- ABOUT US
Steffie Corcoran, Editor
Photo by LORI DUCKWORTH
By Steffie Corcoran
June 25, 2015
It’s easy to forget, even when you’re an editor for a magazine published by the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department, why we travel. And then we get out of town for a few days—or, if we’re lucky, longer—and realize there’s magic in picking up like a vagabond with few possessions and forging into territory that’s miles away, literally and metaphorically, from our comfort zone. Something about it wakes us up and brings perspective. All the comforts and blessings of home—and all the hassles and struggles—are waiting for us when we get back, but we see them with different eyes. What a good, and clarifying, thing.
This week, I’ve been in Tulsa; Eureka Springs, Arkansas; and Natural Falls State Park near Siloam Springs. My sister Kelley and I have been on extreme adventure shopping expeditions in Eureka Springs at least a dozen times over the years, and the little town in the Ozark hills, only a 2.5-hour drive from Kelley’s Tulsa home, has a grip on our hearts and our savings. This time, we traveled with my almost 15-year-old niece, Grace, and her BFF Melissa. Their youthful energy; bright, beautiful faces; and excitement made it feel a little like a new trip for Kelley and me, too and blunted, somewhat, the painful realization that I’m not scaling the town’s hills and crazy steep steps with the spring in my step I once had. We had a fantastic time.
On the way back to Tulsa, we stopped at Natural Falls State Park, just off U.S. Highway 412 a few miles west of the Arkansas/Oklahoma state line.
I’d always heard it was one of Oklahoma’s most beautiful places and knew it was a shooting location for the 1974 film adaptation of Wilson Rawls’ classic Where the Red Fern Grows. I didn’t see any red ferns, but there were explosions of green ones everywhere we walked in the park’s deep, shaded Ozark Highlands foliage.
I love the outdoors, but that love is neither reckless nor unconditional. I prefer an ambient temperature between, say, 55 and 80 degrees. Add in air weighted with damp, and my upper limit plunges, as does my mood. When we stepped out of the parking area at Natural Falls and trekked into the woods, it was about 95 degrees with what felt like 60 percent relative humidity. My sweat was sweating, my droops drooping, my curls unfurling. As soon as we entered the forested portion of the park on our way to a platform that gets visitors very close to the eponymous waterfalls while protecting the fragile ecosystem, a mystic Lord of the Rings/Jurassic Park ambiance filled the air. I would not have been surprised to see Aragorn traversing a fallen log or a Brachiosaurus munching on leaves too tall for humans to catch. In any event, the sun’s sharp barbs no longer stabbed in the dense shade. The falls whooshed with the regularity and relentlessness of tides.
Of course, the girls charged ahead of us to check out the lake. My sister wasn’t wearing hiking footwear, so we hung back and took in the mélange of fern and rock, wood and rock, water and rock, even flower and rock.
Our trip, including our on-the-way-home stop at Natural Falls State Park, was an important reminder of the sacred nature of travel. Perhaps even more sacred are the public lands stewarded and protected by my colleagues at the Oklahoma State Parks division that exist solely for us to enjoy on our own journeys.