Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mena, AR and the Talimena Trail

When we left Louisiana, we were headed to Oklahoma, but on the way I wanted to stop and show Max one of the prettiest areas in southeastern Oklahoma.  Many people think of Oklahoma being flat and only having wheat fields, but that is so far from reality.  Only in the central and northwestern part of the state do you have flatlands and wheat fields.  We have hills (they are actually called mountains, but I refrain since they can't compare to the Rockies and the likes), lakes, sand dunes, caves and waterfalls.  And we even have some of the most beautiful fall colors around.  Every fall people drive the Talimena National Scenic Byway, a 50 mile trip through the Ouachita Mountains from Mena, AR, to Talhina, OK. 

Most of the 50 mile byway runs along a ridge.  I'm at one of the higher lookouts and looking behind me and down of the scenic drive.

It is 50 miles of breathtaking views.  Now everything is green, but in the fall, the colors run from green to yellow to orange to red, all at the same time.  It doesn't get any prettier.

These mountains have been traveled for years.  Orginally by the native Indians who lived here before we forced all the eastern Indians out here.  Even in 1832 the military was making roads through this area.

The area was nicknamed Winding Stair Mountains because of the winding, steep roads needed to traverse through the area.

Natural Springs throughout the area attracted not only the wildlife and early people, but once the area became settled, also drew the outlaws.  The area was so wild, the outlaws could escape in the area and hide out easily, but springs like this drew them to a central location.

I didn't drink out of it, but the water is still flowing.  The structure around the spring was built by a 1930s CCC camp.  You can see remains of their improvements throughout the drive.  They built shelters and even a campground which still exists.

Smokey Bear had just finished giving a talk to a group of school kids, but he agreed to let us get a picture with him.  

We missed the ranger show about raptors, but here this hawk is just enjoying being out of his cage.

This is one creature I wouldn't want to meet up with along the trails.  He tried to cross the road and didn't make it.  And no, we did not hit him, we found him like this.  

There was a dispute on the state line marker. Before Arkansas and Oklahoma were states, this area was originally given to the Choctaw Indians when they were forced here from their original homes in Mississippi and further east.  A survey marker from 1825 was discovered in 1877 to have been placed too far west, taking 136,000 acres away from what rightfully belonged to the Choctaw Indians per the treaty of 1820.  It took years of dispute and negotiations before the Choctaws were compensated for the loss of this land.  Even today, there is still dispute about the correct boundary lines.


The Rich Hill Fire Tower.  The original fire tower was only a platform on top of a pine tree.  It was replaced with a wooden tower in 1910.  Somewhere in the 1920s it was replaced with another tower and again in the 1940s.  This tower was built in the 1950s and was in use until the 1970s.  This information came from the signs on site, which is slightly different from what online info says.  A few interesting facts about this tower, it is 65 ft tall, but on top of Rich Hill (altitude 2681), it is the 2nd highest point in Arkansas.  When volunteers are available during the summer months, you can climb the tower for a view of the Ouchita Mountains.  In was still early May and no volunteers were there to let us climb the tower.
Our sightseeing is over and it's time to head to Ft. Gibson to see my kids and grandkids.

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