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At Western Hills Guest Ranch & Sequoyah State Park, enjoying nature is escape plan



Sometimes, getting away from it all is better when you know the Wii is just a few doors down.

Sequoyah State Park is home to one of the finest fishing and boating lakes in Oklahoma, nestled on the shore of the breathtaking Fort Gibson Lake in Eastern Oklahoma. If you're not a water bug, there's plenty of landlubber activities to keep the family happy, too.

The facilities at the Western Hills Guest Ranch are basic " vintage, even " but clean and functional all the same. For family reunions, consider bunking in the 46-bed bunkhouse. RV sites and cottages are available for rental, with the convenience of a restaurant on site, serving hot, home-cooked favorites, as well as a full menu if you don't feel like cooking in your RV or the kitchen in your cabin. Service? Even friendlier than expected. 

Activities around the park include an updated playground, a large volleyball court, and tennis and basketball courts, with rentals for balls, rackets and horseshoes from the rec room. That room comes complete with a pool table and mounted flat-screen TV, where your family can sign up for Wii tournaments or simply kick back and watch the tube if you can't vacay without it. 

There's a free morning hayride to the nearby nature center, close enough to hike to on your own. Nature is a done deal, thanks to the gorgeous woodlands and rolling hills, with dozens of deer making frequent appearances through the trees and ducks aplenty walking on the property. The nature center features a bald eagle " too injured to ever fly again " owls, a fox and a camera-stealing raccoon. (Don't ask.)

Back at the ranch, nothing says family bonding like beating your kid at a board game. Pick your poison among the old-school collection to play on one of the half-dozen tables in the space. Need a break? Send your kids back for craft hour after lunch and then outside for afternoon Popsicles, face painting and balloon-making by a not-too-scary clown in the mid-afternoon. The high school employees were nice enough to the wee ones, and even showed some mad skills with the paintbrush for any special request. Mine chose a bowling pin on the cheek and snake up the arm.

Oh, you want water? No problem-o. With 225 miles of shoreline, there's plenty of it at the lake. Boats are available for rental, as well as Jet Skis and paddleboating by the half-hour. Swimmers can choose to swim in the hotel pool, complete with a kiddie pool for the lil' ones, or opt for the swimming beach a few miles from the hotel. The marina offers boating and fishing licenses, too.

Golfers will enjoy the par-70, 18-hole golf course with a putting green, driving range, pro shop and rentals. If the wilderness is more your scene, see it atop a horse at the Sequoyah Riding Stables. The horses were friendly, and the ride through the woods proved a cool relief from the sun.

The view is breathtaking 24/7, making for peaceful morning strolls, solitary yoga by sunrise and perhaps the most gorgeous sunset on display in Oklahoma. The nightlife will serenade you with the sounds of nature all night long, too. But, then, you may want to pack your earplugs in case they get too rowdy.

For more information, call (918) 772-2545. "Malena Lott

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