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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Hiking the Black Mesa

The Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve in the panhandle of Oklahoma is the highest point in elevation in the state, which is not nearly as interesting as it may sound.


I had anticipated spectacular views as I hiked along the mesas, likely an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. I thought it’d offer great wildlife viewing and opportunities to relax and appreciate a great day in Oklahoma. I had expected so much from a spot that is actually lower in elevation than Denver at a whopping 4,973 feet above sea level.


I was wrong.


The nature preserve, where the Black Mesa actually sits just north of the state park, is a grueling, sun-exposed, 8.4 mile roundtrip hike to the top spot. Why the carpark isn’t a bit closer to the bottom of the mesa, which wouldn’t harm the habitat at all, I’m not quite sure. Instead we were offered great views of scrub brush and desert as we walked along a trail cut by a truck.


I also thought we had each brought enough water to drink, as the sign at the trailhead warned, with my two liters and my friend’s camel back, but again I was wrong. We were totally out before the hike was over and racing to get to the nearest convenience store from the car park, which is about 35 miles away in Boise City, to get someting to drink because we were so dehydrated.


I think back to it, as we had both run out of water with about 1.5 miles left, if not sooner in my friend’s case, and I’m not sure I would’ve stopped even if a cop had pulled up behind me as I flew at 80+ mph down the deserted highway. We were both so miserable from the sun exposure and lack of water that it just wouldn’t have been worth stopping to appease an officer of the law.


We didn’t wait for the gas station attendant to ring us up either before tearing into our water. Three liters each in hand, and we were chugging away as he checked us out. Hunger was a problem at this point too since it was nearly 9pm CT, so in desperation after 16 miles hiked in the day, we both chowed down on triple burgers with bacon and onion rings from the gas station’s restaurant.


I won’t lie and say it was the finest meal I’ve ever had, especially since they got my order wrong and I had to wait for them to remake it, but it was damn good. But, I think the point that made it so good was that I had a large refillable soda. I know I kept the poor waitress, who was absolutely enamoured with my friend’s English accent so much so that she wanted him to repeat what I said to her, running to keep it filled.

As the day ended, relaxing in a nicely air conditioned room, I thought back wondering if that last 8.4 miles really was worth it. And truthfully, I really couldn’t answer it. I was glad we did it so we wouldn’t have to the next day, but it was such an anti-climactic finish with the final mile of the 4.2 across the top of the desert-like topped mesa to an obelisk in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no interesting views of which to speak.


Well, that is unless you really enjoy scrub brush and small cactus in gravely sand.


The next day we made our way through the state park. I wasn’t really any more impressed with it as I was with the mesa, but at least there was shade and a nearby lake. The mesa was just total desolation and hot.


Approximately 65 million years ago it was a swampy area that dinosaurs roamed. There’s even an area where you can view dino prints like in New Mexico’s Clayton Lake State Park, but at this point we just weren’t interested any longer, both a bit bitter still from the previous day’s hike to the top of the mesa.


Instead we did a short nature hike and checkedout the very small petrified forest, if it can even be called a forest, off the main road through the park. It was certainly interesting enough to stop and take a look at, but the nature trail was really just a small lawn mowed path of grass through some small hills. And after the previous day’s hikes, it just wasn’t worth any more than we really gave it.


So, leaving an area once frequented by the Plains Indians, and supposedly the explorer Coronado in the 1500s, we headed back north and into the farthest southeast spot in Colorado in Baca County. We crossed paths once more with the historic Santa Fe Trail and came to another very anti-climactic spot: the state line between Oklahoma and Colorado certainly left something to be desired.

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