6-27-04July 5 2004 at 12:25 PM
Response to Black Mesa, Oklahoma (4,973 feet)
The road trip for this summer had arrived. James and I would drive to the Oklahoma Panhandle in order to climb to the highest point in that state. The drive started from Fort Worth late in the afternoon. After the long drive through Texas, we crossed in the Oklahoma Panhandle late at night. In the far corner of the state was Black Mesa State Park. It was very early in the morning when we arrived in this area. Once we left west from Boise City, very little traffic was encountered in this isolated part of the country. When I got out of the car, every conceivable star as well as the Milky Way was visible. It had been a while since anything like that could be seen so clearly. Fortunately, that meant that the rains we encountered on the drive had ended. We napped in the car for a couple of hours before there was enough light outside to begin the hike. Then, we started to approach the mesa itself. The trail was flat for the first few miles. The land was dry with cactus, juniper, and some scrub brush. At least three types of cactus were present on this hike. There was prickly pear, a small barrel cactus, and another type that looked like some kind of spiked shrub. Some cattle were seen on the trail. One large cow and here calf blocked the trail in one location so that we had to go around. The sunrise from the East was nice as I looked back to view it. This whole area was known as the “Cimarron desert”, which resides in the county with the same name. A lot of other smaller mesas and bluffs were in this region to break up the flat land of the Great Plains. Black Mesa itself stretched several miles into New Mexico. Oklahoma only contained the eastern edge of this landform. At last, the trail climbed steeply up the mesa for a few hundred feet of elevation gain. At the top, the mesa looked like the prairie again. In the middle of it, everything appeared flat once more. The trail ended at a granite marker in the middle of the flat top area. This was indeed the top of Oklahoma. Each side of the marker indicated a direction and what was in that direction if you were to put your back to the marker. An elevation marker was fixed to the base of the monument and there was a register to sign. New Mexico itself was only ¼ mile away. The weather was good for the hike. The trip lasted a few hours. This part of the country was like the setting of a Western movie. It would be an interesting place even if it had not contained a state high point. In my opinion, the best views were from the edge of the mesa just after you climbed to the top. We did not encounter any snakes even though a lot of them are in this area. Back in the car, we decided to drive on to New Mexico and approach Taos. The road quickly entered the state just west of Kenton and followed the length of Black Mesa. Very few cars were along this desolate road (Highway 456). It began to rain again as the car approached the flank of the Rocky Mountains. From the east were the first views of Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in New Mexico. I had seen this view almost a year ago. Now, it was time to climb this mountain. Beyond Taos, we entered the Taos Ski Valley complex. The two trailheads (Bull of the Woods route, and Williams Lake route) were located. We would decide in the morning how to attempt this peak. A campsite was chosen in one of the campgrounds near the creek. We pitched the tents in the rain and then ate before going into the tents for a long rest. I hoped the weather would clear by the time it would be necessary to begin the challenge that now awaited us.