21 March 2009

Great spring break!

So Spring Break is almost over! Luckily, school resuming doesn't change our routine that drastically. But Claire and I did use this time to hang out with our school-bound friends. On Tuesday, we traveled with Mom and Ty to Robbers Cave State Park , about two hours north and east of Mom's house in Coleman, in the San Bois Mountains north of Wilburton. I'll have pics when Mom gives me hers, but we had a great time. It's a small park perfect for families with young kids. Claire is really a little too young to fully enjoy it, but we still had fun.

The park has two small lakes, so small there's not even any motorboats allowed on them. The main one has a big rocky bluff on one side and is lined with pine trees. Beautiful! We rode a paddleboat around and then fed the catfish and geese back on the dock. On this lake, there's also a playground and nearby, the nature center. We walked the outdoor classroom trail after we left the lake, which was easy walking and pretty, but really not very educational. Claire enjoyed going over the bridge and shouting the word all the way (which she pronounces like a bad word!), picking up pine cones (we didn't keep them!), and riding a bent-over tree like a horse.

Then we went back to our room in the Belle Starr Lodge and had a picnic behind the lodge. The back of the lodge overlooks a huge valley, but that means you're kind of on the edge of a rocky bluff! A little nerve-wracking with Claire! We had to keep a close eye on her and give her a couple talking-to's about getting on the rocks by herself. After we ate, we were all four in our respective hog heavens, relaxing outside in the perfect weather, Mom and I reading on a blanket, Ty playing his DS, and Claire alternately wandering around and watching Clifford on her tough DVD player.

The next day, we woke up around 8 a.m. and got ready to head to the main attraction in the park, the Robbers Cave trail. According to legend, outlaws Belle Starr, Jesse James, and Cole Younger and their respective posses all used these mountains as hideouts. It was great hiking! There were trails marked with red that were steep-grade, which Ty and I had a great time scrambling up, and trails marked with yellow that were moderate-grade, which Claire could usually handle holding one or two hands. Mom and I switched off on holding her some, too. Supposedly, the robbers used this huge slab of steeply tilted rock, now called Devil's Slide, as a quick getaway. We didn't actually slide for fear of tearing up our pants, but the CCC actually built some subtle steps in the side so we could climb up and down pretty well. The Robbers Cave was not a huge cavern you actually go inside, but just a slanting, Willy Wonka-style hallway in the side of the mountain big enough to hold 15 or so people. Claire, Ty, and I did find an actual cave you could hunker down in and be completely in the dark, which was neat. We saw a couple groups of rock climbers scaling some sheer rock faces while we were hiking around.

All that only took about an hour and fifteen minutes, and then we headed back over to the lake for another picnic. After we ate, we went into the nature center, which was small, but really neat! There was a big fish tank full of fish found in Oklahoma lakes and a lone swimming turtle, there were five or six snakes, a tank of turtles (Did you know there's a turtle nicknamed the Stinkpot that emits a foul odor when startled? Or a turtle with a serrated shell? Cool!), and some insects and lizards. There was also a low shelf that Claire could reach filled with stuff from the woods that kids were encouraged to touch and hold, like snakeskins, turtleshells, deer antlers, pinecones, neat rocks, etc. Then, for the coolest part: on the rat snake's tank, the information card said it was gentle enough to be held, and to ask if you wanted to hold it. So we did! Tyler got to hold the rat snake (oddly named Cornflake), and a bright orange corn snake (I don't think I heard its name).

Great trip, very affordable! Lots of Oklahomans have fond memories of visiting Robbers Cave, but I'd never been for some reason. I'm sure we'll go back as a family again.

Then yesterday, Claire and I went to Ardmore to pick up Dani Rose and Molly and visit Arbuckle Wilderness (again!). It was much more crowded than when Jay, Claire and I visited in January, but it was still great fun! This time, we got to see the giraffes, monkeys, and lemurs, which were all put up because of the cold weather when we were last there. These spider monkeys were not so friendly! Claire was so excited to see them; toward the end of our drive through the park, we started hollering, "Bye Geese! Monkeys! Bye Donkeys! Monkeys!" and so on. She was ready to see the monkeys! But the pair of spider monkeys wore these funny little snooty expressions, just casually scratching themselves and hanging by their tails like they were quietly showing off. One even bared his teeth at us a couple times! I think Claire was a bit taken aback. She expected to see like Curious George wandering around grinning and getting into trouble.

Claire and I made a quick stop by Hastings in Ardmore to spend a Christmas gift card--bliss!--and then headed home and got ready to go over to Matt and Kim's house for dinner! Whew! Claire and Katelyn turn into screaming monkeys when they're together! Hyper, crazy girls! But so fun.

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