfully discussed how he was missing his chance to see the "second largest casino in the world." I had no idea. Not in Vegas. Not in Dubai. In Thackerville! That's the rumor anyhow. Someone verify or defy this!

Oklahoma Renewable Energy Council Launches New Website
You may not find this exciting, but have you seen it? It's pretty nice! And promises to load up with even more good resources on renewable energy production. It also has a place to load meeting minutes and agendas so you can stay up to date without stepping foot in a pesky meeting. 

Your Home Will Soon Be Overrun by Giant Cantaloupes
Why? Because my cantaloupe vines are growing like freaks from a 1950s horror movie. Soon, they'll escape my yard and grow right into yours. Next, giant ants will attack, but Oklahoma will be safe because they'll be distracted by giant melons.

 PlanOKC Open House Posted Online
Did I mention that I find city planning exciting? Yep. Better than SIMs or Minecraft. More applied than your undergrad course work. See, like Merlin, into the future of your city! Then pretend to be the next Sylvia Browne, shock and amaze your friends with your stunning predictions. PlanOKC has been a fascinating stakeholder process all along, and last week had an update open house meeting and posted the plans' goals onto the website. You can see the presentation and read the document here.