Oklahoma, Travel

Our Visit to Echo Canyon Spa and Resort in Sulpher, Oklahoma

EchoCanyon

Last year I decided I wanted my husband and me to have a romantic weekend getaway for our Anniversary.  I love visiting new places and wanted to do something just for us, since generally most things we do revolve around the kids.   I don’t remember how I discovered the resort, but I believe it was in one of those, “Only in Your State” posts.  I do know that you can find several articles on Echo Canyon Spa and Resort, plus they have been on Discover Oklahoma. The crew was actually there filming while we were visiting, though we never saw them.  One of the top reasons I wanted to go, besides the spa, was the food!  Lot’s of fabulous reviews, and it appeared to be delicious and perfect for both of our tastes.  The rooms were also very appealing, along with the atmosphere and surroundings.  It sounded like a perfect little anniversary getaway for us in mid-November in Oklahoma.  Make sure to make a reservation for dinner the nights you stay.

When we got there

We left early that morning with a stop in Oklahoma City for a doctor’s appointment.  We ate lunch and did a little shopping in the city before we headed to the spa.  I wish now we would have headed to the Spa & Resort earlier.  It was almost dark when we got there.  Everyone we met was very friendly, and I wish I would have remembered names!  The lady who walked us around and showed us our room, and where everything was, was very sweet.  I believe she was the concierge.  We stayed in the Merlot Canyon View.  She walked us into our room and showed us where everything was and how to use the jacuzzi tub.  The room smelled so clean and sweet.  There was a candle burning when we walked in to add to the romantic atmosphere and to leave a great scent to welcome us.

A few pictures of our room.  It was fabulous, and we had a great balcony with a beautiful view.

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Our Evening

That evening we had dinner in the Baron of Beef Restaurant.   The 4-course candlelight meal is served with three entrees and a great view of the canyon.   The setting was very romantic and service was fantastic.  You can check out their restaurant on their website for the menu.  It is different each night, so if we stayed Saturday we would have been served a different meal.  The food was delicious and so was the fresh Peach Hibiscus drink with champagne added.   We only had one issue and that was a couple at the neighboring table.  They were very condescending and dropped a lot of cuss words.  They kind of killed the romantic mood for us.  After we ate we went to the Bar, which is in a separate building.  It is very nice and filled with comfy seating.  We sat at the bar and visited with one of the owners.   He was very friendly, but a little pretentious.  He talked a little too much about himself and how well off he was, and how he could kick anyone out who misbehaved, referencing the rude couple we dined next to. I honestly thought the guy could have offered us a free drink after dealing with the too near dining companions, especially since he had so much money he could afford to kick them out.  Even after that, we still had a great evening and night.

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Breakfast and Massage

We got up the next morning and had breakfast in the restaurant and explored the beautiful property.  The food was delicious once again.  A little later I had a 30-minute Sweedish Massage scheduled in the Aloha Spa.  They offer several massages, facials, body treatments, manicures, and pedicures.  My massage was so relaxing and very much needed!  I loved it. Make sure to tip well.  You can also wait and tip everyone when you check out and sign your bill.

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Exploring other Areas

We checked out shortly after my massage and headed to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.  There are so many places to pull over and hike and explore.  We went to the Niagra Falls area first.  It was a pretty cool day, in the 50s, but still pretty nice.  The sun was out and it wasn’t to bad to explore and hike in those temperatures.  We drove around and stopped at several other spots to walk around and take photos.  We also drove up to an overlook, I believe it was called Sulphur Overlook because you could see the town from the top.  It was beautiful with all the fall colors.  We got out and hiked around for awhile in the area.  It was a good way to work off our breakfast and make us hungry again, so we headed into Sulpher for lunch. We stopped at the Bedre Cafe which is near the Artesian Hotel, Spa, and Casino.  The Artesian looks like another fabulous place to stay in the area.   The Bedre Cafe serves sandwiches, soups, chips, ice cream, and shakes. They also have chocolate from their chocolate factory just a few miles from town near the interstate.  It is fashioned like an old time diner.  The food was excellent, and so was the service.  It was a great quick meal and hit the spot after hiking the Chickasaw area.  We headed out of town and towards home after we ate.  We made a stop at the Bedre Chocolate Factory right before we got on the interstate.  They give you a free sample of chocolate and they offer lots of chocolate to buy!  I love raspberry chocolate, so I got several of those.  Their chocolate is delicious and I have made a point to stop at the factory anytime we pass it on the interstate since our first visit, which is not often.

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Free Stuff, Kid Approved, Oklahoma

Digging for Selenite Crystals at Oklahoma’s Great Salt Plains

We love finding adventure not far from home! My husband’s son was visiting for the summer and we decided we needed to take a little adventure with him and our youngest daughter.  We decided to go to the Great Salt Plains for a fund geological digging adventure.  The Great Salt Plains dig area is about an hour and a half drive for us, perfect for a day trip.  It was June 2015 which can mean temperatures up into the 100s, so we started off early that morning.

 What are Selenite Crystals?

A little bit about Selenite Crystals and the dig area. The 11,000-square-mile Great Salt Plains are as white as salt, thanks to the saline deposits left over from an ancient sea that once drenched the area. Still flowing beneath the surface is a saline aquifer that replenishes the layer of salt when the underground water rises. Dig for hourglass selenite crystals here because they are found nowhere else in the world. It is the only place in the world where hourglass-shaped selenite crystals are found. Millions of years ago the area was covered by a large inland sea. The sea was eventually cut off and the water evaporated away, leaving behind thick layers of salt that were then covered by dirt and erosion from surrounding mountain ranges. As groundwater rose to the surface through the salt-saturated sand, it took salt along with it and deposited them on the surface as a thin crust. It was the concentrated saline solution combined with gypsum that promoted the growth of selenite, a crystalline form of gypsum. These crystals are found buried only a few feet below the surface.

Before you go.

Before we headed out, we had to take a few things with us to prepare for a warm day of digging.  We packed sunblock, bottled water, snacks, shovel, bucket and some towels to clean up with.  We also brought a change of clothes and wore old clothes to dig. Digging can get pretty messy and dirty!  You can also bring water, a sifter, and maybe smaller shovels to help find and clean the crystals.  We did not do this, but it is a good idea after the fact.  We’ve been digging before with our two older kids.

What to expect

This year they moved the dig area.  Dig areas are rotated every couple of years.  Wow!  Could we tell the difference!  We found so many crystals easily.  It is recommended to dig a hole two feet wide and about two feet deep.  After that, we dug without hands through the piles that we dug out, and in the hole.  We just used our fingers to sift through the dirt.  It is very easy to dig and sift through without extra tools (water, small shovels, and a sifter), but it sure would not hurt to bring those things.  The day was windy, and even though we started out in the morning, it got hot pretty quick.  Our youngest had a good time, but she had more fun wandering off from us.  We found so many great crystals!  After

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After digging for a couple of hours, we decided to visit the lake area and State Park.  You could easily make this a weekend trip and camp out at the park campground or rent a cabin.  There are a few hiking trails and a nice playground for the kids.  We let our youngest play on the playground, then we went for a very short hike.  It was afternoon and was very hot and humid out by then.  We will be back!  If you are going in the summer I recommend going in the morning before it gets hot.

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Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Tiger Safari in Tuttle, OK

After hiking and exploring the Wichita Mountains area we headed to Tuttle to visit the Tiger Safari.  We had visited once before when my oldest was about 7 or 8 years old.  I thought this would be a fun experience for both girls.

What to expect.

Tiger Safari is a neat interactive Zoological Park down a country road near Tuttle, OK.  We went in May 2014, so I know there have been some changes since then.  We bought my oldest the ticket to interact with the animals, and my youngest husband and I just bought the tickets that provide a guided tour.  That is one of the things I really liked about this zoo, the guides are great and have lots of information on the animals their likes, where they came from, how long they’ve been there, etc.  You can tell they really like their jobs!  This was my 3rd visit (I went several years earlier with my cousin and her children), and I have always had a really good time, including the tour guides.  You can walk the park on your own, but I recommend a guide and the interaction experience if you have little ones that love animals.  There is almost always a new animal to interact with, but they have Tiger feedings every time.  My oldest was pretty brave holding animals.  Especially the Python!  She would not hold the owl though, so I did that one. He was pretty heavy so she may not have been able to hold him. I can’t remember if I had to pay extra to do that or not?  It was pretty cool though.  Check out their website for additional information and pricing.

What is your favorite animal park in Oklahoma?

 

This photo is from our first visit to Tiger Safari about five years earlier. My oldest holing a fox.
My oldest, 5 years earlier at Tiger Safari holding a baby fox.

 

Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

The Wichita Mountains is a pretty spectacular sight to see.  You are driving along the prairies of Oklahoma, we came from Oklahoma City on the turnpike, then suddenly there are mountains in view.  Huge stacks of boulders seem to be piled on top of one one another to form mountains.  It’s a beautiful sight, with flat prairies between the mountains.  I have visited, hiked and camped at the Wichita Mountains many times before I moved to NW Oklahoma.  There are so many places to hike, explore and rock climb.  You could go 50 times and discover something new each time.  They have camping sites, a visitors center, hiking, rock climbing, prairie dog town, lakes, lake recreation, animal sitings and more.  This visit was the first time I took my girls, and it was not long enough.

About the Wichita Mountains Wildflife Refuge

A little about the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was established to protect wildlife species that were in grave danger of extinction, and to restore species that had been eliminated from the area. Bison were reintroduced, along with elk and wild turkey. More recent reintroductions include the prairie dog, the river otter, and burrowing owls.  The refuge provides habitat for large native grazing animals such as American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, and white-tailed deer. Texas longhorn cattle also share the refuge rangelands as a cultural and historical legacy species. More than 50 mammals, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on this important refuge.  You can learn more at their website.

Hiking and Exploring

After breakfast in Medicine Park, we headed to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  We stopped by The Holy City first, it is pretty close to the entrance.  The hiking there is relatively easy, not a lot of hills or rock climbing.  There are several structures including a small chapel.  Pasion Plays are performed there annually.  You can see video and photos of past Pasion Plays.  I just find it to be a fun and easy hike, with lots of structures and small hills for the girls to explore.  They have a little gift shop, and there were hummingbird feeders hanging outside.  We witnessed quite a few of the tiny birds fluttering around and my girls really enjoyed seeing them, as did I.

Visitors Center

We drove to the Visitor’s Center next and walked around in their nice cool air conditioned building.  The Center is pretty informative and is interactive also.  It is a neat place to visit, and a great way to cool down, refill water bottles, learn, and purchase some souvenirs.  Our next stop was Prairied Dog Town.   We got a kick watching these sweet little dogs run, play and communicate with each other.  It was fascinating!

I would have loved to hike a lot more and stay longer, but our next stop was The Tiger Safari in Tuttle.  I know we will visit again in the near future.  There is just too much to see not to visit this place many times.

 

Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Medicine Park, OK

We decided to take a short weekend vacation when my daughter was still under a year old to Medicine Park, Oklahoma, the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge and the Tiger Safari in Tuttle, OK.  We also did not have a lot of money to spend, so we wanted to go somewhere close.  I lived in Chickasha for several years before I was married and it is close to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.  It is a fantastic hiking and rock climbing area.  One of my very favorite places to go hiking!  I miss being less than an hour from the Wichita Mountains.  I decided it would be great to stay in Medicine Park, a very quaint little town just a few minutes from the Refuge and the first tourist resort in Oklahoma.  I wanted to share this area with my family.  I knew my oldest would love all the rocks, the cobblestone building in the town of Medicine Park and the rock mountains in the Wichita Mountains!  She has always been a fan of rocks.

I did some research, as usual!  And found a cabin in Medicine Park I liked and that we could afford.  Also, we were only staying one night, and not all cabins/houses would let you reserve for just one night.  I had a doctors appointment in OKC that Friday.  After the appointment, we went to Meers to have a meersburger.  Meers Store & Restaurant is a hole in the wall kind of place.  In the middle of nowhere and nothing fancy, but they have the best burgers and cobbler. Their menu has lots of tasty selections, and BBQ to go.  We ordered 2 longhorn burgers, and I ordered their fries.  My oldest and I shared a burger because they are huge! The meal was great, as always.  For dessert we all shared peach cobbler over homemade ice cream, it is beyond words.    After lunch, we headed to Medicine park and checked into Margie’s Cabin and it was perfect!  There were drinks, snacks, and a Keurig coffee maker.  There were also beach towels in one of the bedrooms.  It was set off from other houses and had a cute patio area.  We absolutely loved it, and I wished we had booked two nights instead of just one.

 


Just across the street, there is a walk way that leads to the center of Medicine Park.  The girls got in their bathing suits and we headed down the path and to the swimming area.  My oldest made friends quick and had someone to play with.  My husband, youngest and I just explored the area and watched the ducks, geese, fish and turtles.

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We drove to the Wichita Mountains and to the top of Mount Scott later in the day.  Such a great view from the top of the mountain.  It’s alway a little bit windier and cooler at the top.  The next morning we sat on the patio and just enjoyed nature and the quiet.  We walked to the town center after we all got around in the morning.  There was a little bakery with pastries and donuts, so we stopped there and had breakfast at a table outside.  Later that morning we went to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Mount Scott
Mount Scott

Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Black Mesa Preserve

To continue our journey through the Oklahoma Panhandle we went to “Black Mesa Nature Preserve” after our visit to “Black Mesa State Park”   This is where you can hike up to the top of Black Mesa which is generally a 4-hour hike round trip.  It was after 3 pm when we got there, but I knew we wouldn’t do the hike before that.  There was no way our toddler could get through it, and I’m not sure the rest of us could either. Our youngest said she needed to use the bathroom even though we had just gone to the bathroom 15 minutes earlier.  They have an outhouse type potty, but she did not like that.  It was actually pretty clean, but the big hole is pretty scary.  We hiked a bit up the Mesa to see the rocks and plant life.  We found several cool lava rocks and a rock that was shaped like a small chair!  Even just hiking a tiny bit up the mesa, provided great views. My toddler was getting pretty whiny and tired, so we headed back to the car after about 30 minutes.  It is a really neat place, and I would love to come back at night.  It is supposed to have one of the most fantastic views of the stars in the US.  It’s pretty far out and away from everything so I can see why.

Kid Approved, Oklahoma, Travel

Black Mesa State Park

I’ve always wanted to visit the Black Mesa area in the far western panhandle of Oklahoma, the highest point in the state.  Even though we are located in the panhandle ourselves (barely), Black Mesa is a long drive, approximately 3 1/2 hours.   That is farther than driving to OKC.  When the weather is nice we love to take day trips that include discovering, exploring, eating or hiking.  It is always a great experience and good family fun.  I’m a huge believer in doing things with my family rather than buying “things”.  The experiences are by far always the best memories.  So, as most parents know, taking any drive over 30 minutes with a toddler is not easy.  There are lots of, “Are we there yet?” , “Are we almost there?”.  We try to play a few car games, but those entertain only so long.  My husband downloaded the movie, “The Secret Life of Pets”, and that helped quite a bit with the long drive.

After a few pit stops for bathroom breaks, we finally made it to the park. The park was very clean and well kept.  We visited in March, so I’m not sure how well it’s kept up in the Summer months when things are probably busier.  They had very nice looking campsites.  There were several campers and tents set up.  There was also a group of boy scouts camping out.  When I searched Pinterest I found several photos of the night sky in the Black Mesa area that were phenomenal!  You are seriously in the middle of nowhere, and there are no city lights to obstruct the night skies so I can see how this would be a fantastic place to star gaze.  I packed a picnic lunch, so we found a table first and ate our lunch.  It was a perfect day for a picnic and it was very quiet and peaceful where we sat.  Afte we ate we walked down to the water, we saw fish swimming around and my youngest wanted to toss a few rocks in the water.  We walked up to the playground area next, our toddler was begging to play.  The playground doesn’t have much and is a bit dated, but I liked it.  It reminded me of my childhood.  We also took a short hike just across the street from the playground.  There was a cave looking spot that we wanted to check out.

Rocks

We decided to go up to the Ranger Station to pick up some maps next.  We got a map of the State Park and another one of “Black Mesa”, the state park and “Black Mesa” are not in the same area.  You have to drive a few more miles to reach the actual highest point in Oklahoma.  I was hoping to post my maps on here, but I gave one to a family that was lost.  I do have the one of the state park, see below.  I found one on the web, but it is not as good as the maps they provide at the park.  Here’s a link to the “Black Mesa” map.    You can also find a bit more information on the TravelOK website.

Black Mesa State Park map.

They have a display of petrified wood, so we visited that first.  It was nothing super exciting, but nice to see and touch.  My youngest was being cute and posed next to the wood for pictures.  I’m not sure what made her do that because I never really ask her to pose.  I mostly ask her to smile, and not stick her tongue out.  lol!

wood

We knew we would not be doing the hike at “Black Mesa” because it takes several hours to complete and that was not going to happen with my little family.  So, we found a nice hiking trail at the State park, Bird Haven Trail.  It was a nice hike with some moderate walking up and down the mesa, including great views of the park when you reach the top.  We also saw quite a few birds, which given the name of the trail, was not surprising.  We didn’t see a single person on the trail while hiking.  Which was surprising, because it was the perfect day to be outdoors.  The trail was longer than we expected, so we finally had to make our own way down the mesa and back to the car.  It was a nice hike, but we left our water in the car and we were all thirsty.  My youngest also had to use the bathroom very badly.  We stopped at the restrooms, and they were very nice and clean.  Always great to find when you’re in a smaller park and a very secluded area.

trail

As we were leaving the park we drove to the overlook and had a nice view of Lake Carl Etling and the group campground.  Our next stop, Black Mesa.

 

View
Overlook