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Black Mesa: The Good Nothing

Exploring a landmark’s inviting emptiness



 



“Make sure you bring everything you need,” says Vicki, who along with her husband, Monty Joe, owns the Black Mesa Bed and Breakfast located in the northwest corner of the Oklahoma panhandle. “Water, snacks, medicine … if you don’t bring it, you won’t have it.” After a punctuated silence, finally I say, “OK …” feeling suddenly less “intrepid Oklahoma adventurer” and more “pale kid being told to put on sunscreen.”
 

“There’s nothing out here,” she says. According to the internet, Black Mesa State Park and Preserve is on the fringe of the town Kenton, so when Vicki says the last stop for snacks and gas is the town of Boise City, 36 miles before the park’s entrance, I simply say “I understand.”

The next day, with an evening of hiking and a night of stargazing ahead, I pass two service stations in the “last stop” town Boise City. I’m hungry, but more excited to arrive, so I press onward despite her warning. I’m sure there will be something in the town of Kenton, even if it’s just a dried-out taquito spinning behind a sneeze guard or a depressing bag of Fritos from a dusty filling station.

Thirty-six miles later, the world turns from the endless flat plains of the panhandle to the unexpected lush green buttes, small cacti and otherworldly rocky spires of Black Mesa. It is at once inviting and foreboding; the kind of place that at a distance appears almost pastoral in its beauty, but as you get closer, reveals an unexpected ruggedness that requires respect.

I am officially hungry when I pull up to the little farmhouse that is the Black Mesa Bed and Breakfast. The charming home sits on a once-working cattle ranch and includes a ground-level, double-occupancy room, a second-story suite that sleeps eight, a bunkhouse with two separate rooms that sleep four each and an upper room that may sleep two, and the Sunrise Cabin that sleeps four. Vicki greets me as though she’s known me my whole life. I like her instantly. When I tell her I thought I’d run to Kenton and grab something to eat before taking off on a small hike, she, like the Mesa, goes from inviting to foreboding concern: “You didn’t bring anything to eat?” I shake my head, feeling curiously ashamed. “I told you there’s nothing out here,” she says empathetically. “Next meal’s breakfast tomorrow.”

“What about Kenton?” I protest, thinking about heat lamps and dizzy taquitos.

“There’s nothing out here.”

 


An hour and a half later, after adding another 72 miles onto my Subaru with a trip back to Boise City, I pull back into Black Mesa. Henceforth, I will take Vicki’s word as fact. I ask her what there is to do. “You can come out here and you can just chill. You can just relax. You can renew your strength. You can just calm down. Smell the roses. Meet with God,” replies Vicki.

There is Black Mesa State Park, as well as the Black Mesa Preserve, which is managed by the park but located several miles away. The Preserve is home to the actual Mesa, the highest point in the state of Oklahoma. The Black Mesa Summit hike is the most popular draw to the park, an 8.5-mile trek taking roughly four hours into Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico. For those interested in visiting three states at once but not in that long a hike, there is a marker where the three states merge.

The state park also features a hike through a petrified forest, and because it’s located where the plains meet the Rockies, it boasts unrivaled opportunities to see diverse wildlife ranging from bobcats and coyotes to very rare sightings of black bears and mountain lions.

What perhaps makes the park most beautiful though, the night sky. Because the nearest town is 36 miles away, Black Mesa boasts some of the country’s darkest skies accessible to the public – truly a stargazer’s paradise. When the moon isn’t out, the Milky Way explodes overhead and millions of stars stretch from horizon to horizon.

As I take in the night sky, I think back to what Vicki said on the phone, that at first sounded foreboding if not bothersome to an ignorant, hungry traveler: “There is nothing out here.” In some ways, she was right: There is nothing out here. But as I consider the stars and the owls and the coyotes whose calls fill the night, I can’t help but think about what she said later. “You can just calm down. Smell the roses. Meet with God.” As I absorb the calm, I understand what she’s talking about. A meeting with God indeed.

 

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Calendar

June 2018

The Salvation Army, in conjunction with Westlake Ace Hardware, is sponsoring a fan drive to benefit needy families in the Oklahoma City area. A kickoff event is planned for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Westlake Ace Hardware
11801 S. Western
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Sponsor: Salvation Army
Telephone: 913.485.5656
Contact Name: Elaine Symanski
Website »

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Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

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 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options, visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918.495.6000
Website »

More information

The Salvation Army, in conjunction with Westlake Ace Hardware, is sponsoring a fan drive to benefit needy families in the Oklahoma City area. A kickoff event is planned for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Westlake Ace Hardware
11801 S. Western
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Sponsor: Salvation Army
Telephone: 913.485.5656
Contact Name: Elaine Symanski
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options, visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918.495.6000
Website »

More information

The Salvation Army, in conjunction with Westlake Ace Hardware, is sponsoring a fan drive to benefit needy families in the Oklahoma City area. A kickoff event is planned for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Westlake Ace Hardware
11801 S. Western
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Sponsor: Salvation Army
Telephone: 913.485.5656
Contact Name: Elaine Symanski
Website »

More information

Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options, visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918.495.6000
Website »

More information

The Salvation Army, in conjunction with Westlake Ace Hardware, is sponsoring a fan drive to benefit needy families in the Oklahoma City area. A kickoff event is planned for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Westlake Ace Hardware
11801 S. Western
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Sponsor: Salvation Army
Telephone: 913.485.5656
Contact Name: Elaine Symanski
Website »

More information

Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us every Thursday this summer for morning yoga practice while enjoying the beautiful sunrise over Will Rogers Gardens. This class is designed for all skill levels, so grab your...

Cost: $5 per class

Where:
Will Rogers Gardens
3400 NW 36th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73112
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 405.297.2279
Contact Name: Becca Leon
Website »

More information

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options, visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918.495.6000
Website »

More information

The Salvation Army, in conjunction with Westlake Ace Hardware, is sponsoring a fan drive to benefit needy families in the Oklahoma City area. A kickoff event is planned for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Westlake Ace Hardware
11801 S. Western
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Sponsor: Salvation Army
Telephone: 913.485.5656
Contact Name: Elaine Symanski
Website »

More information

Join us for an evening of painting and patronage to benefit ABLE Community-Based Services. Light snacks will be provided, and alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase. Reserve your...

Cost: $35

Where:
Pinot's Palette
228 E. Main St.
Norman, OK  73069
View map »


Contact Name: Niki Leonard
Website »

More information

Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options, visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918.495.6000
Website »

More information

The Salvation Army, in conjunction with Westlake Ace Hardware, is sponsoring a fan drive to benefit needy families in the Oklahoma City area. A kickoff event is planned for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Westlake Ace Hardware
11801 S. Western
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Sponsor: Salvation Army
Telephone: 913.485.5656
Contact Name: Elaine Symanski
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Salvation Army, in conjunction with Westlake Ace Hardware, is sponsoring a fan drive to benefit needy families in the Oklahoma City area. A kickoff event is planned for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Westlake Ace Hardware
11801 S. Western
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Sponsor: Salvation Army
Telephone: 913.485.5656
Contact Name: Elaine Symanski
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

After Sash is the official after party for YWCA OKC's Purple Sash Gala! Guests will enjoy wine, a cash bar, photo booth, snacks by Whiskey Cake and live music by Drive.  All...

Cost: $30

Where:
The Criterion
500 E Sheridan Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
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Sponsor: YWCA Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405.948.1770
Contact Name: Sami Grega
Website »

More information

Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and diverse collection of art created by or about...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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