(NOTE: This post was written by Erv with Amy’s Comments added in like this ) _________________________________________________________________________
So there we were, no bull, thought we were gonna die!
So the cliffhanger begins, eh?
We got in the trekmobile, heading Southwest from Tulsa Ok. I44 is a toll road. It costs $4 one way to OKC on that tattered road. If it is an interstate, how did it become a toll road? Did somebody decide one day, “hey, let’s throw up a toll booth out on the interstate & charge everyone who comes through our town… We’ll make a fortune!”. They did… And, they did. It takes about 75 minutes going down I44 to get to OKC going 80mph.
The toll fees one way are around $10 all the way down to exit 41 Ft Sill Key Gate. We made the trip in 3.5 hrs, with a restroom/gas/food stop in the travel plaza near Chickasha Ok. We grabbed some McDonalds (I know… Bad for you) and got back on the road. We rolled into Ft Sill at around 9:45.
The Private at the gate allowed us passage, and we went a couple of blocks to the Holiday Inn located on Main Post. After checking in, we drove over to our building; a two story barracks type building. Inside we found our room to be very cozy & warm. Did I mention it was warm?
After turning down the thermostat, and trying to find a lightswitch, we finally got settled in. The suite was a one bedroom, living room, and bathroom with a stall shower. No fridge or kitchenette. Basic desk, secretary with TV, and coffee pot. The bed was a queen size, with the really great linen, blankets, and rigid pillows you find in most upscale hotels these days. Amy says – there’s just something about an Army Base… the feeling of safety and security is tangible to me… there is something so comforting about it and I was really glad we stayed there. We sat down and read aloud a few of the Wichita Treasure stories from Wilson’s book. Oh the excitement!!!! Can’t wait to get up in the mountains!
We racked out at 11:00 pm.
“Reville, Reville, all hands heave out!”
Yeah you Navy folks know what I’m talking about. We woke up at 6:00 am totally ready to move. Got up, showered, and packed everything out. Grabbed a quick cup of Joe from the room pot. There was a continental breakfast provided in the main building, but not until 8:00 am. We skipped the waiting and grabbed a banana and some granola. Erv woke up totally ready to move… I woke up totally ready to roll back over, shut my eyes and get a few more precious minutes of sleep! But with a little encouragement, I got my head off that pillow and my feet on the ground. And when Erv brought me that delicious cup of coffee with hot chocolate in it… I smiled and got stoked for our adventure to begin!
I checked out, then headed out to the highway.
We took State Highway 62 West to Indiahoma Road, then North to the Wildlife Refuge gate. Took about 20 minutes to drive. Leaving Lawton, there were some seriously run down apartments along the South side of 62. Trust me, you don’t want to break down there unless you are in a HMMWV gun truck with .50 mounted on top.
The drive was pretty nice once we got out of city limits.
We’re starting to see bumps in the ground… these granite rocks are COOL!
Grassy rolling hills with shrubs and trees. Or maybe the trees were shrubs??? Hard to tell. Seems as if the trees that will grow in that area are short and very prickly. Probably due to the harsh environment. There were some neat little farm houses along the way. We turned off on Indianola Road heading North. Thank goodness we had our GPS on, as the road is not marked.
We traveled up a two lane paved road to the entrance gate.
Every mile brought us closer to the mountains… and the excitement was growing! Once we saw this sign, we knew we were almost there… let the treasure trekking begin!
We stopped and took the above photos as we went through the gate. As soon as we went past the trees onto the low grassy plains South of the mountain, we were met with the gazes of about ten buffalo, and about half a dozen of longhorn cattle. Very cool. They looked much more majestic in person…sooo majestic… (sorry – inside joke)
Moving on another 300 feet or so was a sign stating “Information Booth ahead”. As I looked for the booth coming up, Amy said, “you missed it!” apparently my idea of a booth is one with a person in it. I backed up a hundred feet and there was a little turn out with an information box. Amy said, “how much you want to bet there are no info sheets?” good thing I didn’t bet, because there weren’t any.
Next came a sign warning that the animals were dangerous. And with those HUGE long horns… I’d believe it! Thankfully, the animals looked at us like they’d seen a million big trucks come through there… they were not impressed. Then we passed the Job Corps compound on our left. Looked pretty neat. I’m going to have to read up on what they do there besides eat & play football and basketball (there was a dining room and sports area). There were also housing units there. Must be cool to work there!
Finally we reached Post Oak Road and turned North.
We spotted this rounded granite dome and Erv said “That’s Spanish Canyon! That’s where we’re gonna start out hike” It looked above me with all its bulging smooth boulders… and I said to myself “This Rocks!” Pun intended.
We drove a quarter of a mile, then turned left into the Post Oak Lake parking area. The view was incredible, as we were on some high ground and could see the mountains surrounding us.
The lake was beautiful, reflecting the rocks on it’s surface. There is a 45 foot tall dam on it’s South end beside the little 6 space parking lot.
I looked at Amy and said,”well are you ready?” we opened up our doors and BAM! The wind just about blew everything away! We quickly scrambled in the backseat to find all our warm gear… Donning beanie hats, gloves, and heavy coats. The wind was blowing about 20 mph.
Once we got our crap sorted out, we shouldered our packs and headed down the entrance road to the entrance area of Spanish Canyon. I noticed that the draw leading up to the lakes was open; covered with 10-12 foot trees. I made a mental note… Thinking that this would have made a great ingress route for the burro train. Whether Spanish Canyon was a good choice as well would be seen shortly.
We crossed the creek coming through the little valley. There are two creeks running north to south, one coming out of each lake, Treasure on the east, and Post Oak on the west. This creek that runs under the road comes from the dam of Post Oak.
Right about now, I was VERY glad I had packed that big ol’ down coat… that wind was mean!
The brush & trees were very thick on the west side of the road. I checked my Gaia phone app GPS and saw that we needed to start looking for a gap in the undergrowth that would take us into Spanish Canyon. After walking about 30 yards, we decided to just bust brush… Which may not have been such a great idea because the vegetation there is very unforgiving. Lots of spring loaded branches and sticker vines. We brought gloves, so the only hit I took was along my legs. It was also a bit tricky bending over to get under brush with the daypack on. It kept getting caught up in the vines.
We finally broke through the thick stuff and came out of the woods to a view of large wind-worn, smooth boulders, piled up to heaven. These things were massive… Bigger than a bus, and incredibly beautiful. Just like on the old “Roadrunner” cartoon, there were a ton of boulders precariously balanced on top of others. I remarked to Amy “I would hate to be down here if an earthquake hit… You’d be crushed in an instant!” This comment made me begin to look at some of those rocks out of the corner of my eye… waiting for a little teetering… but none did. Well, ONE did teeter a bit when I stepped on it… but I totally played it off so as not to appear to be scurred in front of Erv.
Here we are still pretty low in the canyon… lots of vegetation to dig through on our way up. Many sticker bushes had the pleasure of smacking me in the legs.
The canyon was nothing more than a draw between two 50 ft fingers. It was filled with boulders and some rough little cedar & scrub brushes.
There was a small stream running through the middle of it. There was also a ton of prickly pear and barrel cactus dotting the sides.
The boulders, when piled up, create fissures, caves, and passageways all through the rock. I was beginning to see how treasure could be easily hidden AND lost in this maze of rock.
Getting a little bit higher… this view was spectacular!
There were also goat droppings everywhere, along with cow and goat tracks all about. There was a cow trail the ran up the draw. After climbing here and there, looking for a clear path in, we hit the trail. The hard soled Asolo boots really performed well here.
We started to notice cracks in the rock and quickly went to explore each… Hoping to find Shamans Cave, or The Iron Door, listed in Wilson’s Treasure Tales.
We came upon a large fissure in the south side and quickly dropped our packs for a quick look inside. The crack went in about 10 feet, then opened up to about 4 feet across. It was a total of 25 feet deep and merely became a narrowing crack as you went back. The last 6 feet was open to the top… About 12 feet up.
Erv in the fissure… propped up because there really wasn’t much “ground” space to stand in – it was very cool!
Amy in the fissure.
The slits in the rocks made a cross with light streaming in… isn’t it beautiful!
By this time it was starting to warm up a bit. The sun bearing down, the lack of wind in the canyon, and our increasing body heat from movement was warming us up. Time to ventilate! We unzipped all the openings on our jackets… Ahhh much better. Gotta drink that water too… Can’t dehydrate.
We left the little cave and headed farther into the canyon. At this point, my “easily identifiable terrain feature” theory of how they identified where the treasure was buried went down the drain. All the boulders were granite with a rough weathered texture. No symbols would be easily found unless they were in a cave or sheltered spot. Another thing… I couldn’t see the point to wanting to take 18 heavily laden burros into these rocks. Donkeys are sure footed, but even they have limitations. Also, there would be no place to corral a group that big in the confines there.
We continued the search.
Look at that blue sky! You could just get lost in it, couldn’t you? We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day for this trip. After the morning chill left, it was perfect! And look at how HUGE these boulders are…
I also came to the realization that the awesome scenery here was worth more than any kind of Spanish gold. Experiences like this are truly priceless.
We found another cave on the north face. As we were exploring that, we came upon a gap in the rock that led to the other side. We followed it and when the rock opened up on the other side, the grand view opened up before us. We were quite elevated and could see north and east to all the different mountain ranges around us. Absolutely spectacular!
We climbed around for better views, then started the downward leg into this new canyon. There were more piled boulders, but there was also about 100 meters of dirt in the bottom dotted by trees and brush. Lots of goat sign (read “poo”) on this side. Once again, a small creek made it’s way east from the high ground. We moved down to the creek and drifted up the creek bed west.
After hitting some blockage on the path, we re thought our route & came back a ways, using a 15 ft tunnel in the rock to avoid the underbrush.
Amy found a Garmin GPS laying on the ground there. I checked the battery compartment and realized it had been there awhile, as the batteries were corroded. More treasure!
We walked up the slope to another cave & sat down for a short break. The view was incredible! You could see all the way southeast to the observation towers on Ft Sill, about 3 miles away.
We continued our journey, crawling around the rocks like little kids. Every time we’d spot something that looked like it could be a cave, we’d squint at it, see if it looked like it went back far enough to stash some gold, then we’d go bounce over and check it out. It was invigorating and exciting. My cheeks were getting a workout from all the smiling we were doing… and my LEGS were getting a workout from all the climbing around. We were truly living in that moment… soaking up all the fun and adventure we could. Here are some photos we took along the way…
This was a fairly steep rock…
but I conquered it!
and Erv captured it.
Here he is from my viewpoint.
The little bonsai trees that grew way up in the rocks brought back the scene from “The Karate Kid” where the boy goes to take a bonsai tree off a cliff & Mr. Miagi throws a fit. Amy brought this up when we saw the little guy pictured above.
So we stopped & shared a protein bar and drank some water. It was good to sit and admire the awesomeness of the scenery. This place should be in a travel blog! :)
We got up and headed to the cave we saw earlier, which was only a fold in the rock… Or so we thought. Just as we were about to move on up the hill, I leaned just a little farther over and was rewarded to find that the cave went up & up.
I could not see the end of it. I quickly called to Amy and we dropped our gear in anticipation of another subterranean excursion! Erv was ready to get in there, but stopped for a quick photo op.
This cave went in, then up. We had to climb a bit to be able to see that it went back about 18 feet or so and terminated in a 2′ cave at the top ledge. We noticed goat droppings and Amy said, “something smells bad”. It was goat urine & feces! We got the heck out of there. The way my mind processed this moment went something like this, “oh man…look at that… this cave is deep! I’m gonna climb up on this little platform and see if it goes back any further… *sniff*… *sniff sniff*… eeeew… Erv… he must be really sweating! UGH… bleh! That is bad… REALLY bad… is that ME?? no… no way… that’s not my flavor.” Then, when I couldn’t stand it anymore…I finally brought it up to Erv. When he said it was an animal scent… my instinct was to jump and run! I did NOT want this adventure to end in a bear mauling… that’s not fun for ANYBODY. I was relieved when he said it was just a goat.
I quickly named this one: “goat stink cave”. We grabbed our gear then moved west farther up the ridge until we reached the top. Erv made it out first, so I snapped this pic of him relishing the fresh air.
As we topped the ridge, once again, we were rewarded with another grand view of the valley below. Amy snapped a couple more pics then we headed down into a draw which lad back into the depths of the Creek.
There was also a small stream trickling down this draw and into the main stream. We inspected several spots to see if any of the shiny stuff might be visible with the bright sun hitting it. No such luck!
As we moved deeper into the creek bottom, we spied another overhang type cave on the north cliff face. Inside was an old broom handle, made out of steel that was rusty & pitted. Another hiker had shoved it into the limestone/clay making a series of holes into the wall. Jesse James maybe? No, the mop handle was too new. Nice try. I just did a little research and THIS was the famed Spanish Cave!! If we’d known that, we would’ve taken a picture…
Next, we crossed the creek and got back onto the top of the south ridge and looked around. There were deep cracks going down 10 feet or so that you have to step over. Amy related a movie she saw where a guy had fallen into one & couldn’t get back out. What a crappy situation. Luckily, there was no need for a pocket-knife rescue on this trip.
I was definitely glad we had packed a few survival type items in our packs. Check the “gear we used” section to view the contents of my pack.
We climbed about looking for a good trail to take to get back to the east again. Over and over we hit drop offs. Finally we decided to backtrack back past the goat cave & go out that way. Once again I commented on how great our boots were at navigating the rocks.
We checked out another cave on the north cliff face. It was about 10 feet up, but leveled out once you were inside.
But look at how scary that one big rock looks… just wedged and suspended in-between it’s neighbors!
Being inside the cave was a little freaky…made me breath a little softer than I did in the open. All those rocks had to FALL off the mountain at some point in order to get there… I had my eye on them!
Finally, after a busted camelback bladder incident, we made it back to the opening of the small valley. We followed the cow trails down until we could see the truck in the Post Oak Lake parking area. We kept moving due west and crossed Post Oak Lake Creek just below the dam.
Moving over the last hill, we connected with the trail that led back up to the parking lot. We threw all of our stuff into the truck then went over to look at the lake. The wind had died down a bit since we pulled up three hours earlier.
Post Oak Lake Dam is 45 feet tall, and according to one of our books, replaced a 45 ft tall waterfall that used to be there. It is still quite beautiful.
That sun was bright and made the little lake sparkle… it was lovely.
We got in the truck and moved a whopping 25 yards north to the Charon Gardens parking lot. By this time there were a few cars there and people moving about the trails. We parked and walked down to Treasure Lake. By this time, the camera batteries were WAY dead, so sorry there are no pictures. :(
The lake water was incredibly clear and you could easily see the bottom. Very beautiful.
At this point, our feet and ankles were a bit sore… Not in shape for this apparently… So we loaded up, headed for Doris Campground.
The main road took us due east towards French Lake. The road is a decently paved 2 lane that winds around the flatter land at the edge of the mountains. Just before we reached French Lake, we passed Wind Tunnel Cave and made a mental note to try and get back to see it.
We passed several lake turn-outs and continued east. Just before we hung the right turn onto State Highway 49, we passed another park maintenance area. The old houses were made from the giant smooth stones, and as we passed the barn etc, those little houses were made from the small cannonball sized cobblestones. The creek next to it had a couple of flood control slabs and the northeast bank had a rock wall made of the cobblestones as well.
Once we turned onto Hwy 49, we came across a large praire dog town on the south side of the road. Those little guys were running all over the place & eating bright orange carrots. Their little tails were wagging.
Then we came upon more buffalo & longhorn cattle, a female elk, and various deer hanging out beside the road, apparently enjoying the sunshine.
Just a few more miles & we turned right into Doris Campground.
A sign on the guard house said pay at the self pay station. Where IS the self pay station? Who knows?
We drove into the campgrounds and found a secluded spot right beside the lake. It was the most perfect spot there.
We set up camp, got a fire going, and started lunch. I made some “Wise” brand Cheezy Lasagne. The picture looked very tasty, and we were famished by now. I also put on a pot of coffee.
It took about 20 minutes to prepare the lunch. You have to boil the water, put your food in it, then let it sit for 15 minutes to absorb the water. It smelled great, but I had put a little too much water in. It was a little runny. We had just the lasagna and coffee for lunch.
Most freeze dried camping meals have a bit of an aftertaste. The Wise meal was no different. Although tasty, there is a pretty bitter aftertaste. Kinda like stomach acid. I kept that to myself and ate 2 plate fulls anyways. I double that sentiment.
We got out our fishing poles and went to try our luck in the lake. After about thirty minutes of catching sea grass, we came back to camp. We spent awhile gathering firewood & goofing around the fire. Finally Amy suggested we take an afternoon nap. Great idea!
Oh man… did that coffee taste great!!
Here’s our camp… quite cozy. That firepit was already there, along with a permanent grill… Doris Campground hooked us up!!
Here we are looking like some real mountaineers :)
After our nap, we started getting dinner ready again. We still had half a pot of runny lasagna, so I added a pack of ramen noodles to it. I refilled the coffee pot and put it on the fire as well. Of course, the coffee turned over & spilled a bit… No big loss. This time the lasagna was great. I guess it needed the ramen.
A fellow named Randy stopped over to say hello and tell us where to find more firewood. Apparently across the lake was a ton of deadfall due to the ice storm. We had plenty so we stayed put.
Doris campground is posted as a no alcohol area. That’s all fine & dandy, but we each had a cold Wells Banana Bread beer for desert. Discretion would be advised. I learned as a Gunny in the Marines, that if you know the intent of the law, then discretion could be used if the law needed bending a little. The President does it everyday.
We sat around the fire for a while. Saw a cool shooting star that lit up the night for about 15 seconds, some scary looking clouds, then hit the rack. I made a wish on that star…it was gorgeous! I hope it comes true.
This is the end of this part of the story, but check “Interesting Tidbits” to find out what we saw on the way out!