Our Pontotoc Ridge Hike

On Saturday, we went to the Nature Conservancy-managed Pontotoc Ridge Preserve and had a blast of a time. The preserve is part of the cross timbers, a belt of ancient forests that cuts across the Southern Great Plains, and consists of untilled land. We've been members of the Nature Conservancy a few years now -- the pragmatism of the organization compared to the typical left-wing environmental groups -- really appeals to me. Thus, rather than push reluctant governments to classify land as parks, they buy land outright or pay for conservation easements. A good way to preserve nature in marginal areas ...

I also like the Nature Conservancy because they hire knowledgeable, friendly people who really love the land and love to show it off. Last year, we drove from Norman to the JT Nickel preserve, a 3-hour drive which turned out to be 4 hours and so we missed joining the tour group. "No problem, " said the young man when he came back from leading his tour, "I'll take you to see a nice waterfall on the property". And he led the way in his truck.

Saturday too was one of the Nature Conservancy hikes and this year too, we had knowledgeable, friendly guides. The manager of the preserve led the tour and was accompanied by another Nature Conservancy worker who'd done most of his work in South America. A botany professor from a local college happened to be part of the tour, and was able to point out most of the trees, plants and what was unique about them. For the first time, I actually know what I saw!

The green spiky fruit is a Bois d'Arc. We also saw poison ivy, fish-on-a-pole and a variety of oaks and elms. I'll spare you most of the pictures except those that, like this winged elm, are simply too gorgeous to pass up. Notice the "wings" on the sides of the bark (click on any of the pictures to see a larger version). Isn't that cool?

The kids had a blast. They collected all sorts of acorns, beans and enjoyed eating the wild persimmons. Some more pictures. Wildflowers:
Pussy toes:
Persimmon seeds (the 5-year old's holding them):
Wild persimmon fruit (it's quite tasty):
I forget what this is called:
Fungi:And the thing that made the 5-year old's day ... some coyote had eaten some persimmon ...
I had enough fun that I don't mind that I had to sell my football tickets to the game that day. Though that game would have been a lot of fun too ...


  1. Great blog! I have just moved back to Oklahoma after many years away and its refreshing to discover your blog. If you didn't make it to Chickasaw NRA - you must go next summer -- its a fantastic place to explore the natural beauty of Oklahoma - especially with kids. And good for swimming.

  2. Little Niagara in Chickasaw is one of our favorite places in Oklahoma. The wading pool is just perfect for little kids. Although even as I type this, I'm thinking "I hope people keep going to that awfully commercialized place by the highway (Turner Falls) and leave Chickasaw National Recreation area to us ..."