Saturday, September 8, 2018

Labor Day Weekend In Oklahoma Part 2

Our main reason for visiting Oklahoma was to visit Turner Falls, located in Davis (just over an hour outside of OKC and an easy drive down I35). I had seen this recreational area featured in a travel magazine a couple of years ago and couldn't stop thinking about how cool water slides into a lake would be. I was soooo right! This will be a day that forever sticks in our minds and has left the minis talking about it constantly.

We started our day early with a quick run through the buffet at the hotel and throwing on our swimming suits. Then we were out the door. We made a pit stop at a Walmart just off the interstate for more guacamole and a few necessities for our picnic at Turner Falls.

These bowls instantly caught my eye. I love The Pioneer Woman kitchen items at Walmart. I'm particularly fond of the cloth napkins. 

Our drive to Turner Falls was unexpectedly gorgeous! We saw the red soil of the plains turn into green, rocky, and mountainous landscape.

I'm so happy I bought our tickets online weeks before our arrival. Turner Falls was crowded and they wound up being "sold out" (or closed, as it says online when they reach the number of people they allow in the park for the day) shortly after our arrival. When you pre-pay for tickets, you're guaranteed entry into the park no matter when you show up (only for the date(s) on your tickets). The park is separated into levels (we're on a mountain after all). We had to park in a lot in between levels 2 and 3 (the water slide and pools is on level 1).

Because of the long walk we had to the pools, we chose to eat lunch quickly before heading down. As a parent, the walk down was a tad nerve wracking because you walk on the narrow road right next to the cars coming in and out of the park. However, the minis did great following directions and paying attention to traffic.

The sight that got me hooked: a water slide into the lake. Good, fun swimming hole. We spent the next (almost) 4 hours swimming, going down the water slides, going down rock slides (not as great as Sliding Rock we went down in Pisgah National Forest, but still fun), building sand castles, and chatting with locals. To sum up Turner Falls, as I stated earlier, the park is split into 3 levels. There's hiking trails, caves, camping, cabins, shelters, restaurants, bathrooms, showers, and a river that runs through the park. The river has large pool areas which is where the swimming occurs, but make no mistake about it, this is a very tame river and people were swimming throughout the entire thing. This river is in the mountains, so you do have to rock climb to get in and out of the water. This was easily the most interesting recreational park we've been to. The landscape of the Arbuckle Mountains alone made it interesting.

Leave it to me to step in a fire ant nest (it was in between two rocks that I was climbing). Sigh. Good news is I'm not allergic (as we found out) and I only got about half a dozen bites. Those bites hurt, but luckily I always carry Benadryl with me (and a Benadryl stick for bug bites since we spend so much time outdoors). Thankfully, no one else came across any fire ants.

The first two to go down the slide were Matt and Max. Harrison said he didn't want to go down the slide....until he saw Max go down. My favorite part of the video is as the very end when you hear Harrison exclaim "ok, I'm goin' down!" as soon as he saw Max do it.

While there were no life guards on duty, there were police officers riding around on four wheelers making sure the park was safe. Kids 12 and under have to wear life jackets. The police were doing an excellent job of making sure that rule was followed. The thing I wasn't a big fan of was since the river runs through the entire park, the kids had to be in their life jackets nearly the entire day. There was one point when we went hiking into the caves and we had the kids take them. Several of the cave exits came out on the water's edge, so we had to turn back around to the entrance because they are VERY strict about the life jackets rule.

While I was shocked to see a restaurant in the park, I was more taken aback by the amount of tents pitched that held tables FULL of food. Crock pots, warmers, and families making tamales and pupusas on grills throughout the park. I would have happily pulled up a chair to be included in the tamale and pupusa making!

The first time the minis saw a cactus was when one of them nearly walked into one.

We stopped back at the car for a snack (well, a snack for most of us, but Elizabeth ate the entire loaf of my mom's zucchini bread) and the air conditioning. Then we decided to tackle some hiking trails and caves. The Arbuckle Mountains is an ancient mountain range that has huge granite rocks and numerous other minerals that are easily spotted. This makes for some very rocky surfaces. There were very few smooth hiking areas in this park (or that we found at least).

These rocky paths proved difficult for Elizabeth. Elizabeth likes to skip and hop on our hikes. It didn't end well for her hands and knees moments after we got on the trail. We had to take a "Band Aid break" before we even got started. I'm quite impressed that, even though there were several minutes of pouting about her fall, she kept on going. 

One last pout/cry (pictured above) and then we were on our way to gorgeous views and rock climbing.

One of the caves they were able to crawl all the way through. This was a long, deep cave that had a natural window to look out at the falls.

Us girls waited outside of the cave because Elizabeth wasn't game to go in (she has a fear of caves lately).

My husband came out giggling about the graffiti in the cave. This is what I found on his phone. Somehow the 10 and 8 year old said nothing about it, but the 37 year old was giggling.

Some views from the top.

More views from the top. We never swam in the pool below (the one with the largest waterfall), but got some excellent views of it as we looked down.

While we hiked, we had great conversations with other hikers. Nearly everyone was from Texas (and observation I made as we came into the park and I looked at licenses plates) and had great suggestions for local spots. Of course, we were leaving in the morning, so the only place we got to stop at was a gas station that was also a fried pie shop. OMG! We might make a trip down to OK again just for these (and a day at Turner Falls). These things were amazing! 

Check out Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies. I'm not even a fan of pies and these things were amazing! I really wish we bought a batch of frozen pies to keep in the deep freeze!

We were all exhausted from our adventurous day, so we made it a pizza and popcorn night in the hotel (after showers of course). Elizabeth laid in bed, ate her popcorn, and cried at a Disney show because "it's just so beautiful. I think I need to have a quinceanera."  

Labor Day was a relaxing day in the car, taking in the plains of Oklahoma that turned into fields of corn and hills. We made a stop in Independence, MO to see the start of The Oregon Trail. That was a request from the minis since they spent a good portion of their summer playing The Oregon Trail card game.

As we left Oklahoma, the minis (finally) noticed the oil fields.

Independence, MO has great historical ties. We saw the Truman Home (along with where he went to church and school, which were locations we just happened acrossed), the start of the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails, and we were in the middle of a Labor Day festival. There were several historical walking tours that looked fascinating, but since we had to get home at a decent time for school the next day, we did the bare minimum to satisfy the minis curiosity.

Because of the festival in historic Independence Square, we had to park several blocks away and walk. Hence the viewing of the Truman House.

And then the disappointment hit. Elizabeth fully expected there to be covered wagons, horses, people from the 1800's (no, I'm joking about this in the least), and dysentery. Yes, dysentery. They spent so much time playing the card game that she fully expected to see some of the things they encountered in the game. She wasn't impressed with this stone that marks the beginning of the trail.

The trip wouldn't be complete without one drag out fight in front of a statue. Some kind of fight happens every road trip. We were lucky enough to have it happen at the very end....and in front of numerous people and vendors.

Then we had a good discussion about Andrew Jackson and the Sante Fe trail. I do love how interested in history they seem to be.

Another meal at Taco Bell to round out the trip. We came home to the house messy (we kinda flew out the door on Friday since we had a long drive ahead) and birthday signs still hanging from Hub's birthday celebration. Thankfully I took the next day off to get laundry done, grocery shop, and clean the house because I needed that day! 

A rainbow as we left Kansas City area. What a way to end a vacation!

Oklahoma was a perfect long weekend getaway! It wouldn't surprise me in the least if we wound up in southern Oklahoma someday again, swimming in Turner Falls and eating fried pies. That day alone will forever stick out in my mind as a fun day filled with my mini's laughter and smiles.