Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Great Salt Plains

This past weekend we went camping.  We packed up our truck in Tulsa and drove over to the Lazy E Arena near Guthrie.  We went to the Wilderness Expo that is put together by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.  We spent the day learning about bats, spiders, migrating birds and fish.  Emma Jane got to shoot a BB gun and both girls shot a bow and arrow.

Emma got two bulls-eyes and one shot right off of bulls-eye.  Her dad might be taking her for target practice soon.

Mike took the girls in a kayak and we ran into our friends Sean and Amy!  What a nice surprise!

After a fun day at the Expo we drove about two hours to the Salt Plains State Park to camp for the night.  We got there a little before dusk and quickly made camp next to the Great Salt Plains lake.  This area was covered by an ocean in prehistoric times and the salt is left over from the sea bed.  The lake is a salt lake with about half the salinity of the oceans.

The campground was fairly empty and we had a secluded spot near the sandy beach.  We didn't realize it as we were making camp but we were pitching our tent right in the middle of a field of burrs.  These little sharp burrs got into your shoes, attached themselves to your socks and came through the tarp and through the floor of the tent and directly into your knee right below the patella...OUCH!

As the sun was setting and we were trying to hurry up and get our camp set up, I glanced skyward and saw that the sun was turning the clouds a pink hue that could best be described as cotton candy pink.  Emma started jumping towards the clouds to catch the cotton candy in her hands.  It was fleeting and only lasted about 2 minutes before the spun-sugar-clouds disappeared.

Lucy helped hammer the stakes into the ground around the tent.

Then we sat around the campfire and cooked brats and s'mores and sang songs.

The coyotes were the predominant soundtrack for our night.  They would call in bursts of fierce crying and howling.  It sounded like there were young pups trying to imitate the older ones.  Something would set them off and they would yelp and holler and call and whine and howl in a big tangled song of frenzied crying.  Then they would suddenly stop and leave you wondering if they were busy tracking something or eating or moving.  And just as suddenly something would set them off again and their calls were coming from another direction which was disorienting and exciting.

The night was a cool one and we were all very tired.  We collapsed onto our sleeping bags which were on top of thin foam, hoping not to get any prickly burrs in our behinds.  We fell asleep listening to the frenzy of the coyotes and the calm hoots of the owls.  We all got a little cold in the night but camping is best done when the nights are cool.  It was absolutely perfect.

The next morning we made breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, coffee and hot chocolate before we set out exploring the nearby beach.

We saw coyote tracks very near our tent.

And creepy buzzards sitting in a dead tree warming their wings with the morning sun before flying away.

We spent quite a bit of time along this beach.  It was a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

Emma borrowed the big camera and shot a bunch of pictures of fish skeletons.  But the photo I like best of hers is this one.

After exploring the beach we packed up our campsite and headed for the Great Salt Plains.

This salt plain is all that is left of an ocean that was once covering this land.  We came here to dig for Selenite Crystals.  Are you ready for a science lesson? 

Selenite Crystal ClusterSelenite is a crystallized form of gypsum. Chemically, it is a hydrous calcium sulfate. Gypsum is a common mineral that takes on a great variety of crystal forms and shapes. On the Salt Plains, the crystals are formed just below the salt encrusted surface. They are seldom found deeper than 2 feet below the surface.

Crystals take on the characteristics of their environment; the finer the soil, the more clear the crystals. Iron oxide in the soil gives the crystals their chocolate brown color.

Because these crystals form in wet soil, sand and clay particles are included within the crystal. These particles often form an "hourglass" shape inside the crystal. This hourglass shape cannot be found in selenite crystals in other places of the world; it is only found here at the Salt Plains of NW Oklahoma.

So we set out on this barren moonscape to dig for crystals.

 Boy did we have fun!  And did we ever get dirty!  We were covered in sand, salt and mud.  Lucy had to go potty so I told her to step down into one of the holes someone else had dug.  When she did, she started sinking into what appeared to be quick sand.  I grabber her arm and started pulling her out right as the mud was up to her ankles.  I am afraid she will never use the bathroom outside again.  It scared her and scarred her.

Does this remind you of the movie Holes?

I love this picture.  It makes it look like Lucy worked really hard this day.  When the reality is far from the picture you might be getting from these photographs.

My little scientist was in heaven.  She loves geology and going to Utah this summer has fed that curiosity.  To bring her here to this salt plain was the perfect trip to foster her love of the earth and rocks.  She has a perspective that is beyond her years.  She seems to grasp that the earth has a history that is so far beyond human beings.  That kind of understanding takes a maturity that usually comes so much later in life.

We found lots of crystals.

(iPhone shot from the ground with focus on the soil right in front of the phone)

We had an amazing weekend.  It is another family memory we will treasure.  It took a lot more planning than spending the day at the fair, but it was worth all the time and effort.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful pics. Beautiful writing. Beautiful family.