Chris Ozolins wasn't entirely sure he wanted to talk about the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Since first finding it for himself in January 1993, the Oklahoma City resident has regarded the almost-60,000-acre refuge in southwestern Oklahoma as something of a secret retreat.
"The first few years after I discovered the Wichitas, I was down there hiking, camping or backpacking two or three weekends a month," Ozolins said. "I can't even begin to add up how many days and nights I've spent there, but, even after all these years, it's not enough!"
Driving southwest out of Oklahoma City, it's admittedly hard to imagine anything resembling mountains might thrust up from the flat, scrubby ground. But just when you're about to reach the conclusion that there were some pretty liberal definitions used in the refuge's naming, the mountains appear on the horizon " a jagged island of peaks in the sea of open prairie.
When getting that first glimpse of the landscape, it's easy to understand Ozolins' love of the refuge. The roads winding through it pass between open valleys of tall grass and hardscrabble mountains. Close up, the mountains themselves look like giant piles of boulders, like the weathered, jumbled bones of an ancient mountain range. The landscape is windswept, bleak and undeniably beautiful. "Jenny Coon Peterson