TX vs. OK State Parks?
During the nearly 30 years we’ve lived in Texas, we’ve stayed at many of its state parks, but lately we’ve been exploring the state parks in Oklahoma. Several reasons for that, but mostly it’s due to the difference in pet policies. When we can, we travel with 5 animals: three cats (Hester, Dickie and Ermine) and two dogs (Winnie and Lois). TPWD (Texas Parks and Wildlife Department) does not allow pets inside its cabins – dogs and cats have to stay outside in a kennel, cat container or on a leash at all times. In the Oklahoma state parks, on the other hand, pets are welcome in the cabins, as long as you pay the $15/pet/night fee! Another big difference lies in the greater number of park personnel and correspondingly closer scrutiny paid by the TPWD to park visitors as compared to their OK counterparts. OK state parks have no entry fee and very reasonable rent and use charges, and their managers exhibit a much more laissez-faire attitude toward park users in general. So we ended up choosing a cabin in what we thought was going to be situated in Clayton Lake State Park, near the town of Clayton, in the Sans Bois Mountains of SE Oklahoma.
What we rented turned out not to be a state park cabin, but a last-minute “surprise” accommodation belonging to the Clayton Lake State Park ranger. It was his personal retirement home, built in 2008, and due to his delayed retirement had not yet been moved into. Built in a log-cabin design, it was much roomier and more luxurious than we had come to expect from the state park cabins we had rented in the past. While not at all on the grounds of Clayton Lake State Park (it was 12 miles N), it was a impressive upgrade from what we were expecting. Made of pine and cedar, this “cabin” had a huge kitchen area, all the modern conveniences, endless on-demand hot water from a tankless water heater system, 2 full baths with either shower or tub & shower, a huge second-story loft with 3 twin beds and 1/2 bath, a 360° porch AND a spectacular view of 43,300-acre Sardis Lake, some 3/4 of a mile below. Turned out to be a perfect spot for our “get-away” Spring Break week!
Marge, Claire, Frank and I spent our days visiting local sites, hiking the woods around the cabin, even once doing yoga on the porch. One afternoon was spent driving the Talimena National Scenic Byway in the Oklahoma portion of the Ouachita National Forest, a federal reserve straddling broad areas of Oklahoma and Arkansas. During that trip we hiked a section of the Old Military Trail, built by the US military in 1832 to connect Fort Smith, AR and Fort Towson, OK. The doggies really loved that day, since they got to lead!
On two different occasions we journeyed N to Robbers Cave State Park where the likes of Jesse James, Belle Starr and the Younger Brothers holed up while on the lam. And yes, there is a chain of (shallow) caves where they hid out, now a classic tourist trap with ranger-led tours. Robbers Cave also has three beautiful lakes, one of which (Lake Carlton) has canoes, paddleboats, kayaks and an “aqua-cat” available for rent. We rented both the first and the last watercraft on that list. In the evenings I either cooked in the cabin or we stopped at a restaurant on the way home, before watching a movie (Hacksaw Ridge, Dragnet). All in all a wonderful respite from the routine around here – highly recommended!
Enjoy the pictures!
HIKING OUR NEIGHBORHOD!
FIND THE DEER BLIND IN THESE NEXT 2 PICTURES!