Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Black Mesa

Having a few days off from work recently, I decided to head out to the Oklahoma Panhandle and knock off a state highpoint that was long overdue (given I've been living in this state for almost 3 years). The high point of course was Black Mesa...located in the western Oklahoma Panhandle, which is mainly high plains agricultural/ranch land that gives way to a rather expansive area of volcanic lava flows/mesas near the border of New Mexico and Colorado. Cimarron County, the geopolitical location of Black Mesa, is also known for its abundance of dinosaur bones and footprints, as well as the location of the southern branch of the Santa Fe Trail.

I arrived at the Black Mesa trailhead near sunrise, and started hiking immediately in order to fight off the cold autumn air. The first two miles of the trail are for the most part flat, which allows you to enjoy the interesting vista of plateaus and buttes. I eventually passed a heard of cows grazing next to the trail (apparently the state park also serves as ranch land)...they stared me down, somewhat pissed that someone would interrupt their morning meal. This was the crux of my hike though, and I got past unscathed. After two miles of flat hiking, the trail then begins to ascend for a mile up the side of the mesa. After the ascent, the trail levels off rapidly at the top of the mesa, with another mile to go before reaching the high point of Oklahoma. As I approached "the top," a heard of antelope ran across my horizon, stopping briefly to check me out, realizing I wasn't a predator, and then continuing on their way. After an hour and a half, I reached my destination, 4,973 feet above sea level. There is nothing spectacular about this state high point...a simple granite column marks the spot, with pleasant views of Rabbit Ear Mountain to the southwest, as well as Sierra Grande and Capulin Volcano to the west. After 10 minutes of refueling/rehydrating, my task for the day was complete...I hiked back to the truck in 1.5 hours, and made the drive back to Norman, arriving just in time for the start of game 7 of the World Series.