Did you know that northwest Oklahoma is fairly similar to the Saharan desert of Africa? Really, it is.
Well, at least some parts of it are. During the last few days of May 2016, there was a lull in storm activity, and we ventured into the Oklahoma panhandle in pursuit of a few state parks.
City of Beaver
Dropping south out of Kansas, we arrived in the town of Beaver, Oklahoma. We had no expectation other than we were driving through a town with a funny name.
However, the 1,500 residents of Beaver ended up shocking us with their sense of humor and town pride.
After spending around 15 minutes making several U-turns to take photos of funny signs and pose with beaver statues, we finally headed out of the very small town to our original destination.
Beaver Dunes State Park
Just outside of town was Beaver Dunes State Park, which I knew nothing about other than it was located on a map and was marked as a state park.
Upon arriving in the park, taking a tour of the restroom seemed both important and urgent.
When I arrived at the restroom facility, I was quite surprised at what this particular exhibit showcased.
Disturbance in the Latreen
There was an entire roll of toilet paper shoved into the toilet, similar to a candle stuffed into a cake. Paper towels and toilet paper were draped all over everything in the bathroom, the water did not work, and I really not need say anymore.
It appeared that this bathroom had not been maintained in at least a few months. I say this as only a comparison to my beloved Florida State Parks, which are in fact the best in the nation. (Both my opinion and rated by ____ ) More on this bathroom incident later, but first…the sand.
We climbed up the side of the dunes in hopes of getting a nice view of the area. The slopes of the dunes were fairly steep but not a cliff by any means.
Walking up was not as difficult as others, such as the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado or White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. These dunes were mostly coated in vegetation, making the sand less prone to swallowing your entire leg at the most unexpected moment.
The walk to the top only took a few minutes, as these dunes were not massive. However they still presented a great view well worth the climb.
Furthermore, no one else was around. I spontaneously took the opportunity to lay down in the sand and enjoy what the universe had provided us in this very moment.
The sand was cool and very comfortable. Looking back to the south, we were able to see the little town of Beaver just to the left of the trees.
At the time of this writing, about 18 months after we visited the Beaver Dunes Park, I discovered that this was actually not a state park anymore.
In fact, the State of Oklahoma had planned to close the park in the end of 2011, but someone from the town of Beaver protested the closure. Eventually, the town of Beaver took over the sand dune park.
Five years later when we visited, the signage indicating that this was a state park was still present, but everything appeared to be in a state of disrepair as I had stated above.
It seemed to be an abandoned state park, but we can presume the very small and isolated town of Beaver was doing what they could to keep the park opened and maintained.
In fact, six other state parks were slated for closure at the same time, but all of them were taken over by other local groups or agencies.
Little Sahara Sand Dunes
After spending the night in Woodward, we found our way to another secret sand dune in Oklahoma. It is known as Little Sahara State Park.
Did I say secret? Yeah, this one was not quite as secret as Beaver Dunes, located 120 mile west of Little Sahara.
Secluded No More
When we pulled into the parking lot, we immediately saw no less than 200 cars…no…big ass trucks all over the place…AND they all had trailers of some sort.
After driving around the parking lot twice, leaving the park in order to turn around and attempt a third time, we finally found somewhere to park the damn car.
Climbing the Dunes
No stranger to climbing sand dunes at this point, we made our way up the side of the red sand piles to get another nice view. As soon as we reached the apex, the view of this particular of sand dunes proved to be in stark contrast to all others thus far.
Not only did it appear to closely resemble the Great Saharan desert in Africa, but these dunes were covered in dozens upon dozens of dune-buggies, ATV 4-wheelers, and whatever else makes loud farting sounds while zooming around in sand.
We had discovered a secret Not-at-all-secret haven for dune buggy and ATV enthusiasts.
From our perspective, the vehicles and their drivers looked only slightly larger than ants zooming around on the sand. We were standing on the top of a short but steep dune walk, and directly in front of us was a cliff that dropped nearly 50 feet down. The area was fenced in, and we had nowhere to go from this location.
No matter, this was actually exciting and somewhat fascinating to watch. Back and forth the squirrel sized vehicles went…zooming all around the dunes. They chased each other from end to end, disappearing around a corner from time to time.
The air was silent, and then you heard a low buzzing in the distance. Suddenly a swarm of people presumably having an absolute blast came cascading over the sandy hill off in the distance. On a few occasions, the riders came almost directly underneath us.
We simply had nothing else to do but stand there and live vicariously through their thrill. At least for this particular visit. I do believe I will be renting a dune buggy the next time we find ourselves in Oklahoma and the thunderstorms are on strike.
Have you ever found something completely different than what you would normally expect on the other side of a hill?