If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Oklahoma has mountains!

Eastern that is, for sure - and we knew that, we did a trip one Thanksgiving for some 15 miles once. This past weekend we planned a 22 mile loop, and a 15 mile out-n-back with possible add-on 8-mile loop. What a trip it has been!

We arrived to Talihina, a hole in the wall kind of place, on Friday morning, and tried to find a place for the night before hitting the state park. The town has 2 motels ("rough" would be a good description), both fully booked - and then some kind local soul pointed us towards a B&B Hootie creek house. We lucked out on a room! And what a great thing it was! - but this will come later.

We drove to the Talihina state park for the journey beginning at mile marker 1 for the Oauchita trail.

The hike started pretty mildly with words "Any trail is better than Central Texas trail!", but soon rocks become more and more prominent, and between those and my body being in non-responding to running phase that day, we resolved to hike (if not all, than most of it). As a side note, we did some jogs (regulated by me) here and there, but it might have accounted for 20% of the whole loop.

The first 8 miles provided the most elevation gain, but it also was responsible for the best views.

But pretty soon, between weather being warm and very humid, watching the rocks under feet, the trail being hugely overgrown (and included lots of poison ivy), breaking spiderwebs, and all the little buzzing and biting bugs, we were not taking many photos, had pretty grumpy faces, and each tried to keep to ourselves to not open the floodgate for the complains. We both also had forgotten how to work the hiking/walking muscles, my shoes were really bad for walk/rock combo and I developed blisters rather soon, and we were underestimated on water carrying. Yeah, it was going to be a long day...

But, this route being a loop, a shortcut was not possible (trust me, by mid-way we would have taken it hands down), and at mile 11 we finally began expressing some whining - knowing we got half-way done (although looking at the watch did not give us good feeling).

There was some better stretches in a section between mile 11 and 14, and we shuffled some, then walked a lot on/near creek-bed as trail twisted and mosquitoes were trying to eat us alive...We shared sips of water, gels and some nuts and kept thinking that this was a great wake-up call for our upcoming circumnavigation of Mt. Rainier on Wonderland trail (93 miles) we plan to do in September. Lots of hiking training to be done! And it is very different from running...

At some point we were crossing a dirt road (old military trail) and Larry consulted the map to realize we can parallel the trail for a mile and save some feet from rock - and get some however small wind/air movement by taking it. This brought smiles on our faces! So much for "trail runners!

Too soon this pleasure was over and we were back in stiff wet air and overgrown single track fighting bugs, dead and alive.
At the last asphalt road crossing I made Larry to stare at the map some more (as I made a quick trip down the beginning of the last 1.5M trail section and back) and demanded that even though the road is a highway with cars going 65 mph cutting turns and longer by almost a mile, we are taking it! Yeah, I know...but this allowed us to actually run last 2 miles in, and we made it back to the park with a time of 7 hrs for the loop, to a shower (yay, state park!), cold beer and a great conversation with a ranger/keeper.

The B&B we stayed at deserves a whole separate post I won't be writing, but if you ever decide to venture to Eastern OK/Oachita mountains, stop by there. Folks from Dallas purchased this old run-down previous hotel (in disarray conditions) in 2002 as an estate sale for $10,000. They kept coming for 2 years EVERY weekend and repairing, remodeling, taking down to studs, throwing old crap, re-wiring...and in 2004 they opened for business 5 (ONLY! out of 29 previous) rooms (they live in part of the building, have some rooms as a museum kind of thing for local history, and the rest as storage). The hotel was appraised for $800,000 last year. A great example of hard work, great vision, a plan and amazing patience and believe.

We were so amazed, had fantastic and personable conversations (and a tour, and a breakfast!), enjoyed modernized rooms with showers and TV and WiFI (something East Coast B&B's usually don't offer), common areas, great porch, outdoors sitting garden, diner...Really made for an awesome morning, which slowly, as time ticked away, made our resolve of a second day hike/run from 15M down to 8M down to 5M walk...until we bagged the whole thing, and took a drive to further end of the park to just simply enjoy the views, check out the area where Fat Ass (Oauchita Switchback 50k) in January takes place (much better footing!), run into a big number of turtles crossing the roads (apparently, OK is famous for that), and be clean on our way to Tulsa's best yarn store Loops - where I went slightly crazy, as I often do:).

Next day we spent with Larry's mom in Claremore, OK, chilling, knitting, eating and talking. We were back home by Sunday evening, to catch up on household chores, enjoy Austin's downpour, and relax, before going back to work.
Next on agenda - I have a trip to Portland, OR, my former home, for friends-visiting, Gorge-soul-running and participating in 25km race my old friend James Varner puts on.

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