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Oklahoma offers several getaways at fuel-efficient distances



Oklahoma residents can make summer travel plans while keeping an eye on gasoline efficiency.

Record oil prices are going to make the summer's vacation season costly, as the American Automobile Association estimates a passenger vehicle costs 54.1 cents per mile to drive in 2008, up 1.9 cents from last year.

But what if drivers set their sights closer? The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is roughly 100 miles from Oklahoma City, just west of Lawton. That's around $54 in driving costs.  Hikers can scale Mount Scott for a view of the entire grounds.

The Alabaster Caverns also offer a unique excursion from the plains. Located in northwest Oklahoma, approximately 180 miles away, the caverns enjoy the distinction of being the largest natural gypsum cave in the world open to the public.

The caverns sprawl more than 6,100 feet, with 30 percent of that open for walking tours. Keenan said that the vast majority of the caverns have been explored, but there are places too tight in which to squeeze.

Tour hours are extended in the summer to every top of the hour, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The walk is only three-fourths of a mile, but interested tourists need to make sure they are up for it.

About 85 miles away, near Davis, Turner Falls is Mother Nature's stab at the beloved summer destination of water parks. Chlorine may be absent, but the scenic beauty, tumbling waterfall and hiking trails make this park a pleasant departure from its packed artificial counterparts. "Charles Martin

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