TRIP DETAILSSince Paul M. started living in the middle of Oklahoma several months back, he has found it to not be a mecca of peakbagging. I was hoping to change that. I put together a plan to get easy peaks and county highpoints in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas over Easter weekend. We not only reached the goals for what could be considered an aggressive itinerary, we even were able to visit some other sites along the way.
We left OKC early on Saturday morning, heading east. Our first stop was Buffalo Mountain, which is a CoHP, P1K, and existing fire lookout site. We passed several hang-glider camps along the way, and Paul made sure to take care of his geocache fix while on the peak. We then continued east, visiting other former fire lookout sites along the way. We also visited multiple contenders for the LeFlore CoHP, during which our readings showing a rocky spine above a thorny briar patch being the highest point in the county. We continued east into Arkansas, where we stopped at the highest point of Polk County, Rich Mountain. It is a CoHP, P1K, and existing fire lookout site.
We then headed northwest, back into Oklahoma. We drove up Cavanal Mountain, a P1K near the town of Poteau. We walked to the former lookout site as well as the mountain highpoint. From there, we drove east back into Arkansas. We drove up Poteau Mountain, a "two-fer" CoHP, P1K, and former lookout site. After walking around the area, taking photos and other readings, we continued on our trip. We had enough time to visit Petit Jean Mountain, the Yell CoHP, P1K, and former lookout site... but it would be in the dark. We tromped around in the woods for a bit, finding the true highpoint and the footings from the original lookout. We then headed northwest to first-class lodging for the evening... car-camping at a Walmart parking lot.
The next morning, we headed northeast to Magazine Mountain, the Arkansas State Highpoint. I visited the mountain at the end of 2007 but was willing to go back so Paul could enjoy a visit. After reaching the highpoint, we headed to the still-standing fire lookout tower located atop the west peak of Magazine Mountain. These were fun repeat trips for me, as my first trip was solo and in a snowstorm while this recent visit had the company of a friend and fabulous weather.
After leaving Magazine Mountain, we headed north. During our drive, we rounded a corner and saw a tall fire lookout tower on a nearby peak. "Look at that!" Paul exclaimed. "We're going there!" And a few minutes later, we located the open road leading to the lookout tower atop a peak called Devils Knob. From there, we continued north and visited multiple highpoints atop Garlands Knob, the highpoint of Johnson County. From there, we visited a bunch of contenders for Newton County and Madison County. Ultimately, our readings deduced the highest point of Newton County being a cow pasture hill... although we enjoyed visiting Buffalo Lookout, another contender. Our CoHP completion in Newton County marked our completion of the Arkansas "High Five"... visiting the five highest counties in the state. In Madison County, we found the highest ground within a recently burned forest north of the highway.
We then ventured south into Franklin County. The highest peak has been debated between Hare Mountain and Whiting Mountain. After visiting multiple areas on these two peaks, we deduced Whiting Mountain has the highest ground... possibly by as much as 40' in elevation. However, I thought Hare Mountain was the more interesting peak to visit, with odd cliffbands and hunters' paths encountered. We then headed out. Scanning our maps, we found an old lookout location, White Rock Mountain, located to the west. The peak is the centerpiece of White Rock Recreation Area, which is administered by the U.S. Forest Service. A tower stands at the fenced-in summit area behind the caretaker's house... but it is a communications tower. The original fire lookout had been removed long ago. However, a massive stone water tower still remains. The caretaker was surprised by our impromptu visit but we were respectful and courteous enough that she gave us a rare opportunity to see the summit USGS Benchmark. We got the impression that few visitors ever see it, as it required a trip through the house to get there.
We then headed southwest to Fort Smith, where we arrived just in time to see the new "Batman v. Superman" movie. It was OK, not great but not bad. We then headed west back into Oklahoma, stopping at the Sallisaw Walmart for first-class overnight car-camping accommodations. The next morning, we headed north and visited Long Ridge, the Sequoyah CoHP. Then we drove west to the Cookson Hills State Game Refuge to visit Beaver Mountain, the Cherokee CoHP, P1K, and existing fire lookout site. My beta told to go by the game refuge headquarters but our maps showed direct roads reaching the peak from elsewhere. We parked near a gate and hiked up ~700' gain and 1.8 miles to the top. It was great seeing yet another fire lookout tower. With that said, we here in the Northwest are spoiled... we have so many different types of fire lookouts to enjoy, not mainly metal Aermotor types such as found in many areas of the USA. During our descent, we encountered a game warden, who informed us that we were supposed to have a permit to visit the game refuge. He let us off with a warning because we were new to the area and there were no postings along our route. He also mentioned something else: if we had continued driving to the game refuge headquarters we could have driven up a then-open road to the summit and saved a lot of time. Oh, well. We then headed back to OKC for lunch and to catch my flight. When we neared OKC, Paul showed me a fire lookout tower standing in the back lot of an auto dealership. Weird but fascinating.
TRIP STATISTICS-> Nearly 1000 miles driven
-> Over 20 objectives accomplished
-> One State Highpoint (Arkansas)
-> 13 County Highpoints (4 in OK, 9 in AR)
-> 8 P1Ks
-> 12 existing and former fire lookout sites
-> No ticks, cougars, snakes, or wild boars
-> Poison ivy just barely sprouting up (whew!)