Saturday, May 31, 2014

Black Mesa State Park

We drove north out of Santa Fe and into the panhandle of Oklahoma. I had picked out the Black Mesa State Park from the information in my "RV Camping in State Parks" Book which I had bought at Camping World this spring. We found the changes in the landscape as we drove along very interesting. From red rocks to flat open land. "Is that the last mountain we see in the distance?" 

When we travel we trade off driving frequently, but don't stop for longer than it takes to switch seats.

As we approached the general location of the park, I couldn't imagine where it might be. It seemed there was only flat open land, as far as you could see, on both sides of the road. I was looking for trees in a park with a lake... I had seen pictures of interesting rock formations. Where was it?

At last we came to a turn off and wound our way around some rough mesa land and spotted a mass of trees in what appeared to be a small canyon. It was the park.

It was well after five when we arrived so we picked a site and dropped the self pay envelope into the box. By the time we set up and had dinner we were both quite ready to call it a day and go to bed.

We both slept quite late the next morning. A change of two time zones in four days, and no urgent reason to get out of bed, encouraged us to stay snuggled under the covers until well past nine. 

After lingering over breakfast and coffee, I did some stitchery and Craig spent some time on the computer doing his own things.

About noon he asked if I would like to go for a little walk.

Sure, we knew there was a lake just down a little hill but couldn't actually see it. The night before we had heard a group of teenagers splashing and frolicking in the water. A short walk to see it was just about all I had the energy for.  

It really did not look much like a lake. We could see from the shore line that the water level was way down.

We started to walk along the edge. The day was warm, but there was a nice breeze. After we had gone a short distance, Craig said "Lets walk around the lake."

O.K. it didn't look like it would be very far.


The small lake kept getting longer as we walked a ways, grassy field with group cabins and a baseball diamond. 

Then we noticed a nice path that led down to the lake. It didn't last long and we found that to go on we needed to climb some rocks. I had a few reservations, but figured we could turn back at any time.

As we climbed, the day got hotter. I pointed out that we had neither water, nor hiking boots or poles. I had no hat.

The lake kept getting bigger.

And bigger! I don't mind climbing rocks when I'm prepared for it and know how far we are going. Here there was no path, although with the lake in view it was impossible to get lost. I was concerned that we were climbing thru snake country. So many places for a rattler to hide and we both had low shoes and bare legs.

I was starting to get very hot and thirsty. I wanted to turn back, but Craig wanted to go on, so we did.

At one point we had to climb down a rock wall and across a field of cactus and grass. 

Just beyond the cactus field there was a nice shady grove of trees along the shore. It was so nice to get out of the sun for awhile, but we still did not have any water.

The shade didn't last long, and we had to climb back up the rocks if we wanted to continue around the lake. Craig kept assuring me we were more than half way around and it would be harder to go back than to continue around. We could see a road and open grassy banks on the other side, but I knew we were not half way yet.

We finally made it to the dam which was the beginning of the other side of the lake.

The water was very shallow and full of slimy muck and algae. No matter how hot I was, I was not at all tempted to take a dip and cool down in it.

On the other side of this dam was a road. I wanted to stay there, rest in the shade and let Craig go on to the campground alone. I was hot, thirsty, and feeling disoriented. But Craig wouldn't leave me and did everything he could to keep me going. We were too far to turn back, and it was unlikely anyone would come this way for a long time.

At this point, I was no longer in the mood to take pictures. All I wanted was to find some shade and drink some water. I later learned this lake has six miles of shoreline. We had probably gone about four by this point.

You know I did survive, because I am writing this post, but there were moments that I was sure I would not.

We finally got to a primitive camping area with concrete picnic tables. This was the first one with shade.   

I wanted to stay there, but once again Craig urged me to keep going. He was sure we would find our campground around the next turn of the shoreline. We followed the road to a loop and there it dead ended. Our way along the shore was blocked by an impassible rock wall. Craig might have been able to climb it, but it was beyond me.  

At this point he did what I had asked him to do. He left me at a shaded camping site and went on to get back to the Alfa and get the car. There was a park road. 

I was so out of it I was able to curl up and fall asleep on the stone bench of the picnic table. I did wake once, notice the shadows had moved and dozed back off.  

I woke up again after what felt like fifteen minutes, just before my knight in a shiny white Accent drove up to save me. He brought water, and said it had taken him an hour and a half to get to the Alfa, access a map, and drive back.  

1. Never assume a lake is small until you see a map of it.
2. Listen to your own body and turn back when it tells you to.
3. Don't hike for miles in 90 degree weather without water or a hat.

The next day was our planned day of rest and recovery. Craig said I had slept like a rock! Surprisingly I felt fine in the morning. I had slowly downed three two-cup glasses of water in the evening, so I guess I rehydrated.

We saw a sign by the ranger station giving the directions to the place to see some dinosaur tracks.

Wanting to be better prepared, I packed my water bottles and a snack, we put on our hiking boots, and took our hats and walking sticks in the car.

We followed the driving directions, getting lost only two times, and found the trail head location.

Guess what?  

The dinosaur tracks were only 20 feet from where we parked. No hike needed!

On the drive there and back we saw this interesting building. It looked new, but the side of it was falling down. We think it might have been a movie set.

We spent the rest of the day just relaxing.

Saturday will be a travel day. Life is good.


  1. So glad you made it back ok…we did a hike like that one time, thought we had plenty of time. What we thought was about an hour hike, ended up being almost four hours. We were exhausted, on the verge of dehydration, and almost to that twilight zone of fatigue and confusion where you are about to cry because you aren't sure you're going to make it. We never made that mistake again. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Wow.. that sounded dangerous! So glad you were able to rest and recoup, but please please don't ever do that again?

    Karen and Steve
    (Blog) RVing: The USA Is Our Big Backyard

  3. Yes, I have done the same thing before! A good lesson, never head out without at least water! Glad all is well!


  4. Goof grief! What a mess. Water, never leave home without it. Sorry you had to go through that. Keep drinking water. Three glasses does not sound like enough to flush out the bad "guys" your system produced in that heat.

  5. Wow! So glad you didn't run into any slithering things to make this story worse! Hope you have better experiences in OK...Black Mesa is a desolate part of the state. We actually have some beautiful lakes here (Lake Tenkiller being one of them). We are recently new full timers also.

  6. So glad you are okay, Merikay. Craig, you're a hero!

  7. What a day! My brother lives just a bit NE of there and I bet they don't even know that place is there! All around that area is suffering a disastrous drought... Where are you headed next? If you're going east we are SE of Wichita, KS!

  8. Wow, so glad you are both okay.

  9. Yikes! Glad it all turned out ok :)

  10. Didn't you go through this" no water" thing recently?

  11. Glad everything worked out on your adventure.

  12. I think it may be a good idea to have a small day-pack loaded up and ready to grab when you walk out the door. I hope you are feeling better and have re-hydrated.

  13. We've been on a few hikes that started out as a short stroll and ended up being much longer. Good lessons learned for both of you.

  14. Scary. Great photos though, but please be careful next time. Can you plan out routes on some sort of app before you leave?

    Stay safe.


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