Saturday, October 01, 2011

Way Out West

We spent the past week in western Oklahoma. FAR western Oklahoma- Cimarron County, the western-most county in the Panhandle to be exact, and in the western half of the county, at that.

My parents were both Oklahoma natives, so as a child, I spent a fair amount of time traveling to Oklahoma to visit relatives, and those experiences are a story for another day. Suffice it to say,  I thought I knew Oklahoma, and I wasn't particularly impressed.

In recent years, as T and I have had occasion to travel across the state for one reason or another, I have been interested to note how well the Oklahoma tourism people are promoting the state's many natural and cultural features. A trip across I-44 a few years ago had me thinking, "I'd like to visit THIS place some time."

No one ever told me about Cimarron County, though. It's high, high plains on the eastern half, and the gateway to New Mexico on the western half, with rocky hills and mesas. We are camped at Black Mesa State Park, which is smack on the dividing line. We came in on the southeastern entrance, which was mostly flat and straight. When we leave through the northwestern gate, we see one mesa after another. It's really beautiful.

And remote.The locals have cell phone service, but it does not support roaming from any other services. We have to drive about fifteen miles before we start picking up a signal from the county seat. It feels a little strange to be this far removed from phone service, to say nothing of wi-fi, but we've adjusted.

We came here for the Okie-Tex Star Party, which is held a few miles from the New Mexico state line. Most days, we have taken a little side trip to see some of the surrounding country. T was born in the southwest, and he says the landscape reminds him of his early years in New Mexico.

Today , we walked the little nature trail in the park, and kept hiking up to the high, rocky bluff. Up there, T saw this spider on the path. It went on about its business while we took our photos.

Brother Spider

And now, a public service announcement on behalf of the good people of Cimarron County, who have been lovely hosts to us. Apparently, the governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, has never visited Cimarron County. The local newspaper runs her picture on the front page, asking, "Have you seen lthis woman?"

Governor Fallin, you really need to visit Cimarron County. It's beautiful and peaceful, and the residents have a fantastic spirit. Every year, the good people of the county welcome astronomers from all over the country to enjoy Oklahoma's beautiful dark skies and warm hospitality. If you cannot figure out how to shake some hands, and make a speech about the grandeur of the earth below and heavens above in your state's most remote gateway, then you do not deserve to be a politician.

It would also be nice if you could get one of your tourism people to come take a look at the sign at Black Mesa, the highest point in the state. The front of the sign was very informative, but the plastic covering the back side was so yellowed that the information was completely unreadable. Maybe YOU don't care about the condition of your state parks, but some of us do.

1 comment:

Bernie said...

Maybe the Guv has never visited the area because she's seen the spiders.

Don't forget to look down once in a while while you're looking up at the stars.