Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Oklahoma's Highest Elevation
I had a great Memorial Day yesterday. After celebrating the Holy Mass in the morning, I hit the road heading an hour and a half west to Kenton, Oklahoma, in order to hike the Black Mesa. At 4,973 feet above sea level, the Black Mesa is Oklahoma's highest point. Also nearby are some fossilized dinosaur tracks in a dried up creek bed. The information about the Mesa provided by the State Park indicates that one should allow 4 hours to hike up the Mesa and back, at a fairly constant pace. I had tried to hike the Mesa last year, but I did not realize of the time requirements and so I didn't have the time to do it.

I made the hike with a parishioner at one of my parishes in Boise City, Oklahoma (about 35 miles or so from the Mesa). I have to say, this parishioner's presence made the hike a lot more adventurous than I probably would have pulled off by myself. I think I would have simply followed some trail the distance of the 4.2 miles to the summit of the Mesa. Instead, we basically climbed straight up the mesa and had to do some rock climbing to accomplish the goal of getting to the summit. I admit, there was one point where I was convinced that I was going to loose my footing, fall off the rock and tumble to my death. It was one of those "no turning back moments" where your ambition and pride have managed to get you into a situation where it is just as precarious to try to go back down as it is to keep moving up. I kept struggling to readjust my footing (there weren't many options of places to put my feet) and I kept trying to find better hand holds in the rocks. Finally, with my foot in a terribly awkward incline, hugging the rock tight, and pulling myself up, I managed to keep my footing and move to a better location.

It was a great day. It had rained quite a bit the evening and morning before the hike, so temperatures were mercifully less high. The skies were very overcast, but it was worth sacrificing some of the view from the Mesa's top, in order to skip out on the sun's heat. Oh, and there was an added bonus: No Prarie Rattlesnakes were seen or encountered! Signs at the trailhead and stories from locals all communicate the same thing: the Prarie Rattler is the most venemous of the rattlesnakes and a rather hostile creature. After finishing the hike, I went back to the parish in Boise City and as I gazed upon the statue of Mary standing on the serpent, I couldn't help but think that she had protected her boys that day.

We made the roundtrip hike in 3 hours and 15 minutes, with a few nice breaks to catch the breath and take in the view. I will post some pictures below. I'm not sure they will show very well, due to the overcast skies yesterday.

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