So this is a bit of a retroactive post. I wanted to get started on my reviews of the state parks, and so I went ahead and did Red Rock Canyon first, even though we started this camping escapade with Greenleaf State Park and Lake Tenkiller!
Greenleaf State Park is near Braggs, Oklahoma, about two and half hours from the city. It is primarily a fishing lake with some hiking trails around it. There’s also a marina that rents out canoes, paddle boats, and kayaks, and that was our primary reason for picking Greenleaf. We really wanted to go canoeing. So on the weekend of April 6, Jacob and I headed on up around 2, trying to get to the park in time to canoe the lake and maybe hike a trail or two. We got there around 4:30, in time to see this sign, and then another shortly after that declared Greenleaf State Park as “one of the best parks in Oklahoma.” We were initially impressed…until we saw the campsites ($12). They were super close together–we’re talking 50 feet from other campsites. The sites were close to the lake, but the proximity to other campers was really a deal breaker (Remember the 5-S’more score!). We went ahead and set up camp–against our better judgment–next to a family of three with an abnormally large tent (it had a sun room). As we pitched the tent and got everything out of the car, we started really taking in the landscape. Yes, the lake was beautiful, and it was great weather, but we were so squished together. Plus, there were a ton of people there. The lake was totally booked with campers.
We decided to look around for a hiking trail and found one–but it proclaimed we needed at least 3 hours to hike it, and by this time it was nigh on 5:30, and so we wouldn’t make it back before dark. So we decided to try the marina: it had closed at 4. Boo. So then we saw an advertisement for mini golf on our park map, so we hiked up a gigantic hill (I think you were supposed to drive it; it was so steep), only to find the mini golf had closed. By this time, we were pretty aggravated with the whole thing, so we walked back to our campsite and decided we’d go to Lake Tenkiller instead, which was only about 20 minutes away and boasted much more secluded camping and boats! So we un-pitched the tent, packed everything back up, and headed out before the park ranger even came by to collect our $12 to camp! Bwaha!
Twenty minutes later, we arrived at Lake Tenkiller. We drove around till we found the perfect spot (which I forgot to photograph), and we set up camp. At this point, it was almost seven, and we really needed to unpack everything before it got dark and get the fire going. Jacob bought a flint-and-steel fire starter, and he got the fire going so we could roast our weenies! We ate our standard camp fare of chips and salsa, buffalo hot dogs, and s’mores for dessert. While we ate dinner we noticed that there were some really huge boats on the lake–we’re talking pontoons and ferry-sized boats, yachts, and speedboats. This should have tipped me off that we wouldn’t be able to canoe there, but I remained in denial until the next morning.
That night we slept in our Marmot Limelight tent underneath a tree…that was crawling with web worms. You know, those nasty insects that spin webs in the shape of sacs in trees? Sick me out. Those things dropped out of the trees so frequently that it sounded like rain hitting our tent. I mean, it was disgusting. I found several on my person the next day, which was really terrifying. Despite that, we slept soundly and were ready to canoe and hike the next day. And, ironically, our campsite was so secluded that Tenkiller’s park ranger didn’t know we were out there, and we didn’t even have to pay our $12! Win-win!
Here’s a visual for those who don’t know what I’m talking about:
Jacob got up early and went to Tenkiller’s marina and discovered that no, they didn’t rent equipment for canoeing, and even if we’d brought our own canoe, it wouldn’t have mattered because the current of the lake was so strong we’d have probably drowned trying to avoid pontoons and speedboats and whales. I made that last one up. It turned out there weren’t many hiking trails at Tenkiller either, so we decided we’d try Greenleaf again so that we could either 1) See if the marina was open 2) hike the 3-hour trail. So back we went to Greenleaf.
We decided to try the marina first thing, and to our surprise and astonishment, it was open! We rented a canoe ($10) for an hour (fully equipped with two oars and antiquated life preservers) and paddled around the lake for the morning. The canoe wasn’t half bad, but the seats were just these crappy planks of wood, and our butts were sore even 3 days later. The current on the lake was fairly strong, and I was doing the steering while Jacob was doing the propelling. The lake was really beautiful with all the spring foliage cropping up on the banks, and there was a nice breeze off the water. We got into a rhythm, and this proved to work for the first 30 minutes when we were with the current, but when we turned around, something got screwy. We started paddling in circles, and Jacob was getting frustrated with my steering (even though I was doing it right!). I’m not sure what happened there, but we managed to get around the lake and back to the marina in an hour, and Jacob said he had a good time.
After canoeing, we ate a quick sandwich lunch and then switched gears to hiking! We walked over to the big trailhead at Greenleaf State Park, on which was posted a map of extensive hiking trails (18 miles). You could actually camp out on the trail if you wanted to, and there was a sign-in/out sheet so the park manager (who was mysteriously killed at his station in the park the weekend after we were there!) could make sure that everyone who hikes on the trail is accounted for at the end of each night. One of the features on this hiking trail was a swinging bridge, which we found really intriguing, so we decided we’d hike to the bridge and back. The map said this would take about three hours, so we signed our names on the sheet, packed some water and snacks, and headed into the forest.
The trail was really beautiful–the trees seemed like they were from somewhere other than Oklahoma. They were lush, green, tall, and I felt like a really incapable Katniss wandering around in a gorgeous forest. There were probably a dozen species of birds calling to each other, and there were even a few signs in the forest that depicted the bird species and their mating calls, which were really helpful. The dirt of the trail was actually brown, not red, and it went from dirt trail to WPA/CCC rock stairs, cliffs, and wooden bridges. Along parts of the trail were giant rock formations that looked almost like caves, which formed a steep cliff on one side. The ground was littered with clover and purple wildflowers, and it was only wide enough for one person. We probably walked about 6-7 miles, and the terrain changed from this beautiful forest to open plain, then popped out on the road, over a bridge/dam, back into the forest, and finally led to the swinging bridge!
The bridge wasn’t really all that scary, despite this picture. It had started raining when we wanted to cross, and so we walked along it and took a few pictures while we took in the view and then turned back. Then when we decided to leave, I ran to the middle of the bridge with Jacob behind me and bounced up and down really fast and then ran the rest of the way across, jumping as I went. (I’m so devious!)
Like an ATV could fit on that bridge!
And now for the S’mores score! Jacob gives Greenleaf 3 S’mores out of 5. He says, “It wasn’t silent or secluded, but the trails were pretty, and it was fun to canoe on the lake.”
I give Greenleaf 3 S’mores out of 5. It was neither secluded nor silent, but there was canoeing and hiking, the terrain was really beautiful, and the swinging bridge and trail features were really cool. It would be an ideal place to take a big group or to have a family reunion perhaps. Not great for married couples who want to get away.
Jacob gives Tenkiller 3 S’mores out of 5. Jacob says, “There was stuff to do, but it was nothing we liked or wanted to do. Scenic campsites, pretty views, but it was also kind of rocky and filled with annoying worms.”
I give Tenkiller 2 S’mores out of 5. Yest, it was silent and secluded, but that was about all it had going for it. The worms were super gross, the scenery was just okay, and there was not much to do. Not to mention the lack of wow factor. It would probably be a lot cooler if you had a boat or something, but seeing as we were landlocked, it was really only good for the camping part.