Wichita Mountains Graduate Student Refuge
Charon's Garden Wilderness
I attended graduate school in Dallas between 2002-2006. Being born and raised in northern California, I am accustomed to life in or near the mountains. Adjusting to life far from any discernible terrain was very difficult for me. As they say, "in Texas, if you stand on a tuna can, you can see the curvature of the Earth." I remember my third week in Dallas, driving down Greenville Avenue thinking "what on earth have I done?" It was going to be four very long years...
Fortunately, I discovered Oklahoma's Wichita Mountains near the end of my first semester in Dallas. I will never forget my first camping trip there. I was backpacking in the Charon's Garden Wilderness, listening to the elk bugling. In the early evening, as the red cliffs reflected the sunset, a bison wandered through where I was camping. To think, this was only 3.5 hours from the Dallas Metromess! Over the rest of my 3.5 years in Texas, I went to the Wichitas as often as I could, usually once every other month, often more frequently. They were a grad student refuge, not just a wildlife refuge.
This past April, I returned to Dallas for the first time since I graduated in May2006. My best friend was getting married, so I finally had a compelling reason to return to Texas. After the wedding was over I hightailed up to Oklahoma, for one day back in the Wichita Mountains. I was amazed just how much I really missed these small, rugged mountains in the midst of the Oklahoma plains. Incidentally, over the course of the day, twice and miles apart from each location, I found myself in the middle of a rattle snake nest. In both instances there were several snakes curled under several rocks in a large area. It spooked me something fierce and I was lucky not to get bit both times. After all the trips I had taken to the Wichitas, I never had trouble with snakes until this trip.
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