Make yourself at home in the Arbuckles of Oklahoma
Whether your interest lies in breathtaking scenery, fun-filled outdoor activities, or geologic anomalies, southern Oklahoma's Arbuckle Mountains are ideal for one night or an entire week to get away with or without the family.
Let's start with the place to stay overnight. No matter what the season--whether you bring the kids or not--there is one place that will never disappoint. Three recently built top-of-the-line cabins are now part of The Arbuckle Event Center. Located on Kay Starr Trail off Interstate 35 at Exit 51 (close to those addictive Original Arbuckle Fried Pies), AEC is a place where real life in the back country happens right under your nose.
There is a huge Great Room for weddings and parties; a western town that by summer will be filled with cowboys, settlers and Indians; and lots of room to roam.
But what makes this place so special for lodging is the spectacular view from each porch and window. Because it is quite literally next door to the famous Arbuckle Wilderness, a drive-through sanctuary filled with exotic animals from around the world, you just never know what you might see. The ground's mascot is an emu (an ostrich-type bird native to Australia and New Zealand). She doesn't like to be petted, but she is never in a hurry to get out of your way either.
Other surprising photo ops include the giraffes who like to hang out near the big fence that separates the properties and the occasional curious water buffalo or zebra. The glimpses of wildlife will entice you to visit the Animal Park, but there is so much more to see.
Southwest up Highway 77 a few miles is the overlook to Turner Falls, a 77-foot spring fed waterfall that splashes year round into a natural swimming hole in Turner Falls Park, one of the areas most visited attractions.
To the southeast is the famous Chickasaw National Recreation Area where the creeks run through miles of tree-laden park land that edges up to Veteran's Lake--a quiet place to fish, hike and hunt--and Lake of the Arbuckles for a full range of water activities. The recently opened Chickasaw Culture Center is another place that you shouldn't miss.
Now how about those geologic anomalies? It is believed that millions of years ago the Arbuckle Mountains were as tall as the Himalayas, which most tourists find hard to believe since they now rise to a whopping 700 feet above sea level. How could this be? Experts say the mountains tell their own tale and when you drive by and see what appear to be toppled mountains, you will understand the beginning of the story. For more information you will have to Google Arbuckle Mountains or question your geology professor.
In the meantime, this is your opportunity to spend time in the splendor of southern Oklahoma in the midst of some of the most beautiful flora and exciting fauna in the Great Prairie.
Contact the Arbuckle Event Center for reservations and an event calendar by calling them at 580-369-7811. Better yet, get online to take a virtual tour of the place and meet the Garrett Family at www.arbuckleeventcenter.com. They are also on Facebook, so drop by and say "Hey."
Editor's note: Susen Foster is the owner of Pecan Cottage Bed & Breakfast in Pauls Valley, Okla. She is the author of numerous travel books. Susen can be reached at www.greatersuccess.com or call 580-622-5408.