Samantha and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary by spending the weekend in Medicine Park, Oklahoma. This small town is situated near the entrance to the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma and is known as Oklahoma’s first resort town.
What started as a surplus Army tent near Medicine Creek grew into a full-fledged tourist destination. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys were regulars and all manner of famous (and infamous) people supposedly stopped here at one time or another: Will Rogers, Al Capone, Pretty Boy Floyd, President Roosevelt, it’s an impressive list. Entering Medicine Park today (pop. 382) takes you under a quaint cobblestone arch. In fact, many of the town’s buildings are built out of cobblestone and that gives the town a unique look. We didn’t arrive until after dark on Friday so we just parked, checked into our Airbnb, and went to sleep.
Saturday morning, I got out early and went for a little walk. We stayed in one of the new “Birdhouse” homes right on the bank of the creek. Taking a quiet stroll in the early morning light with a cup of coffee is exactly what I needed. Bath Lake, a small swimming area on the north side of downtown, was quiet and still. The gentle sound of the waterfall was pure bliss. It was easy to see how this little town had such an appeal to folks wanting to get away for a few days.
When I made it back up to the main street, other sounds caught my attention: rumbles of engines, clinking of tools, and excited chatter from arriving enthusiasts. It turns out that we’d visited Medicine Park during a big annual car show. Additionally, a biker rally was holding an event there the same afternoon. Once we were up and around, Sam and I decided to explore a bit of the area and leave the hot roddin’ behind.
Our first stop was a brief visit to the Parallel Forest. This small grove contains thousands of red cedar trees, all spaced six feet from one another. It was supposedly created to help study ways to counteract the erosion of the Dust Bowl but I don’t know if that’s true. It does have a reputation for being haunted, though. Walking through the area, especially if you aren’t expecting the uniformity of the forest and think it all occurred naturally that way, would definitely lend itself to all manner of spooky ideas.
Up next was the Holy City of the Wichitas – a stone “village” attraction that holds the country’s longest-running Easter Pageant. It looks ancient, but was built in the 1930s with the help of the WPA. The entire attraction is designed to mimic Biblical Jerusalem with locations such as Herod’s Court, the Hanging Tree, the Garden of Gethsemane, and such.
Knowing that Medicine Park would be absolutely overrun, we drove down to nearby Lawton for lunch. That also meant that I could snap some photos of a few murals I’d been meaning to see! I love it when a local artist is given a canvas to express themselves in such a public way. Sometimes you get a slice of local history, sometimes you get something intensely personal, and sometimes you get fun pop culture images. The two I visited were the latter, featuring characters from movies The Breakfast Club and Tombstone. What do those have to do with Lawton? Nothing! But they still attracted me as a visitor.
Our next trek was up Mount Scott, one of Oklahoma’s most prominent mountains. “Mountains, in Oklahoma?” you might be saying. Well, yes, for what it’s worth. Mount Scott has an elevation of 2,464 feet. It’s actually the second-tallest in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, but the taller peak is not publicly accessible. Mount Scott has a three-mile road going up to the top and it’s often filled with hikers and cyclists. The view from the top is just spectacular; it’s hard to believe it’s in Oklahoma. But it is! And it’s worth the trip.
When we returned back to Medicine Park, the Car Show was winding down and the Motorcycle Rally was just getting started. Still, it was a good time to walk around to the shops and eventually have dinner at the Old Plantation Restaurant. The cobblestone eatery dates back to 1910 and transitioned from an open-air pavilion to a hotel to a restaurant. The food is just what you’d want in a small-town Oklahoma diner: generous portions of rib-stickin’ food served by friendly folks. It did not disappoint, that’s for certain. Funnily enough, the man in the booth next to us was an old friend from my early US Cellular days that I hadn’t seen in years. Small world!
The last event we experienced at this old-fashioned resort was…a thunderstorm! Samantha and I were awoken in the middle of the night by hail and high winds as a storm front blew through Comanche County. No damage, thankfully, and my walk on Sunday morning was a peaceful stroll through the now-empty streets. It was a lovely weekend and an overnight spot that I highly recommend.
ADDENDUM: We stopped for breakfast on the way home in Chickasha at this little diner called Mama Carol’s Kitchen. Friends, this place is the REAL DEAL. I don’t know what it was, but when I took my first bite of my scrambled eggs I was instantly transported back to my grandma’s kitchen in Pawhuska. It was TERRIFIC!