November 13, 2021, by Erin Juarez
The LEAP Ambassadors continued our educational field trip by venturing out west into the Wichita Mountian Wildlife Refuge. We took advantage of the wonderful Oklahoma Fall weather and began our adventure in the oldest managed wildlife facility in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service system.
We were so excited to get there, so the LEAP Members dressed in weather-appropriate- hiking attire and headed out!
When we got to Lawton, Oklahoma, it seemed as though we stepped into a different time. The town of Medicine Park, right outside the Refuge, was founded in 1908 as Oklahoma’s first resort town. Due to the natural abundance of cobblestone, every building proudly displays this local feature in its design. Passing through Medicine Park was a great prelude to our visit to the Refuge as it properly set the tone for the trip.
As we begin the windy climb up Mount Scott, our thoughts were of what the view might be like when we reached the top.
We were amazed by what greeted us as we made the final bend onto the top of the mountain.
One of the biggest attractions to the refuge is found in the replicas of the Holy City.
The displays of major Biblical scenes once again transported us to a different time.
Such scenes on display included the last supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, three crosses, a whipping post, the judgment seat of Pilot, and more. This was one of Saara’s favorite places we visited because it taught her more about the Christian faith and expanded her cultural awareness.
Luckily for us, the day was filled with photogenic wildlife, in all shapes and sizes. We were fortunate to see animals such as buffalo…
The prairie dogs were modeling for us, standing still, and looking right at the camera.
The buffalos were a little further, but we were still able to take pictures of them. For many of us, this was our first time seeing buffalo.
We stopped to see several beautiful lakes and one with a perfect vantage point of the watchtower.
The tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1941 and looks to be in great condition. We thought the location would be perfect for our favorite LEAPing photo, but we were ultimately unsuccessful.
We were more successful at stationary photos.
While we might have failed at being photogenic ourselves, the landscape and the picturesque scenes more than made up for it. We also discovered different types of birds including but not limited to geese, loons, and a woodpecker.
Morgan and Professor Yawn took this opportunity to practice with a new macro lens. They both found it quite difficult to photograph the still plants, but thankfully they yielded some detailed photos.
With the sun coming down at 5:20, we knew we had to find the right place to hike to admire the sunset, take pictures, and enjoy each other’s company. Yvette was the one who geared up better than anyone else, bringing her cliff bar along the hike to snack on. When we got to the top of the mountain, we set up the tripods after we caught our breath, of course.
We waited for the sun to go down while enjoying the view….
…and waited for an ideal shot.
We concluded our hike with minimal stumbles and slips and only one major wipeout. (Morgan’s editors note: I successfully scaled the steep rocks with many features not adjacent to walking on a flat surface and made it to the top with no issue. It was the loose gravel, on a flat terrain that did me in on this trip). But it was a nice view and worth it.
The Wildlife reserve greatly displays the beauty found in Oklahoma, from the towering mountains to the seemingly endless plains. We were all grateful to experience this aspect of the state.
Afterward, we had a warm and filling meal at Pho Paradise, and then we ventured off to a local coffee shop called Viridian Coffee Co. The café had amazing salted caramel cookies and energizing coffee. Each bite taken of the gooey, soft, and delicious cookie followed by a sip of my hot latte macchiato, or Erin’s cold hot cholate made a great dessert!