December 5, 2023

Oklahoma is a much more topographically diverse state than most folks think, although I love referring to John Fullbright’s “All The Time In The World:”

Central Oklahoma
Is my land, it’s my country
Eastern Oklahoma is a beautiful sight
Nothern Oklahoma
Might as well be Kansas
Never go to Southern Oklahoma at night

To be fair to Southern Oklahoma, however, both the southwestern part of the state and its Wichita Mountains and the southeastern corner and its Ouachita National Forest are devastatingly beautiful. We just spent the weekend in the latter, at Beavers Bend State Park, near Broken Bow.

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Beavers Bend State Park is a 1,300-acre park built upon a Choctaw settlement and located along Broken Bow Lake, founded in 1937. It was not named for an animal, either. It was named after John T. Beavers, who is a Choctaw intermarried citizen according to Wikipedia, although I have to admit that I don’t know what that means exactly. Maybe he wasn’t a Choctaw but married one?

From Oklahoma City, it’s a 4-hour drive to Broken Bow as the crow flies. If you’re driving and plan to stop for dinner, you’ll want to plan for 5-6 hours. You get to wind through the landscapes south of McAlester, along the Indian Nation Turnpike, through Stringtown (home of Reba McEntire) and through Hugo, where I took my first job out of college in 1994. Even though we left mid-afternoon on a February Friday, we didn’t get there until almost 11.

We took our time. I’ll explain.

Also, get you a good deal. Ours came via Groupon, and it landed us a riverfront cabin. Check this out: We got a cabin for four (there were only two of us) for $175, and that was for the entire weekend. Kristi found it via the Groupon site, and while the offer came during the off-season, it was good through May. We didn’t pick April or May because it’s a hyper-busy time for both of us.

Besides, for the past two years, we’ve used this February seasonal state park jaunt to mark the end of winter and get our heads aligned with the onset of spring. When we went to Robbers Cave State Park in 2017, we lucked into a weekend with cloudy skies and about 50 degrees.

Cue up the same weather for 2018, just a bit southeast of last year’s destination.

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Check out this collection of nat-sound video I shot from my vacation to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Lots of water sounds for folks into ASMR, and it’s an all-around relaxing experience — on video as it is in person.

A big reason why that weather is perfect for a cabin stay, for me, is that by this time of year, I’m usually training for the Oklahoma City Memorial (Half) Marathon, and I love running in nature, in solitude.

However, the fact that we stayed at Robbers Cave last year and Beavers Bend this year leads to some opportunities to compare as well. Mostly, we both liked Robbers Cave a little better, and that could be for many reasons.

It was the first trip of its kind for us, together.

The cabins were a bit cozier.

And Robbers Cave had a pretty well-defined running trail, or at least an area where runners ran. When I asked one of the park clerks about a running trail, she said (and I’m not joking), “Running? Why would you want to do that?”

I get that a lot.

However, I was able to figure it out pretty easily. There are enough roads along the park that aren’t traveled too much such that a brisk walk can be turned into an easy run.

In terms of landscape and the look-and-feel of the outdoors, Beavers Bend and Robbers Cave are practically the same except for there being water at Beavers Bend due to its location next to Broken Bow Lake. Both are within the Ouachita National Forest, so to the eye, it truly looks the same.

Much like we did at Robbers Cave last year, Kristi and I mostly spent our time inside the cabin. We watched a couple movies, after I had gone for a run, and we mostly relaxed. We also made it a point to visit their gift store, which was much more substantive than anything I remembered at Robbers Cave. I even bought a few knick-knacks.

Also, we had been told about a winery and brewery in the area, although I had my own beer there. If we had more time, it would have been nice to visit the winery for sure. I’ve been trying to get more acclimated to the taste of wine and sophisticating my palate. We were told about this guy who gives patrons a ride to and from the winery for $5, and I don’t think he’s with Uber or Lyft. He’s just a dude who gives people rides from one place to the next and back for a little pocket change.

Likewise, there is a park restaurant near the cabins, within a walking distance, which is really nice. However, we cooked for ourselves instead. Kristi made some fantabulous tacos.

As I mentioned earlier, we took our sweet old time getting to the cabin, stopping in McAlester along the way and on the return trip home. Perhaps no other small Oklahoma town offers better food options than McAlester, which is chock-full of Italian restaurants due to the large number of Italian immigrants who moved there long ago. We chose Modo Mio Italian restaurant on the way down and Marilyn’s Cafe on the way back.

Anyway, we had a good time even if the weekend felt even shorter than our park trip from 2017. Time flies when you’re having fun!

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