Pic of the Week: 4/2/20
Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK
Date taken: 3/22/20
I hope everyone is staying safe and calm during this difficult time. I have been off work for three days now (at the time of writing this). While I am enjoying the time off, I’ve been staying at my apartment and have been practicing my social distancing. No plans to drive and photograph or camp anywhere. We can all pray that everything gets back to normal real soon.
With that being said, we will revisit my last outside encounter at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago. Like I said in a previous blog post our main goal for this day’s hike was going to be exploring some of the seasonal waterfalls around the refuge. There are two main waterfalls that majority of the public know well. One would be the waterfall in the Forty Foot Hole and the other would be Post Oak Falls in the Charon Gardens. Both falls are mostly running throughout the year and while these are excellent subjects, they were not what we were after. Believe it or not, but there are dozens of waterfalls in the refuge, but we refer to them as “seasonal” waterfalls only showing up after a heavy rainstorm or flash flood. After the previous rain we had during that week, I thought it would make for a good opportunity to explore some of those lesser known falls. My wonderful, beautiful, and amazing hiking-partner/girlfriend joined me on the adventure.
When we arrived at the refuge several of the peaks were covered in a thick layer of fog. We decided to stop and take some photographs before we began our hike. We spent an hour shooting and enjoying the scenery around us, but it was time to start seeking out some of these waterfalls. We gathered our gear and headed back east to the Mt Scott picnic area. This would be our starting point. Ashlee and I gathered our gear and started off on our trip. All around us cardinals, blue jays, chickadees were singing and searching the wet ground for a tasty morsel. Their chittering and chirping and flashes of color as they darted from tree to tree gave the refuge a less melancholy mood. One that was a nice reprieve to drizzly gray weather. Our boots squished beneath the soggy ground as we started to slog up a hill avoiding small rocks and boulders hiding in the grass. This hike was not supposed to be very long, but with the uncertain terrain, wet conditions and lack of reliable trail, it could prove to be a bit of a challenge.
We left the pavement of the road and started hiking up the hill. Immediately we were surrounded by the familiar post oak, juniper, and bois d’ arc trees this place is well known for. Soon the highway was out of sight and we were getting into the wilderness. We followed a westward direction keeping Quetone Point and Mt Scott’s Boy as our guides to navigate the area, of course we were never more than a mile from the highway, but its good to practice navigation skills. Our first stop was a rock outcropping and cliff that I believed would give us a nice view of the waterfall. I also had some hope that I would be able to photograph the falls and Quetone point in the same composition. After some minor scrambling and bushwhacking we made it to the overlook. The rushing waters of the Little Medicine Creek could be heard from our location. While this view was nice, I still thought we needed to get closer to the falls.
We hiked a bit to the north to search out a place to cross the creek. Above the main falls were several smaller waterfalls and rapids. Naturally, we stopped and photographed a few of these before finally crossing the creek. We continued south and came across another cross timber wooded area and navigated our way through the trees to the base of the falls. Carefully, we traversed the slick granite rocks and took our time making our way to the creek. The falls were roaring now and everything around us was drowned out as the water cascaded down colorful lichen-covered rocks into an emerald pool some thirty feet below. I made several exposures of Quetone Falls and this was one of my favorites. Although I would have liked a more interesting sky, it was still a great scene. We finished up at the waterfall and took a similar path back to our vehicle. Sadly, none of the other waterfalls panned out that day—this just means I need to return when there’s more rainfall. I’m looking forward to it.