Change of Seasons, 06/25/17

Summer has come to the Refuge and that means four things: extreme heat, ticks, chiggers, and snakes. I hate all of those things, so Summer is definitely not my favorite time to hike. Michelle and I started out at 7:30 am and headed back to Quanah Parker Dam to finish the hike we were forced to abort last Sunday due to rain. When we arrived, it was fairly cloudy and still relatively cool, but that didn’t last.

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Quanah Parker Lake with beautiful clouds.

We headed across the dam and took a left turn in order to explore the area on the west side of the creek. The vibrant beauty of Spring has definitely faded into the washed-out landscape of Summer, and that makes me truly sad. There are still some wildflowers – Coreopsis, Thelasperma, Sabatia, Indian Paintbrush, Painted Blanket, and a few others. But the intensity of color no longer exists. The harsh Oklahoma sun has bleached the landscape, and the heat is taking its toll. While the yellows and reds have faded, the purple flowers remain vibrant: Lemon Monarda, Russell’s Horsemint, and American Star Thistle are still beautiful and abundant. March through November provide a plethora of wildflowers, so there is usually something blooming at all times. But April and May are the stars of the wildflower season and May was especially beautiful this year. I am sad to see it go, but I am grateful to have witnessed it.

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American Star Thistle
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Barrel Cactus – the color is so vibrant.
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Michelle in Chair Pose getting a wildflower assist!

Despite being hot, sweaty, and generally miserable, we explored the area to the south of Little Baldy. I hiked this area twice with Bill, Dolores, and Maggie last month, but had not hiked it with Michelle, so it was nice to see things from her perspective. Of  course, being so hot, she just wanted shade. Not a lot of that to be had around Little Baldy until you reach the north side of the mountain. We slowly worked our way to the west side of Little Baldy and came upon two turkeys out for a Sunday stroll.

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Best turkey friends (BTFs) hiking together

Once we reached the north side of the mountain, we headed down toward the woods that separate Camp Doris from Little Baldy. The shade was definitely welcomed, although it was short-lived as the wooded area eventually emerges into the open on the south side of Quanah Parker Lake.

We reached the car after an hour and a half of exploring, and I cranked up the A/C. It was only 10 am, so we grabbed the snack that smiles back and took a drive through the Refuge. As we approached Camp Doris, there was a car stopped on the opposite side of the road. We quickly found the reason for their stop was four beautiful deer grazing along the side of the road. This was the high point of the morning for me!

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When we drive through the Refuge, we usually check out certain areas each time. We followed part of the usual pattern today and drove through the Sunset Picnic Area parking lot, then down Indiahoma Road to Post Oak Lake and back again. When we passed Bat Cave Mountain, there were multiple Fish and Wildlife vehicles parked in the turnout. Michelle saw several hikers on the mountain as they were heading to a remote site to get rid of graffiti. I will honestly never understand why people do things like that. Fortunately, they found a spray paint can that the idiots left behind and there are apparently fingerprints in the paint. Hope they are caught!

Of course, no visit to the Refuge is complete without a stop at the visitor center for a visit with Donna and Randy. While there, we also take advantage of the facilities, check out the latest art exhibit, and check the Nature Store for new shirt arrivals. They have so many great shirts lately, but I seriously need a third job to pay for all of them! After a good visit, we headed home safe in the knowledge that there was a nap in the future for each of us. That sun really zaps the energy out of you!

The change of seasons is not always easy or welcome, but it’s inevitable. Each season on the Refuge brings something different, and each season means something different to the people who hike there. Some people love to hike in the heat, while others prefer hiking in the cold. Personally, Spring is my favorite. The temperatures are perfect and the wildflowers are vibrant and plentiful. Babies are being born and starting to explore their new world. Following their own paths, or at least the paths that their parents choose for them until they are old enough to choose their own path. To each his own and isn’t that one of the things that makes life great?! See you on the trail, but please hurry up and get here Autumn!

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