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.
Made our way by Black Mesa enroute from Austin, TX to a week in Colorado. Though normally prone to meticulous preparation, this trip was readied in about an hour and a half. As we headed for the tip of the Oklahoma panhandle, I was kicking myself for not printing out any information from this site or bringing my high point guide. Happily, the trailhead was easy to find relying only on roadside signs. Another result of our spur-of-the-moment departure was that I had it in my head that the round trip to the high point was about 4 miles. Discovering, on our arrival at the trialhead, that it was more than double that, we shrugged our shoulders, tossed in lots of extra water (which we fortunately had in the car) and headed off.
The hike was delightful - very flat and smooth except for the climb up onto the mesa itself. One of the things that I love about this pursuit is that it gives you the opportunity to see topography that you may not have visited otherwise. This was a classic example. The combination of the colorful mesas, the skies and the clouds were soul-stirring on this day. We topped out and visited with four Oklahomans come to experience their high point, at least one of whom was making a repeat visit. We all shared chips and salsa and fresh Texas grapefruits and enjoyed the vistas from the top. We traded picture taking duties and everyone posed with Sir Periwinkle, our next-door-neighbors' garden gnome, kidnapped for the trip. As dark clouds began to build we made a hasty exit back toward the trailhead.
GREAT high point! #27 for Ken, #21 for Melissa, and #11 for Lauren and Sierra, both age 12. (we don't count those that they did in utero). Later in the week we climbed Mt. Democrat, 14,148', in Colorado.
This was number three for myself and numero uno for my lovely wife Melissa. We were on our way to Breckenridge, CO for our annv. over Labor Day week coming from Dallas. We decided to drive up to Colorado instead of flying to experience the sites along the way.
After an early start on Saturday morning we made it through Amarillo and then north through Dalhart, TX toward Kenton, OK. We made it to Kenton at about 1:00 PM and stopped at "The Merc" for directions and a diet Coke. Alan was very helpful and talked with us for a bit, giving us some helpful hints about the hike. After that we left "The Merc" and reached the trailhead and were on our way to OK's state highpoint. We probably should have brought more water but in the end it was OK. The hike is a pleasant one that winds fairly flat to the north of Black Mesa till you come to the switchbacks. Here the trail goes up. It does not last for long but if you are not in good shape it will take a bit of effort. After the switchbacks it is a 15-20 minute walk to the highpoint marker. I want to thank the Tulsa newspaper for putting such a nice marker on their states highpoint. The hike back to the trailhead was uneventful except for the little horned lizard we saw getting back.
All in all it was a good trip, a little hot, but still a good trip and a good start for my wife. On to Mt. Sunflower, KS.
I made the hike to the highest point in Oklahoma on April 21, 2006. I traveled from Tulsa to Clayton NM and spent the night in order to get an early start the next day. The morning was clear and cool, with a bright quarter moon leading the way. I passed a herd of mule deer on the way to the trailhead, but otherwise, I was alone. The hike goes pleasantly along a well-marked trail until reaching the base of the mesa. A series of switchbacks allow access to the top of the mesa. The assent is moderate for a flat-lander, but is rather short. At the top of the mesa the hike again is flat and through grassland to the monument that marks the highpoint. The mesa extends to the west into New Mexico and the view from this vantage point is worth the effort. Be aware that the trail does not extend to this point and the footing is uneven on the volcanic rock. Cactus abounds and rattlesnakes have been seen in the area.
After signing the logbook and having a snack, I made the return trip, seeing antelope who were more curious of me than frightened. Overall, an interesting hike and one I will return to again. Next is Guadalupe Peak in Texas.
I had attended a meeting in Albuquerque, so I determined to visit Black Mesa on my way home to Missouri. I figured Wheeler Peak would still be snowbound in early March.
I spent the previous night in Clayton, N.M., on the high plains about an hour south of Black Mesa. From Clayton, I took NM-406 north, which becomes OK-325 upon entering the Sooner State. Passing through the hamlet of Kenton on a Sunday morning, the famous Mercantile was closed and a FOR SALE sign was in the window.
About a half-mile east of Kenton I turned north on a well-marked paved road that crosses the Cimarron River (you are in Cimarron County) and skirts the eastern end of the mesa. Just on the northeast corner of the mesa there is a cinder-surface parking area and informative signs marking the trailhead.
It is 4.2 miles from the trailhead to the summit monument. Seeeing as it was a chilly +42F, misting rain, and gusty, I layered up and set out on foot at 9:35a CDT. The trail is easy to follow, with helpful pointer signs where it intersects jeep roads. There is a working ranch not too far to the north. After walking west along the north base of the mesa for about three miles, at 10:20a I began the ascent (about 400 or 500 vertical feet in roughly half a mile), and reached the top of the mesa at 10:40a. From there you walk about a mile further west to the summit monument, which I reached at 11:02a CST.
It was windy and cold at the summit, so I took just a short break and a few snapshots as the clouds began to lift a little. The monument is very informative, and the fairly remote location has kept the summit area clean and relatively undisturbed.
I headed back to the trailhead at 11:15a, and met a father-son team from Texas who were just beginning their ascent of the escarpment. I reached the parking area at 12:40p CST to complete a round-trip of just over three hours. Then I saddled up the Solara and headed for the legendary Mount Sunflower.
Black Mesa is an excellent highpoint. It's a little out-of-the-way, but access is not difficult and the 8+ mile round-trip walk is within the ability of most hikers. In the middle of summer, in 100F+ heat and dodging rattlesnakes, I might not have found it so pleasant. 8-)
Did Black Mesa (after Magazine Mtn in Arkansas) on my way to San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico on a roadtrip in January,2001. Got to the trailhead in late afternoon with 2.5 feet of snow on the ground. As I was heading to the Sea of Cortez, I was woefully unprepared for the conditions at hand, but set off anyway. Actually made decent time postholing thru the snow. On top of the mesa, the wind chilled me rapidly, the featureless tableland was covered in white, the trail was burried, and route-finding nightmare ensued. Finally located the oblisk right at dusk then hoofed it via headlamp of the mesa and back down... by then the snow had re-frozen and my footprints were potentially ankle-snapping pitfalls... eventually made it out to the trailhead... exhausted,very cold, and actually scared (had I snapped that ankle...); but I was also exhillerated!
In Kenton, Alan was still open and so he invited me in to warm up. Got my completion certificate,which I still PRIZE. Having done Hood in the winter, an overnight at Mt. Marcy in January, and others like Cotopaxi and Chimborazo in the Andes, this is still an unforgetable adventure and perhaps my most memorable HP.
I'm looking forward to getting back and doing Black Mesa as a HIKE... the way it should be... on a trip out West with my girlfriend this May/June.