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.
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
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.
In 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.
After 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 surrounding 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.
Petey 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 home 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
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