Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pontotoc Ridge Preserve

We took this trail with the permission of the Preserve Director on Saturday, March 21, 2009. What a place!

Like all Nature Conservancy properties, the Pontotoc Ridge Preserve is completely serene, free of trash, development, farming, and other general signs of people. They do an incredible job of restoring lands to their native condition in order to protect otherwise dying habitats for plant and animal life. They also do an incredible job of keeping a close eye on who accesses the land and how. At this particular property, the director has to be there and know you are on the property in order to access the trail. It's worth mentioning that the Nature Conservancy's goal with these properties is to preserve habitat, as opposed to create a place for recreation. Thus, there are no real facilities (restrooms, camping, etc.) and the property is very (very) remote. It's more than worth visiting, but don't expect park benches, water fountains, gas stations, and the like. It's not a great place to take your kids so they can run around screaming and throwing their Capri Sun, Double Bubble, and Dorito wrappers on the ground. That's fucking annoying. It's also not a place that is enhanced by your flattened cigarette butts, so keep that in mind as well. However, it is a great place to experience Oklahoma pre-cows, farms, and roads. The Pontotoc is incredibly natural.

The native terrain is as rugged and impassable as I have been on. Cactus, shrubbery, thorns, rocks, and small trees intertwine to form a really impenetrable landscape. A great 3 mile trail cuts right through it all and takes you deep into the crosstimbers, passing through a rugged patch of cactus and rocks, a small shortgrass prairie, along the Pontotoc ridge, across a pristine black oak forest, and passes by a cave entrance before returning you to the trailhead. In spite of the tough conditions of the land, the trail is clear and very easily walkable. Only slight elevation changes exist on the trail. My wife carried our 5 month old in a baby carrier and made it just fine. This is by far the longest and most interesting trail among the Nature Conservancy Preserves that we have visited (Others are JT Nickel and the Tallgrass Prairie).

Official info about the property here.
PDF Map of the property here
Our pictures on Flickr here
EveryTrail page with downloadable GPX and KML files here

Trip Tips
Call or email ahead. The Nature Conservancy lists the state contacts on its page here.

Take a GPS. The place is very hard to find. It's down a dirt road that has no sign marking it as the preserve's road. Make sure you mark the headquarters as a waypoint before you go.

Plan ahead to take the highways as much as possible. My gps took us 12 miles down a rough dirt road when we could have come in on Hwy. 377.

Pontotoc Ridge Preserve at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging
You can access and download this file to your GPS Unit here

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Deep Fork NWR: Coalton Bottoms Trail

Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge: Coalton Bottoms at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging