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re-designated by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt as a U.S. Forest and Game Preserve. American bison were extinct on the southern Great Plains for 30 years when they were reintroduced to the pre- serve in 1907. Today, 650 head of bison range freely over the refuge’s 59,000 acres, along with herds of feral longhorn cattle, deer, and elk. Donna Phillips, a full-time volunteer at the


Visitor Center, attributes the park’s popularity to the variety of outdoor activities it offers: picnic areas, primitive campgrounds as well as those with facilities, fi shing, and hiking trails through scrub oak forest, over grassy prairie, and through boulder-strewn hills. Due to high demand, backcountry camping is allowed in the Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area by permit only and is limited to 10 backpackers at a time and restricted to a stay of two nights and three days. The other most notable of the eight trails in the Great Plains region is Black Mesa Summit at the far western tip of the Panhandle in Tri-County Electric Cooperative’s service territory. Short- grass prairie runs into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to an elevation of 4,973 feet, Oklahoma’s highest point on the plains. An 8-mile roundtrip trek along the Summit trail rises 600 feet above surrounding terrain that extends


18-mile hiking trail loops around 930-acre Greenleaf Lake near Gore, Okla. Cabins, camp- grounds, fi shing waters, and other facilities make it one of the most popular and family friendly in the area.


Bo Lea, president of FOOT (Friends of Ouachita Trail) begins a trek through the wilderness. Photo courtesy of Bo Lea


north and west into New Mexico and Colorado. Sooner members of the National Highpointers Club call it a great outdoor adventure. Oklahoma’s third geographical region, “Woods and Lakes,” lies in the wooded hills of northeast- ern Oklahoma. The longest of the region’s 12 trails traces 20 miles across the Osage Hills State Park.


Greenleaf State Park, one of the state’s original seven parks, is also one of its most scenic. An


Information on all 45 trails may be obtained online. In 2010, University of Oklahoma Press published “Oklahoma Hiking Trails” by Ken Frates and Larry Floyd, the go-to source for pub- lically available trails in the state. Each year when the fi rst sprigs of green grass twist from the earth, outdoors people like Cotton Electric Cooperative members Mario and Stephanie Dominguez of Cache, Okla., head for the hills with their dogs and hiking gear. Visitors from surrounding states often join them, such as Texan Dan Case, a veteran back- packer who has trekked through Arizona, California, and Colorado. Patches of snow re- mained on the ground in March when Tom Mann, a Vietnam veteran, and his son Jason from Duncanville, Texas, brought Jason’s daughters, Jenna, 8, and Sydney, 6, to the Ouachita wilder- ness for their fi rst backpacking adventure. “There is no better place for a family than a weekend in the wilds of Oklahoma,” Jason says.


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