Day 116 – Cherokee Country Part 2

Day 116 – Cherokee Country, Oklahoma, March 23, 2011

What a glorious and educational day. With the morning calm, the lake’s choppy waters turned so smooth that the mirror like surface reflected images of the dam and spillway in the glistening, morning sun. We spent a leisurely morning at the campground boiling water for coffee and oatmeal and just enjoying the peace of birds chirping and woodpeckers tapping on trees. It was one of the first mornings on my entire adventure that I wasn’t baking hot, freezing cold, or waving mosquitoes away…definitely a day for a lawn chair and sunglasses.

female seminary cherokee heritage center
Remains of Seminary

While I failed to locate the geocache at Tenkiller State Park, I found three others today: one regular cache and two virtual caches. The first two I found at the Cherokee Heritage Center which includes a museum, a recreated Indian village, tributes to various Cherokees, as well as ruins of a Cherokee Female Seminary.

Given I’m far from a history buff or perhaps I should just call myself a neophyte, my education began at the Cherokee National Museum. At some point in time I

james alcorn village
Tools in the Indian Village

obviously learned about the Trail of Tears. I knew the government took land from the Indians and many died as they were forced to move west. For some reason; however, I thought there was only one trail. I guess that’s the black and white and literal part of me! The museum’s map outlined four different trails. The Choctaw came to Oklahoma from Mississippi, the Chickasaw moved from Alabama and Arkansas, the Seminoles were forced out of Florida, and the Muskogee left Georgia and Alabama to resettle in Oklahoma.

andrew hartley payne, cherokke heritage museumIn addition to learning more about the Trail of Tears, I learned small bits of trivia about the Cherokees. For example, Andrew Hartley Payne, of Cherokee ancestry, won the 1928 Great Transcontinental Foot-Race that began in Los Angeles on 3/4/28 and ended in New York City on 5/26/28. Andy covered the 3,422.3 miles in 573 hours, 4 minutes, and 34 seconds and took home $25,000 for first place.

Along the lines of education, the Cherokees valued the white man’s ability to communicate in writing. In 1821, Sequoyah created a syllabary which enabled the Cherokee Nation to become literate within a few months. The syllabary includes 85 symbols.

vidalias cafeAfter visiting the Cherokee Heritage Center, Petey and I continued north to Tahlequah where marchers on the Trail of Tears ended their journey. It is here that the eastern and western tribes together wrote the Cherokee Nation constitution. The Reader’s Digest Book suggested taking a self-guided tour of the town, so I picked up a turkey wrap from Vidalia’s Café, grabbed a city map from the Chamber of Commerce and sat on a bench in the green space cherokee capitolsurrounding the Old Cherokee National Capitol, built in the mid 1800s. I checked my geocaching app and found the capitol was the first part of a three part virtual cache. I also had to find the Cherokee Supreme Court Building and the Cherokee National Jail and email a few tidbits of information about each building to receive credit for the virtual find.

twin bridges state parkPetey and I spent the next few hours in VANilla until we finally reached Twin Bridges State Park, a popular boater and angler location. I could hardly keep my eyes open on the way, so Petey and I took a brief catnap before strolling around the lake’s shore. As we passed by a few fishermen, I noticed a sign claiming, “Oklahoma is paddlefishhome to the best paddlefishing in the world”. Interesting…in Texas they are considered an endangered species. I only know this due to the recent effort of a friend who wanted to add two paddlefish to his pond. He described the painstaking effort as taking an Act of Congress to achieve. My curiosity got the best of me when I spotted another sign, “Paddlefish Research & Processing Center”. Brent, the fisheries supervisor, must have noticed my look of dismay when he asked, “May

Brent and Ashley

I help you?” Or perhaps a girl in gym shorts and a T-shirt without any fishing gear carrying a camera was a dead give-away that I was a fish out of water, just like the paddlefish hanging on the scale. The research and processing center processes the angler’s catch for free in exchange for collecting certain biological information. The center tracks the age, gender, and reproductive success of the fish in order to manage a healthy paddlefish population. The center processes paddlefish eggs into caviar and sells the product to Germany to generate funds for its service. The paddlefish are seven to twelve years of age and average around 40 to 45 pounds…MUCH bigger than the 6 inch paddlefish in my friend’s pond! Paddlefish feed on plankton, so anglers use a snagging technique to catch them: big hooks and no bait. Oklahoma recently reduced the paddlefish limit to one per day except on Mondays and Fridays which are catch and release only. This limit is still high compared to other states that allow only one a year. I found the whole explanation to be fascinating.

After my lesson on paddlefish, I took Brent’s suggestion and stopped at Stonehill Grill in Miami for dinner: homemade chicken noodle soup and a greek salad. My body was craving something healthy. I pulled into Wal-Mart for the night. I have a three hour drive in the morning to reach my next scenic trip in Kansas. Until tomorrow…ETB


Day 115 – Cherokee Country

Day 115 – Cherokee Country -Oklahoma – Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I set off from Dallas for the third time since beginning my road trip last September. My mom asked, “Do you want me to take a picture of you leaving again?” I figured that drill has been captured, so Petey and I left without smiling for the camera. I had to re-route my trip in order to keep some confirmed dates with friends and to stay out of the cold as much as possible this upcoming fall.

It took me almost four hours to reach Gore, Oklahoma, the beginning of our new journey. I must admit, it was a lonely drive. For the last several weeks, I have been surrounded by friends and family…many times with breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans all on the same day. Generally, I need and prefer alone time; however, today was overwhelming. As we pushed across miles of rolling hills speckled in green and brown grass with trees still rather bare, I couldn’t get lonely thoughts out of my mind. I longed for magnificent scenery, fun music, or a call from a friend to distract me.

burger barn
Burger Barn

I tend to get emotional when I’m tired and hungry, so I thought stopping at the Burger Barn for a burger and fried mushrooms might settle me down. While it didn’t distract me much, I was pleasantly surprised by my $4.83 lunch. I’d go back if I were ever near Gore again!

Around 1:30, Petey and I finally reached Tenkiller State Park our first and last stop of the day. I decided I need a little more rest and what better place to do it than camping beside a lake. Upon tenkiller lake state parkregistering for a campsite, I asked the friendly lady at the front desk, which area is the most protected from the wind as the lake rippled with small white caps. She suggested a point where “rocks block the wind”. I couldn’t imagine the farthest point into the lake would be protected from the wind, but I passed through the suggested campground loop and made my pick. It definitely isn’t protected, but after scoping out the areas, it was the prettiest. I may be hoping for a breeze by the evening anyway.

lizardWe took a short walk to a nearby cove where I had to have spent 30 minutes searching for a darn geocache. I found a lizard, a fossil, thorns, sap, and broken glass, but not the cache…Oooh, so fossil tenkiller lake state parkfrustrating! According to the geocaching website, I’m not the only one to be unlucky, so I don’t feel too bad. Petey, miffed by my circles beneath the trees and squats to peer beneath the rocks, wondered if we’d ever go for a walk and occasionally wandered off to do his own exploring.

wildflowers tenkiller lake state parkPetey finally got his way, and we followed a paved trail throughout the park for a relaxing, leisurely stroll. We enjoyed lovely views of the lake, dam, and new outcroppings of wild flowers before tenkiller lake state parkreturning to our campsite to blog in tranquility. I have finally adjusted: alone and peace. Petey and I have the whole camping area to ourselves and all afternoon we only laid eyes on seven other people and a deer loping through the park. Nature = a happy place!

Well, I’m off to boil some pasta for dinner and to watch the sun drop behind the lake. Maybe I’ll try for the cache once more…ETB

petit jean state park

Day 2 – Arkansas Ozarks

Day 2 of Year Long Roadtrip Following Scenic Byways Around the USA

Best Places to Visit in the Arkansas Ozarks

OMG!  As I left Dallas Tuesday, I told my mom it would be hard to sleep because it would be so hot…WRONG…whew, the wind was cold.  I closed up all of VANilla’s windows in the middle of the night!  I’m not complaining because I think sleeping on hot nights is what will be challenging given my “A/C” is an 8 inch, 12 volt fan will cool down VANilla.  I’ll probably find out tonight!

Rich Mountain Fire Tower

To finish off the Talimena Scenic Byway, I stopped off at Rich Mountain Fire Tower, located on the highest peak of the Ouchita Mountains (2,681 feet).  Today I was able to enjoy some of those scenic vistas and actually see what the area looked like without cloud cover. Continue reading “Day 2 – Arkansas Ozarks”

sunset point ouchita mountains oklahoma

Day 1 – Traveling the Talimena Scenic Byway

Day 1 of Year Long Roadtrip Following Scenic Byways in the USA


Nine hours and 260 miles later I have arrived at my campsite for the night in Queen Wilhelmena State Park in Arkansas, not quite to Mena.  What a day!  My mom, Bart and Gabby wished me goodbye around 8 this morning, and I spent the rest of the morning driving to Talihina (Indian for iron road), Oklahoma (Indian for red people) to start my first scenic drive, the Talimena Scenic Byway.  Long drives are always good for random thoughts, interesting radio shows, and unique billboards to say the least.

Continue reading “Day 1 – Traveling the Talimena Scenic Byway”