We stopped at Fort Union on our way home from Oklahoma. It was an abbreviated visit since we still had to make our way home, but it was a great stop. Fort Union served as a frontier outpost. The history of the fort, which was built three different times, is quite interesting, even though it was only in operation for a short time. We had not really planned it that way, but our trip to Oklahoma turned out to be a lesson in the Santa Fe Trail!
Autograph Rock was an important camp site along the Santa Fe Trail because of year-round water. People began carving their names in the sandstone and many of them are still there today. Autograph Rock now sits on private property so you do need permission to see it, but that is easily done, and the rock is definitely worth the stop if you ever find yourself in the Oklahoma panhandle.
As I mentioned yesterday, the dinosaur prints in Kenton, Oklahoma were pretty amazing! We spent quite a bit of time there feeling pretty cool that we were walking in the exact prints of a dinosaur. We were hoping to find out what kind of dinosaur it was, but since the Heritage Center was closed, we were unable to do so.
After leaving the prints, we kept on down the road until we came to the tri-state marker where New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Colorado meet. Dirt road, felt like the middle of nowhere (my favorite place to be), nobody around. It was perfect.
Rob and I usually only have one day off together each week, but with the 4th of July and Rob taking Monday off, we ended up with three! We had debated staying home since we just got back from a big trip not too long ago, but knowing this would be the longest weekend we would have together for the rest of the summer, we decided to make the most of it. So, after some deliberation, we decided on Oklahoma.
I had read about Autograph Rock in Boise City, OK, as well as some dinosaur tracks preserved in sandstone just up the road in Kenton. Black Mesa State Park is also in the area, as is the highest peak in Oklahoma. If you go just a bit further, you run into a fun tri-state marker. All of these things are only about five hours away, so the panhandle of Oklahoma was our destination.
We arrived at Black Mesa State Park at about 3pm. After setting up camp, we decided to go find the dinosaur tracks. There are no markers or street signs for the tracks, so you definitely have to have an idea of where to go. Before we left home, I wrote down every hint I could find as to their location. We found the creek bed, but went the wrong direction at first. We found the tracks just down the hill from the car. Apparently when the tracks were discovered back in the 80s, there were 47 footprints. You can only see about a third of them today. What an amazing find, though.
When we left the footprints, we continued down the road towards the tri-state marker. We were on a little country road that turned to dirt, and we did not see another car the entire time we were out there. We arrived at the state line marker for Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado out in the middle of farm and ranch country. It was absolutely beautiful.
We had contemplated hiking up the Summit Trail, but it was getting too late to start the 4-hour hike, so we went back to camp for the night. There was a thunderstorm heading towards us, so we ended up hanging out in the car for a little bit while all the thunder and lightening passed. Once it passed, the sky was amazing.
Upon waking in the morning, we noticed that we had a flat tire. This kind of altered our plans just a little bit, but we found ourselves being extremely grateful that it was Monday and not Sunday, or the Tuesday holiday, when most repair shops would be closed. After dropping off the tire, we went to a little cafe for breakfast. Great food at a great price. Of course we were the only non-farmer/ranchers in the place, but that was fine with us. After we picked up our tire, which they only charged us $10 to fix, we were on our way again.
Our next stop was the Cimarron Heritage Center. Unfortunately they were closed. I was a little bummed because Autograph Rock is on private property and requires permission from the Heritage Center. I had the number for the manager, so Rob decided to give her a call. She was extremely sweet and even offered to have someone come open up the center so we could see the museum! We declined that offer so that everyone could enjoy their day off, but she did give us verbal permission as well as directions to Autograph Rock.
Autograph Rock was incredible. It was a common stopping point for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. There was year-round water, so it became a well-known campsite. Over the years, people carved their names in the sandstone bluffs. The oldest known name is from 1806, but we did not find that one. F.B.Delgado is the most popular, as he was the owner of a mule and ox train that used the trail, and he carved his name several times. We were the only ones out at Autograph Rock, so we were able to take our time and enjoy the history of the area.
On Tuesday morning, we broke camp and headed for home. We stopped at Fort Union National Monument on the way back. Another quiet spot with only a few visitors. We walked around the fort for a while, then loaded back up to finish our drive home. We arrived home in time to unload our little trailer, take showers, and head back into town for the 4th of July fireworks. We were all very tired when we got back home at almost 11pm, and it felt good to sleep in out own beds.
Before we left home last Sunday, we had worried that perhaps we would not be able to get a camp site, or that things would be crowded since it was the 4th of July weekend. Our worries were quickly put to rest, though. The campground at the state park in OK was almost empty each night. There was no traffic at all. There were no people at the places we visited. Even the playground we stopped at for the kids was quiet. I guess the panhandle of Oklahoma is not a tourist hot-spot for long weekends. For us, though, it was wonderful. A quiet get-away was just what we were looking for. Not to mention we were able to add Oklahoma to our state map.
I am still organizing pictures, so I will share those over the next couple of days. For now, here are a few random pictures I came across this morning…