Black Mesa Trip Report
What do you do to celebrate 21 years of matrimonial bliss? A state highpoint of course! And since Susan and I were doing this trip together, I took my nicest tent; our 41’ motor coach we call “BigByrd”.
Just driving BigByrd up to this highpoint proved to be an adventure in itself. We stopped to deliver a stray Siamese kitten that had wondered into our garage to my niece Emily who has a gift with troubled animals. In fact she had a stray baby deer she found on their property in her care while we were there.
We left late afternoon and boon docked (using onboard power, water & sewer) in a Walmart on the way to the Twin Fountains RV Park in Oklahoma City. The next day BigByrd would not start, and with help from Cummins Oklahoma City, I figured out that is was out of water and the engine management system was protecting the motor. Turns out the radiator had a leak and was losing water, after a double treatment of Bars Leak, we were on the road and the leak was sealed. However, after an hour of driving, it was holding water, but began to overheat. We pulled over a few times to let it cool down, but halfway to Amarillo, I decided to turn around and head back to Oklahoma City and have it fixed at the Cummins repair facility there which meant the highpoint aspect of the trip was a bust. So at the end of the day, we found ourselves back at the Twin Fountains RV Park in Oklahoma City. On the way back I had discovered that by driving slower, (55 as opposed to 65) the engine stayed cool. So the next day we set our sights on Amarillo, and while I did have to treat the radiator again halfway, we got there.
Bet you Can’t Eat That 72 Oz Steak!
Amarillo, has a couple of interesting things to see, one was “The Big Texan” where if you can eat a 72 Oz steak in one hour, it’s free. We had a nice dinner there, and half a dozen folks tried the steak challenge, but we left before they finished, so I’m not sure if they managed it.
Now Where Did I park My Caddy?
I’m always looking for unique photography opportunities, so the next morning, we got up before sunrise to visit Cadillac Ranch where 10 vintage Cadillac’s are buried nose down. It was colder than Susan could tolerate, and started raining so she waited in the Jeep while I took photos until the rain got serious and drove me back to the Jeep as well.
Back in Oklahoma
Next stop was Black Mesa State Park which only has two 50Amp RV hookups and is first come, but the park was empty so no worries. Despite the name, this park is not connected to the State park by the same name that contains the highpoint. That is a different Black Mesa State Park about 15 minutes away. But I was finally in position, to go for the highpoint!
A Gleaming Throne
The next morning I rose at 4:00 and proceeded to the other Black Mesa State Park, and found it without issue. When I got there, I was surprised to find a very nice concrete handicap van parking space at the trailhead. I’m all for access, but if you need a wheelchair, high pointing is probably not your first choice of hobbies. I did take advantage of what is the nicest toilet I have ever seen in a state park. The floor was freshly painted concrete and the gleaming toilet was stainless steel and looked like someone had recently polished it. There were 3 full rolls of toilet paper, locked onto a stainless steel bar with, yep, a stainless steel lock. I felt like I should go outside, but got over it.
So I got my gear on and struck out at 5:20. At this point it was still quite dark, but for the starlight which was enough once my eyes adjusted. It was cool with a moderate wind, and quite comfortable while moving. The wind blew in some cloud cover and it was suddenly very dark indeed, and I had to rely on my headlamp to continue. Aside from the wind, it was still and quiet, and my only companions were hundreds of tiny spiders whose multifaceted eyes caught my headlamp and glittered like diamonds.
I wanted some sunrise photos at the summit, so I was on a mission to make the 4.2 mile trek by then and hiked at a quick pace without breaks or photos (it was dark anyway).
The highpoint itself is a broad mesa formerly home to buffalos and yes, buffalo chasing Indians. The hike consists of hiking through a valley of sorts, between lots of other mesas, until you reach the tallest one. Then you make a steep but short climb up the side of it, gaining most of the elevation in 30 minutes or so. Then once on top, you hike another mile or so with moderate elevation gain until you get to the highest point. It’s really pretty anticlimactic, but an interesting hike, nonetheless.
I arrived at the summit in 75 minutes just before the 6:38 sunrise. There was some low hanging clouds from a distant rainstorm that added some interest to the skyline. I got some decent shots despite flat character of this highpoint.
I spent an hour at the summit taking photos, eating and drinking before setting out for the trailhead. The hike back was uneventful, and I only saw one other pair of hikers. The female was carrying their 20lb dog because they were worried about snakes, I let them know how ridiculous I thought that was and that I had not seen any snakes. Besides, if someone is going to carry the dog, it ought to be the man, because, yes, men ARE stronger. Yes I said it, now get over it GI Jane. Anyway, they had apparently seen a snake crossing the road 15 miles away, which meant that the whole area must be infested with them. I shook my head and moved on.
So I arrived back at the trailhead feeling fresh and decided to take a look at Denton which was the other direction on 325 from whence I came. It was only a few miles up the road, but there was not much to see. The standouts were an old fashioned mercantile store that looked to be permanently closed and a museum that was not much larger than the parks bathroom.
So one more state highpoint is crossed off the list.