In 2006, I started practicing yoga. The minute my feet touched my mat, I was in love and I knew I would practice yoga for the rest of my life. One of my favorite things to do with my fellow yogis was to hike. Twice a year, in the Spring and Fall, we would take a hike to a beautiful spot in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Once there, we would do some yoga and have a picnic. I always looked forward to those hikes and I wanted to hike at other times, but I never actively pursued it.
In 2012, my husband got me a nice camera for Christmas and I immediately started thinking of where I could go exploring. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is located just north of Lawton, Oklahoma, which is where we live. So that was a natural starting point. Although we have lived here for more than two decades, I am sorry to admit that I rarely spent time in the Refuge. Of course, I had been to Mt. Scott multiple times. It’s a well-known tourist attraction. But I had never ventured much further than that, other than to go to the Visitor’s Center a couple of times. On April 9, 2013, I grabbed my camera and headed to the Refuge. I spent the day going to Mt. Scott and the Holy City, wandering up and down Highway 49 from the east entrance of the Refuge to the Visitor’s Center. It was a spectacular day and I was hooked. The Refuge was now officially in my blood. I had my beautiful Border Collie Sasha with me that day and she loved the adventure as well.
That day started the adventure and I returned as often as I could. But I eventually got bored with Mt. Scott, the Holy City, and that particular stretch of Highway 49. So one day, I stopped at the Visitor Center (which is always a good restroom break as well) and I approached the front desk. I asked the volunteer working the desk if there were any other places to explore in the Refuge besides Mt. Scott and the Holy City. She looked at me like I had lost my mind. Then she pulled out a map and opened a whole new world to me. I got back into my car and promised myself that as I was driving, I would turn down any road that I found and explore.
That day, I explored Quannah Parker Lake, Boulder and Lost Lake, and Sunset. Then I turned by the Refuge Headquarters onto Indiahoma Road. I knew this would lead me past the Treasure Lake Jobs Corp and out the west entrance of the Refuge. It’s a beautiful drive and as I approached the Jobs Corp, I knew that my day was about to end. I passed a road on my right and then remembered my promise to myself: explore all roads. So I backed up and turned down the road that was marked Treasure Lake/Post Oak Lake. I parked in the lot at the end of the road, grabbed my backpack and started hiking directly across the rocks. For the record, I do not hike alone. It is dangerous and I am very aware of that. However, I will go a short distance by myself (dependent on the terrain). After just a minute of walking, I came into view of Post Oak Lake and my world changed again. Something about this place just calms me. I hiked down from the top to a flat rock overlooking the lake, removed my backpack, sat down and began to meditate. Then I did a quick yoga practice. I had not felt that peaceful in a very long time.
That was August 2013. Over the next year or so, I returned to Post Oak Lake as often as possible. It is my sanctuary away from everything – my place to think, cry, meditate, practice yoga, and revel in the sheer beauty of nature and of the Refuge. But even with this, I yearned for more. I wanted to see more of the Refuge. The Friends of the Wichitas is an awesome volunteer group that does so much for the Refuge. One of the things they do is lead hikes on Saturday mornings. But I have yoga class on Saturday mornings, so that really isn’t a great option. I did go on an anniversary hike with them in April 2014 and I will detail that in a separate blog post.
Fast forward eight years from the time I started practicing yoga. I am now co-owner of a yoga studio and a certified yoga teacher. I own the studio with my BYF (best yoga friend) Michelle. One day it finally struck my dense skull to ask Michelle if she wanted to go hiking with me. She immediately agreed and we have been on three hikes so far this year. I will detail each of those in separate posts. One night a few weeks ago, I was working on something in WordPress and the thought popped into my head that I should start a hiking blog. I don’t know if anyone will ever read these words. If not, that’s okay. It will be my own personal record of my adventures. But if you are reading this, I hope it will open your eyes to what is around you in nature. And if you ever find yourself in Southwest Oklahoma, take the time to explore the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. You will not be sorry! It is a place of extraordinary beauty and peace.