The Monarch fall migration is underway, they are currently passing through Oklahoma on their way to Mexico. We have not had the chance to get into the main path this year, but even here in Tulsa there are quite a few.
Two years ago we were fortunate enough to encounter the migration in Palo Pinto County Texas. We were not specifically looking for it, we were just exploring the area and drove into it. A river of butterflies, tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands. It was amazing, and also sad. We killed hundreds as we drove down the highway. We stopped to get a photo of the County Courthouse and there was a small garden that we full of Monarchs.
The Monarch Butterfly is the only insect that migrates. They cannot survive the cold winters in the North, so they migrate to Mexico and California for the winter. If you are lucky enough to live near their migration path you can see thousands, potentially even millions of them as they pass through.
They return to the same area, even the same trees, year after year. This is strange because the butterflies that return to Mexico this year are not the same individuals who left the year before. How do they know where to go?
While there are still millions of Monarchs traveling each year, the numbers are in sharp decline. The usual suspects are to blame. Pesticides and destruction of their habitat. Throughout the country, people are working to restore the flowers they feed on. Milkweed is particularly important as it is required for them to reproduce. If you plant milkweed along their migration path you can expect them to return year after year.
Take a little bit of time while these amazing pollinators pass by on their travels to Mexico.
Thanks for spending some time with us.
Scott and I were out collecting counties in the Albany, Texas, area when we came across the most unusual place out in the middle of nowhere. On highway 6, in Shackleford County, there were a couple of state historical markers, a caboose, a large cattle corral, and a windmill. This was obviously meant to be visited because there was a pull off and gravel parking lot. However, this was out in the middle of nowhere west of the county seat Albany; no other people were around and we hadn’t seen anyone pass by the whole time we stopped to investigate.
At one time the only way to get mail and people across the country was by stagecoach. The Butterfield Overland Mail Stageline ran from the Eastern United States to San Francisco, passing through Indian Territory and Texas. The stage line ran through Shackleford County from 1858 until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. As Scott and I walked about this historical area, we found this to be one of the locations where the Butterfield stopped. Just a few miles down highway 6 was Smith’s Station. Today, all that remains is a chimney next to the creek. The creek was eventually named Chimney Creek because of the still standing structure.
This area was called the Chimney Creek Ranch and was owned by Bud and Ella Matthews in the late 1880s and their family still owns the land today. Being in the cattle business, they decided to take a chance and make a request for the Texas Central Railway to create a switch on their cattle ranch. The railway accepted their proposal and the Bud Matthews Switch was created from Albany.
It is amazing to think that approximately 100,000 head of cattle passed through the corral and shoot annually to be put in cattle cars and transported to the Fort Worth Stockyard (which is still around today, only in tourist form) from 1900 until 1967 when it was more profitable to use the trucking industry. The corral was used for another 18 years after the switch was dismantled.
A screenshot of the Bud Matthews Switch via Google Maps.
When you drive up to this landmark, at first you find yourself wondering why there is a cattle car and large stone here, but as you drive closer, get out of your car, and view the items here you find yourself transported back in time when the world was powered by trains and horsepower. The family, knowing how special this place was, filed for the Texas Historical Marker. I was able to locate a video of the 1993 dedication for the marker. You can view this video and get further information here http://www.chimneycreekranch.com/bud-matthews-switch. You will also find further information and videos about the Butterfield Overland Mail marker here as well.
This was one of those finds that were truly serendipitous. We were only on our way from collecting the county courthouse for Shackelford county and headed toward the next county when we literally drove upon this precious bit of history. This is why we encourage all of you to get out and live life outside your box; go see the places in your neighborhood, city, county and even state. There are a lot of wonderful places just waiting for you to discover them.
Thank you so much for traveling with us today.
The Main Street of America is a 2,448-mile long road going from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California; you probably know it as Route 66. This road goes straight through Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I live and has been elected to be the capital of Route 66. Here in Tulsa, you will find many of the historical landmarks such as the Blue Whale Swimming Hole, Vickery Phillips 66 Station, and the Circle Theater. You will also find a few new places sharing the history of this road.
Mapping on the Wall.
Tulsa has so many landmarks and activities for Route 66, we decided to do a little bit at a time and really get to know and enjoy the venue. On this day, we visited the Route 66 Historical Village located in West Tulsa along the old Route 66 highway. Built in 2010, it shows off the different modes of transportation during the heyday of this amazing road. Here you will find the Meteor 4500 steam engine that was once located at Mohawk Park from 1954-1991, the business lounge car that traveled between Tulsa and Sapulpa, an oil tanker and the caboose. You will also find a display of an antique pump-jack that was used to get crude oil from a well just under the tallest oil derrick in North America.
The actual engine that traveled between St. Louis and Oklahoma, passing through Tulsa.
We decided to visit the open air museum in West Tulsa, the Route 66 Historical Village. This was opened in 2010 and has so many wonderful bits of history. Here you will find the Frisco 4500 engine that traveled through Tulsa between St. Louis and Oklahoma City from 1942 until 1947. In 1954 the Engine was moved to the Mohawk Park and Tulsa Zoo where it stayed until 1991 when it was moved to another location to be renovated and finally found it’s home in 2009 at this location. Not only was the engine placed here, but there is a business lounge car, oil tanker, and caboose (former boxcar). All of these were operated in Oklahoma.
The Meteor 4500 next to the tallest oil rig in North America.
Here you can see the early 1900’s style pump.
Tulsa Skyline seen in the near distance.
Tulsa is known as the Oil Capital of the World and it is here at the location of the Route 66 Historical Village where oil was supposed to have been first oil strike on June 25, 1901. The derrick and pump are not the original, but they are built exactly as they were. The derrick is the tallest in North America is 194 feet tall and can be seen from the highway below with the Tulsa skyline in the background.
The visitor center and restrooms in the style of the old Phillip 66 gas stations.
Because the new highways have bypassed the towns where old Route 66 passed through, many of the old gas stations are falling apart or have completely disappeared, the museum creators decided to build their visitor center and bathrooms in the style these buildings were built in. They had a buy-a-brick fundraiser to help with the cost of the buildings and upkeep of the museum which was used to pave in front of the building. Here you will find plenty of information about Route 66.
Scott and I taking a selfie in front of a Route 66 memorial area.
We had a wonderful day visiting the Mother Road through Tulsa. It was a way to view history that was not boring or outdated. I can’t wait to see what else Tulsa will do with the Route 66 Vision 2025. With Tulsa being elected the Route 66 Capitol, I am sure there will be some amazing things created.
Thank you so much for traveling with us.
When the Chickasaw Nation was forced to relocate to Indian Territory, within their new borders they found a wooded area filled with fresh water and strong-smelling mineral water springs. They believed these springs had healing powers. Fearing that they would not be able to protect this area from commercial development and becoming another Hot Springs, Arkansas, they sold it to the Federal Government, with the condition that it be protected, and kept open to the public. In 1902 Senator Orville Platt introduced legislation designating this area the Sulphur Springs Reservation, and in 1906 Congress passed legislation creating Platt National Park, named for Senator Platt, who had recently died.
CCC built structure around Buffalo Springs.
At 640 acres, Platt National Park was the seventh and the smallest unit in the National Park System. Though small it was no less popular, in 1914 it received more visitors than Yellowstone or Yosemite. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps was assigned to make improvements, to make the area deserving of being a National Park. They added many buildings, and landscape features, that significantly altered the character of the park. By 1949 it was receiving more than a million visitors a year. However, many people within Congress felt that Platt National Park lacked the grandeur and scope expected of a National Park. On March 17, 1976, Congress changed the status from Platt National Park to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area because it was not the same natural beauty as Yellowstone and Yosemite. This former national park was added to the Arbuckle Recreation Area to create a lush playground for all to enjoy.
Lake of the Arbuckle’s on a foggy fall morning.
The older portion of the park, the Platt District, remains popular, still receiving more than a million visitors a year. It features the springs, a swimming hole, fishing, boating, hiking, and camping. The swimming hole has a small man-made waterfall called the Little Niagara. Here the spring water is cold and a host to people of all cultures.
The lower falls at Little Niagara.
There are three basic camping areas. The Lake of the Arbuckles areas: Buckhorn, Guy Sandy, and The Point. One, Guy Sandy, is first come-first serve and does not require a reservation. You simply show up, decide on your spot and visit the kiosk, then pay for your stay. Buckhorn and The Point are reservation camping loop is very nice with full hook-ups and full almost all year round. The third camping area is within the historic Platt District, the original area of the park has three camping loops, in which the only one is open year round and only first come-first serve. This area is surrounded by the rushing creek and active in the springtime.
Ren and I first visited in Fall of 2013, we were on the way back from visiting family in Oklahoma. This was before we really caught the travel bug, but we fell in love with the park and made plans to return. We have revisited the park several times since then, it is a reasonable drive from both Fort Worth and from Tulsa. When I started photography it was one for the first places I wanted to go.
We decided one day to visit the visitor center and hike trails behind it. Here the shade from the canopy of trees kept us cool in the Oklahoma August heat. It was quiet for the most part, except the various little waterfalls and birds chattering in the treetops. Here we found a peaceful place just minutes away from the main county road. It was an amazing hike.
Hiking along one of the many trails at Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
We then took the time to swim in the swimming hole just below the Little Niagara Falls. We even followed many of the young people and jumped off the top! It was exhilarating. I remember my heart pumping and watching the people ahead of us pop up from down below. My knee was aching, it was only recently healed from being broken and the cold, spring water felt good, taking away the swelling.
It may not be a National Park anymore, but it is still worth a visit if you are in the area.
Thanks so much for visiting this park with us!
We are driving along an Oklahoma road through Hinton and we could see a few mesas in the distance, flat prairies, and evidence of the 1920’s Dust Bowl era all around us. However, if it were not for the Red Rock Canyon State Park sign, we would never have known it was there. This canyon is hidden about a quarter of a mile from the main road and the road into the canyon drops down 150 feet in switchback style.
Balancing Rock standing away from the canyon wall.
Here we were greeted by large slabs of a dark brownish red slab of sandstone from the Permian Age. The sandstone walls are part of what geologists call the Rush Springs Sandstone Formation and these colors are caused by the oxidized iron minerals in the individual sand grains naturally cemented together making up the old sandstone. Because of the dark red color of this layer of rocks, it is said that this area is the heart of Oklahoma.
Scott taking photos in the golden hour of the morning
Once, in the canyon, we found these amazing 40-60 feet high walls of red sandstone. Because we arrived at sunrise, a planned two and a half hour drive, the light was perfect and enabled us to take photos showing off the beauty of this canyon. Here, high canyon walls towered over the flat two and a half mile canyon road. From my research, I learned the ground is completely from the eroded Permian Age sandstone.
A road in the canyon has many trees and wild grasses growing alongside it.
The canyon floor area is completely different from the prairie 150 feet above. We were not expecting to see the brilliant green colors throughout the park; this trip was in July, one of the hottest months of the year for Oklahoma. Normally it is extremely hot with temperatures in the upper 90’s and everything dry enough to warrant fire danger warnings; however, in this park, you found nothing of the sort. It was pretty amazing to see this oasis below the prairie.
One of the interesting features we found on these cliffs were some vertical lines etched into the stone. We were unsure what these lines were and wondered briefly if they were graffiti. However, it was not graffiti, but decades of use by Rock Climbing and Repelling Clubs throughout Oklahoma. The rock climbing is only allowed in this one specific area to keep the damage in one spot.
One of the things we do as we visit a state park is to drive the full length of the park. This means we drive through each camping loop to see what there are for tent and RV campers, take a peek at the facilities to see what’s available, and find the trailheads to do a short hike or two. This park has three hiking trails: The nature trail which takes you past the pond and in towards the front of the canyon. This pond was used as a water source for the Cheyenne Indians as they wintered in this canyon.
Simply called “The Pond.”
The California Road Natural Trail which is where you will find the ruts left from the wagon wheels of those traveling to California back in the early 1800’s. This was the path the California bound pioneers used this path to get their wagons down to the canyon for protection from the elements and find water, much as the Cheyenne people had done.
The trailhead for the California Road Natural Trail.
Unfortunately, Scott was having issues with his foot and he was not able to explore the trail I found hiding behind a large grove of Caddo Maples. I did not go far, but I just had to see where this these stairs led. They started out with steps made from railroad ties and then turned into a natural set of stairs around a tree’s roots. Suddenly there was a large slab of sandstone with an indention from thousands of feet climbing up the trail to look down into the canyon.
Stairs to adventure.
This park is a place that we will be visiting again. It has good electrical and sewer hookups, plenty of places to explore, and a swimming pool to cool off in on those hot summer days. Our time here was almost magical, in a way. Between the spring feed stream, lush canyon floor, and the red rock wall, we felt it was another world. However, it was time for us to move on to our next destination, another state park so we could share that one with you too.
Wish you were here.
Safe travels friends,
You have heard us say “Dinosaur Valley State Park” many times since we started posting and we are sure you have wondered what it is about this place that causes us to think of it as Our “Home” Park. Let us take you there and show you why.
History Runs Through It
Acrocanthosaurus and Pleurocoelus tracks are found in the riverbed of the Paluxy River
The Paluxy River is formed by the meeting of the North Paluxy and the South Paluxy Rivers near Bluff Dale, Texas. It flows twenty-nine miles and empties into the Brazos River just east of Glen Rose, Texas. Most of the time the Paluxy is a quiet little river flowing through many picturesque gorges, but after a heavy rain, it can become immensely powerful and deadly.
In 1908 the resort town of Glen Rose had recently built a bridge over the Paluxy River. Before that, Glen Rose and the surrounding communities had relied on shallow fords to cross the river, and these became impassable during wet weather. On April 17 of that year, the new bridge was washed away in a record-setting flood that destroyed or damaged every bridge in Somervell County.
A few months later in early 1909, a young boy named George Adams was exploring along Wheeler Branch, a creek that empties into the Paluxy, when he found huge birdlike tracks in the limestone bed. He reported this find to his teacher, who brought it to the attention of the scientific community and it was soon confirmed that these were the tracks of a large, bipedal dinosaur, These tracks had likely been uncovered by the flood of the previous year.
Tracks much like the ones George Adams found while exploring the area.
The Paluxy giveth and the Paluxy taketh away. According to Kathy Lenz, former Park Ranger / Park Interpreter for Dinosaur Valley State Park, “The River is always eroding away old tracks and uncovering new ones, so far it has been uncovering new tracks slightly faster than it erodes the old ones.”
The dinosaur footprints were not the first discovered in the United States, but they were, and still are some of the best preserved and easily accessible. The footprints lie in the bed of the river, and can only be accessed when the river is low. Fed by hundreds of local springs, most of the time the river is only a few inches deep, and the water is cool and clean. Even a little rain in the area will cause the Park to close the track sites. The entire area sits on a bed of limestone, and the river can go from calm to flood frighteningly fast.
The various layers of limestone causes a shallow river to have mini waterfalls.
The obvious attraction is, of course, the dinosaur footprints, and they are impressive, but there are many other reasons to visit this amazing park. The Blue Hole, near when the river enters the park, has been a favorite swimming hole since the founding of Glen Rose. It is very popular in the hot Texas summer months.
The Blue Hole quietly waiting for summer guests.
More To See From Above
There are many miles of hiking trails throughout the park, ranging from easy, to moderately difficult. Wildcat Falls is well worth the hike but seeing it can be tricky. It is on the far side of the river, and only flows when it has been raining; however, when it has been raining, you can’t cross the river. There is a back way into the park that few people know about. The Park staff use it to access this area of the park without having to hike in. We never had any difficulty getting permission to use it when we asked at the office. Unfortunately, it seems I never took a good photo of the waterfall.
Ren visiting with friends on the hiking trail
In the spring, this is an excellent place to come see the wildflowers. You will find Indian Paintbrush, Bluebonnets, and Prairie Verbena. There will be fields full of them as you drive to the park’s headquarters. It is almost as good as the Texas Hill Country show of wildflowers.
A beetle enjoys a rest on a Prairie Verbena.
One of the many beautiful birds found at Dinosaur Valley State Park.
Most people avoid the park during the rain. During and after a heavy storm you will find the park nearly empty. This is a shame. You owe it to yourself to see this river in full flood. The power of the river is awesome in the truest sense of the word. It will fill you with awe; the pictures and videos do not do it justice.
The wind whips through the trees as the rain pours down, filling the Paluxy up causing it to rush towards the Brazos River south of Glen Rose. Here you can see the power and strength of water as it pulls trees and dirt from the sides of the gorge. This river is known as the only whitewater rafting spot in North Texas; however, with the huge boulders all throughout the riverbed, it can be extremely dangerous.
The water flows quickly through taking trees and debris with it.
When we lived in Texas, we considered Dinosaur Valley to be our home park. This is the park we would make a mad dash for after getting off of work just to take a short hike or sit and watch the river. It was our park for more than just this, though. The park was founded on October 4, 1972, making its anniversary day the same as our wedding anniversary, so we liked to spend it there among the dinosaurs and camp above the river.
A 50-foot tall Tyrannosaurus rex and 70-foot long Brontosaurus statues entertain guests.
Even though we were living at Eisenhower State Park at the time, we celebrated Ren’s 50th birthday at Dinosaur Valley. She said she always wanted a dinosaur party and this was the place to do it; it was where the dinosaurs lived and it was home. When I started photography, it was the first park I photographed, and the park I photographed the most often. Now that we are in Oklahoma, we have yet to find a park we love as much; we definitely miss this park where the Paluxy runs through.
It’s even reasonably good for Stargazing.
Safe travels, my friend,
Ren and I were camping at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area (Sulpher, OK, area) and our campsite was right on the Lake of the Arbuckles. I woke up just before sunrise and there was a heavy fog over the lake. I paused just long enough to put my shoes on and grabbed my camera. Moments like these don’t happen nearly as often as I would like, and they don’t last long. Fifteen minutes later the sun cleared the horizon, and the light was entirely different and far less interesting.
You have to be ready to catch these moments when they happen. If you hesitate you will miss the shot. A few weeks ago Ren and I were driving down a country road in Missouri when we topped a hill and there was a band of mist rising from a creek, and the sun was just rising while the rays were filtered through the trees and hitting the mist; the effect was amazing. Ren was driving and I told her to turn around. It couldn’t have been two minutes before we were back to the spot, but the effect was gone. Landscape photography is like that.
You cannot control when all the elements will come together. The best you can do is get out to amazing places as often as possible, and give yourself as many chances as possible to get the shot. There is certainly an element of luck, but if you are not out there ready to take the shot, you will never have the chance to get lucky. The lazy man has no luck.
We are now active in a community called SteemIt. There are contests going on all the time for artwork, poetry, and postings. I decided to put in one of my past poems I wrote for Ren when were dating.
Zen-Art is holding a “Move me” poetry challenge.
She asked for a poem that would move her in a positive way.
I think now on the future and the past.
The days gone by, the days we’ve yet to see.
The days of heady youth that fly so fast.
The days of shining hope that yet may be.
For now at last I clearly see the truth.
And look back on a life of discontent.
And rue the choices of my foolish youth.
Forever gone the days of youth misspent.
The years spent in my solitary ways.
Myself the pin ’round which my life revolved.
And then I pause and think on coming days.
And then I think on you and am resolved.
To share my loves and dreams and joys and sorrows.
And trade MY yesterdays for OUR tomorrows.
I have been interested in astronomy for as long as I can remember. I grew up reading Science Fiction and my interest in SF led to an interest in science. My favorite writer was Isaac Asimov, and I devoured his science and history books as readily as his fiction. I was never a serious astronomer. I have owned various telescopes over the years, but never a real instrument. I would occasionally make my way to a star party and look through other peoples telescopes, but I’ve never had a telescope good enough for astrophotography. When I was younger, the bar for serious amateur astrophotography was fairly high, at least relative to my income. You needed a decent telescope, with a drive to track the movement of the stars, and you needed decent camera equipment. There was always something else that seemed more important to spend my money on. But I still tried to get out to the dark whenever I could to see real stars.
If you are not interested in stargazing, you might not realize that most people do not live where they can see any but the brightest stars. The problem is called light pollution, and it is a real obstacle in many areas. Artificial light reflecting from the clouds and dust in the air drowns out most of the stars. Many people go years without ever seeing the milky way. Some people have never seen it, and have no idea what they are missing. There is even an organization dedicated to preserving the dark places. The International Dark-Sky Association.
Over the years, I found other hobbies that took my time and money. Living in Fort Worth I seldom found the opportunity to get out to the dark places. One weekend in June 2015, when Ren was out of town, I found myself missing the stars. A quick search online showed that there was a park about three hours away with particularly dark skies. Copper Breaks State Park. I was fortunate that many of the darkest places to see the stars are in Texas. If I had lived east of the Mississippi, it would have been much harder to find real darkness.
I grabbed my binoculars and my tent and hit the road. Copper Breaks is an International Dark Sky Park. That means it is rated as being an excellent place to see the skies as they should be seen. There are darker places, but this was the darkest I had ever seen, and the Moon would set about an hour after sunset. This is important because the moonlight will drown out the stars as well.
I spent an amazing evening under the stars, it was glorious. I was in heaven and I realized that I never wanted to go that long again without this. Even more amazing was that I just happened to arrive at the peak of the firefly mating season, and Copper Breaks had more fireflies than I had ever imagined seeing. It was truly magical. The entire valley was filled with them.
I tried in vain to get a picture of the stars and the valley with the camera on my cell phone, but that camera was not capable of what I was asking from it.
When Ren came home I told her that I wanted a real camera. Ren and I try to support one another when we feel strongly about something. She called up a friend of ours who was a photographer and asked if he could help get me started, and he asked me over and loaned me his backup camera, a Nikon D70S, a few lenses, and a tripod. Things had changed a lot since I was younger. The technical bar to getting good star photos was much lower. Camera technology had improved considerably. Even that older camera was capable of getting decent results.
Dinosaurs are also coolI started watching every YouTube video I could find about photography. I set out to learn the camera, and was quickly obsessed. The next new moon, I found a place that wasn’t quite as dark, but was much closer, and headed out for my first astronomy shoot at Tucker Lake just outside of Strawn Texas. About 90 miles from the house. Those first shots were not amazing, I was still learning, but I was getting out beneath the stars, and I was learning something new.
One of my First Star PhotosPhotography is now a huge part of my life. Astrophotography is only a small part of that, not because I love it any less, but the necessary conditions do not come together very often. It needs to be near the new moon, I need to have the time and money to get somewhere dark, and need not to have to get up and go to work the next morning, so it needs to be a weekend, and then I have to hope that the sky is not cloudy. It’s a lot of work. I don’t think I’d enjoy it as much if it were easy.
I have since improved my gear, though I still shoot with a relatively modest camera, the Sony A6000. If we ever stop traveling long enough to save up some money, (snort!), I’ll invest in a better lens, but I get pictures I am proud of with my current equipment, and getting to amazing places seems a better use of my resources than collecting camera gear. One of these days I’ll get a telescope, but for now, I’m content.