The scenic route: Altus to Medicine Park

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Recently I had to go to Altus, in southwestern Oklahoma, for the day. I left early in the morning, made one stop, and got there in great time.

Coming back I decided to take the scenic route from Altus back to I-44 near Lawton. I didn't travel any unfamiliar roads. I've made many trips to Altus over the last 20 years and have taken nearly every imaginable alternate path between here and there. Today I combined some of my favorite detours.

The first one starts a little over 10 miles east of the center of Altus (Main and Broadway). Traveling east on US 62, I took the Headrick exit, which put me on an older, curvier alignment of the highway, paralleling the railroad tracks. The road skirts the northern edge of the little town then winds through some some rocky hills and over a long pony truss bridge across the North Fork of the Red River, followed by a through truss bridge over a railroad. The old concrete roadbed, the old style bridges, the pale orange rocks, and the mesquite trees combine to look like a fading slide from a summer vacation out west circa 1947. Shortly after passing over the railroad, the old alignment rejoins US 62. The entire loop is about three miles long, and it's easiest to do if you're eastbound.

(About two miles further, you can turn left to drive US 62 Business through the town of Snyder, which gives you a closer view of the stoney mountains that guard the town on the west and east. I skipped it today. Since it's on the north side of the new highway, it's easiest to hit this when westbound. Where the business alignment meets the main road, you can go straight across to hit another old US 62 alignment which will take you through Indiahoma, Cache, and into Lawton on Cache Road.)

Back to "new" 62: Six miles east of the junction with SH 54, there's a marked turnoff for Indiahoma and the Treasure Lake Job Corps Center. Turn left (north) on Indiahoma Road, which skirts the western boundary of Ft. Sill, then enters the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. The road passes Charon's Garden Wilderness Area -- more stark, rocky hills, with evergreens improbably mixed in with the mesquite trees. The road passes through the refuge headquarters complex then meets SH 49, the main road through the refuge.

Turning east on 49, you'll pass a prairie dog town and likely see some longhorns. Near the visitor's center, you have to turn left to stay on 49. About 3 miles later, there's the entrance to the Holy City, a complex of buildings used for the annual Passion Play. The Judaean architecture seems to fit the arid topography.

Just past the Holy City entrance road, turn left to head to Meers on SH 155, about 3 miles further north. At the Meers Store, in its current location since 1922, you can eat a longhorn burger the size of a dinner plate and watch the seismograph (there's a fault nearby). (But not if it's a Tuesday.)

I headed east on Meers-Porter Hill Road for 4 miles, then southeast on SH 58 toward Medicine Park. To get into Medicine Park, you can go the easy way -- down to SH 49, then back west to Forest Ave., the road that forks off from 49 on the right (north) side and leads you into town.

Or you can go the hard way -- take a right on Big Rock Road and head up the hill on a switchback road, carefully observing the 5 mph speed limit. Your effort will be rewarded with a spectacular view of Mt. Scott and the Wichita Mountains to the west. You'll head downhill toward town past some homes that make interesting architectural use of the steep slope.

Big Rock Road leads to East Lake Street, which will lead you into the heart of Medicine Park, a century-old resort town on the banks of a picturesque stream. Many of the buildings are constructed out of cobblestones. There's a new walking path along the east bank of the stream, where you can fish for trout. Walking through town, I stopped to read the notices posted in the town hall's window. The town has imposed a "use tax" on items imported from out of town for which sales tax wasn't paid. They've decided to dedicate this income to the town's historic preservation fund.

Forest Ave. leads past more cobblestone tourist cabins in various states of repair -- many are in good repair and available for rental -- back to SH 49, which will lead you to I-44, where you'll find a truck stop and a couple of places to eat.

If you're really hungry, wait to eat until you hit Chickasha and stop at Jake's Rib.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 27, 2007 11:06 PM.

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