I know that a lot of people in our area have taken the Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena, Arkansas, fall foliage drive across the top of the Winding Stair Mountains this time of year.
We checked with both the Talihina and Mena Chambers of Commerce for the best time to see the trees changing colors. We had made two previous trips but they were later in November and a lot of the leaves had fallen off. Determined to see the trail at its best and checking with both towns we opted to go on Tuesday.
We planned on only going to the Queen Willimina Lodge. It was where we went 22 years ago on our honeymoon. We opted to take our golden retriever Ginger with us to see how she would accept a long ride so we could travel more. There are plenty of hotels and motels now that are pet friendly.
I put her bed in the back of the Escape in such a way she could lay her head on top of the center console while lying in her bed and see where we were going. We added food and water, a leash, treats, pan for water and her bear. Yes, she is spoiled and thinks we are her pets.
It’s a little more than a three-hour drive if you count the pit stops we made for breakfast and necessary stops. It was cloudy when we left but by the time we got to Talihina the sun was out. We went east for four miles and turned onto the start of the drive. A few low clouds had started to show up.
It’s about 52 miles to the lodge, another three hours or so depending on how many vistas you check out. We started going up and passed up two turnouts before we drove through another. The trees were beautiful as we continued up. We were still going up and ran into a little mist but didn’t think much about it.
As we headed further up the mountains I began to see what I thought was fog. The higher we went the foggier it got. That’s when we looked and saw the tops of clouds. We should have turned around. The higher we went the thicker clouds were covering us up. I could only see the yellow stripe in the road and was hugging it, you couldn’t see the road edge.
You readers who have made that trip know if you get off the road it’s a long ways down. I was afraid I would meet someone coming down. I slowed down to 15 miles an hour.
On top of one of the mountains the sun broke through for a while and you could not see a tree or mountain, only the tops of the clouds I was driving through, which were below me. It was so dense I couldn’t see the sign to turn into the lodge. There is a big black locomotive beside the road. I saw it barely and realized we had passed the turn. You say no problem, turn around. Well the road isn’t wide and there are no places wide enough to possibly turn around for a long way.
We finally found a turn-around in Arkansas. I inched us back to the turn-in and we were excited because we were going to see the spot out marriage started. Talk about a letdown. They had torn down the old rock lodge and put in a modern hotel. Double disappointment. No trees, then no honeymoon lodge.
When we got back home Susan and I laughed a little as we unloaded. Ginger got her bear, I opened the gate — she left her pets to bring her stuff in. Lesson learned: next time check the weather forecast where you are going, not our local weather.
Texoma keeps dropping slowly and I go down every morning to change the launch fee envelopes. While Ginger smells out the morning news, I scan the lake with my binoculars. Nearly every morning out from our cove in the open water you can see stripers breaking and some gulls working. Never is a boat around.
My guide friends who work out of our cove say they are having good luck out in the open lake from the islands to Washita Point to Platter and back down to Table Top the Bluffs and dam. The gulls are really helping out in finding the mid-lake fish. Put a pair of binoculars in your boat to look for the working gulls, it can save you time and money instead of running around looking for them.
Jerry Dorsey stills needs some boats to take the troops out Saturday morning on November 11. If you have a boat that can carry two or three fishermen or a larger boat, want to make a money donation or help out give Jerry a call at 903-786-3981. Lakeside VFW Post 7873 is open to the public Friday night for a meet-and-greet for the visiting troops. To get to the Post, come north on 289 until you run out of road, turn right then left at the sign.
Come hungry because the VFW cooks make a mean hamburger. Just introduce yourself and join the young people at a table. You will enjoy talking to them as much as they like talking to you. Feeding and arrival are around 7 p.m. Friday. You might want to come a little early as parking can get crowded.
Help in other ways, including money donations, is still needed to help defray the lodging and feeding costs. Thanks to the Vietnam Veterans Post 973 for taking care of breakfast for them and their boaters Saturday morning — weigh-in starts about 11 a.m. Lunch is being handled by the Georgetown Baptist Church; Elks Lodge 238 and American Veterans Post 231 will handle supper and breakfast for the troops before they leave on Sunday.
Thank you to the guides and boaters who give up the time to take the troops out. I only have the names of some and to not hurt anyone’s feelings I will just say thank you for your time and sharing your boat with the best we have, our military. God Bless America and everyone connected to this event.
Prediction for another cat hair flying fight as my Gunter Tigers skin the Henrietta Bearcats by 21 points.