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Alabaster Caverns Cave

RED CARPET Oklahoma's west wins tourists over with By JuliAnn Graham Beaver Dunes Park

pet for visitors, this northwest Oklahoma region encompasses 16 counties, several state parks and three waterparks. Although it has a plethora of beautiful sights and things to do, friendly people still make the region what it is today. Visitors to the Oklahoma Pan- handle usually pass through Guy- mon, where they will fi nd a peaceful resting spot with places for the kids to play in Sunset Lake at Thompson Park. The park has a miniature train, paddleboats and a handicapped- accessible fishing dock. Guymon also makes an excellent place for a pit stop with the new Urban Bru coffeehouse off Highway 64, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in February.


“People need to know that the distances are pretty extreme here,” Melyn Johnson, program director for Main Street Guymon, said. “The distances are extreme but they’re very easy to travel. The highways are straight and non-congested and it can be beautiful.”

Alabaster Caverns Naturalist Tandy Keenan

Leonardo’s Discovery Warehouse and Adventure Quest

Johnson, a Tri-County Electric Cooperative member, has worked for the state tourism department and is a past board member of the Red Carpet Country Association. She recommends Black Mesa State Park and Nature Preserve, near Ken- ton, to anyone looking to explore the Panhandle and its unique sights. The park boasts the highest point in the state of Oklahoma and visitors can hike to the summit from the nature preserve.

“What I think is the most interest- ing is, as you travel to the northwest, you get higher and higher in altitude until, when you get to Kenton, you’re at the foot of the Rockies,” Johnson said. “It’s a part of Oklahoma that people don’t even realize exists. It’s Oklahoma on Mountain Standard Time.”

The park has several bed-and-

breakfasts in the area, one of which is the Hitching Post. The Hitching Post is a working ranch that offers


ubbed Red Carpet Country by the state because friendly locals roll out the red car-

guided tours and horseback riding in addition to lodging. Bob and Jane Apple run the ranch and B&B with the help of Jane’s 99-year-old mother Ina K. Labrier.

“My grandfather came to this area in 1882 and hired onto the ranch as a broncobuster,”

Jane Apple

said. “That was when it was the 101 Ranch. When it broke up into small- er ranches, my daddy and his young- est brother began to build this ranch in the mid-1940s.”

The family started the B&B about 13 years ago to meet the need of visi- tors coming to the area wanting a place to stay overnight. They started off with a couple of mobile homes and later upgraded to a house in Kenton. Now, the B&B consists of two log cabins and a mobile home where folks can stay.

From the highest point in Okla- homa, visitors can go to the sand dunes in Beaver. The Dunes are a popular place to ride dune buggies and other all-terrain vehicles. The Beaver Dunes are a smaller park than the Little Sahara State Park near Waynoka, which is also part of Red Carpet Country and is also popular for ATV riding. However, Beaver lays claim to the Big Beaver, a giant statue of a beaver holding a cow chip. The Big Beaver is a popular photo prop for tourists year round. The cow chip represents the World Cow Chip Throwing Championship Contest held every April in Beaver. Just outside of the Panhandle, near Freedom, the Alabaster Caverns offer fun for the more adventurous folks. “This is a unique experience to the United States,” Park Naturalist Tan- dy Keenan said. “It’s the only place that most people will be able to see a gypsum cave.”

Keenan, a member of Alfalfa Elec- tric Cooperative, has also visited the Great Salt Plains State Park near Jet. “It’s spectacular for bird watch- ing,” she said. “Because it’s in a fl y- way zone, you see a lot of migratory species that use the Great Salt Plains as a stopover.” The Gloss Mountains near Fair-

view offer a unique place to hike from sunup to sundown. While camping is not allowed, the state

park has a 1.2-mile trail and stairway system for visitors to enjoy. Someone driving along Highway 412 looking for a pretty picnic spot would enjoy this park where the selenite refl ects light, giving the Gloss Mountains their name. They are also sometimes called the ‘Glass Mountains.’” Red Carpet Country isn’t only parks and scenery—it also offers some great museums. One of those is Leonardo’s Discovery Warehouse and Adventure Quest in Enid. Fo- cused on art and science, Leonardo’s also has an area with animals from snakes to chinchillas that guests can pet with the help of a warehouse em- ployee.

“We feel that here at Leonardo’s we give children the opportunity to be an artist, to be a scientist and to play with a purpose,” Leonardo’s Executive Director Julie Baird said. “We look at our guest services team as play facilitators. They can get the kids playing or show them new things they haven’t discovered yet. We train that here; that’s part of the wow.”

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, also in Enid, offers education and entertainment for all ages. The center has fi ve galleries to explore the history and development of the Cherokee Strip. The only re- maining 1893 U.S. Land Office is part of a collection of four historical- ly signifi cant buildings at the center. Ponca City has the Pioneer Woman Statue and Museum where one can learn about the history of women in Oklahoma as well as gaze upon the 30-foot statue. The Standing Bear Native American Park, Museum and Education Center is where visitors can see a tribute to all Native Ameri- cans in a bronze statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear. Ponca City is also a great place to learn about the history of oil with the new interactive Conoco Museum.

For the water-loving folks, lakes

in the Red Carpet Country region include Kaw Lake near Ponca City and Canton Lake near Canton. Wa- terparks are located in Woodward, Enid and Ponca City.

The people in the communities of Red Carpet Country are really

Photo by JuliAnn Granham

Photo by JuliAnn Granham

Photo by Erin Moore

Photo by JuliAnn Granham

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