On a late afternoon stroll, the sun glistened through the towering cedars as we walked across the rocks jutting up through the creek bed. Water gurgled and flowed down waterfalls, providing a peaceful soundtrack to a nature hike.
We were not alone. Red and blue dragonflies flitted around our heads; daddy long-legs spiders scurried at our feet. A hawk made lazy circles in the sky, just like in the song, before perching on a nearby branch. They didn't seem to mind our presence at all.
One got the sense that we were not on the land, but of the land, in a sacred space that once served as the winter campground of the Cheyenne tribe and was named after its Chief Henry Roman Nose. The legendary setting is made even more beautiful by a canyon bluff overlooking ancient mesas.
Were we really in Oklahoma?
Yes. Specifically, seven miles north of Watonga on State Highway 8, at Roman Nose State Park & Lodge.
The lodge portion is currently undergoing a major renovation, and won't re-open until September 2010, but don't let that keep you from enjoying the beauty of the changing seasons at the park.
In 2006 and 2007, the 10 cabins on the property got a much-needed face lift, including new tile flooring, kitchen appliances and rustic-themed furniture throughout.
The five "sets" of cabins each provide two adjacent spaces, separated by a locked door in the middle. Each cabin sleeps four, although a family of five will be more than comfortable, thanks to a queen-sized bed in the bedroom, a full-size futon in the living area and a rollaway twin bed tucked away in the hall that can be brought into the open.
The 1950s cabinets and bathrooms are the only parts of the cabins that haven't been updated, but the space is clean and convenient. Over fall break, my family had an adjacent cabin to friends, making it easy for our children to go back and forth between the two rooms " perfect for a reunion or party.
Large, grassy fields in front of the cabins provide room to play. Our children played football and Frisbee, while our neighbors tossed a softball and set out lawn chairs to visit.
A picnic table and fire pit are located behind each cabin, making campfire dreams of s'mores a reality. Thanks to satellite dishes, we kept up to speed on the football games, although TV is the last thing that should capture your attention while surrounded by the call of the wild.
Due to days of rain before our arrival, several park roads were muddy, but a biker could still enjoy the journey. We were able to hike around any muddy spots and ended up driving to the lake and through the RV campgrounds, where more than 50 RVs and trailers had set up camp. Around another bend, nearly a dozen tents colored the landscape while visitors grilled their nighttime meal.
Lake Watonga was especially blue, beckoning for a water adventure or, at the very least, some quiet time gazing into it.
The retreat offers an 18-hole golf course, swimming pools during the warm season, two lakes (Watonga and Boecher), fishing, canoeing, paddleboats, mountain biking and horseback riding. Not many places these days offer tepee rentals, which are available in the summer months. A quaint miniature golf course is located next to the lake, but was closed during our stay.
If grilling out isn't your thing, then a quick trip into the town of Watonga can provide you with pizza, hamburgers or similar fare.
The trip is definitely worth it to witness the wonders of fall foliage and wildlife viewing. Roughing it at Roman Nose doesn't feel like roughing it at all. For more information, call (580) 623-4215."Malena Lott