October 17-18, 2013
Wendy and I began our Fall Break 2013 on Thursday with lunch with my folks in Oklahoma City and then a leisurely drive south down old Highway 77 through Norman, Noble, Purcell, Wayne, Paoli (where we stopped at the graveyard where my maternal grandparents and an aunt are buried), Pauls Valley (we arrived too late to enter the Action Figure Museum, darn it), Wynnewood, Davis, and finally reached our destination for the evening: Sulphur.
Our first stop in Sulphur was where I always take first-time visitors to the town: the stinky Vendome Well, which has been spewing sulphur water up out of the ground since 1922. Wendy refused to drink any of the “medicinal water” and I regretted the brief splash I took across my tongue, but we enjoyed walking in the old Flower Garden area over to Lincoln Bridge, where we admired the stream and nearby waterfall. Then we made our way over to Broadway and 1st Street where the new Artesian Hotel anchors the park’s main entrance.
The Artesian is a new version of the historic hotel which operated here from 1906 until it burned in 1962. Developed by the Chickasaw Nation, it sports a beautiful interior extending from the lobby through all of the floors and rooms, including the glamorous Hollywood Suite I’d reserved for us by phone for less than $200 on a weeknight, a great deal on a very nice room. (Come on, Chickasaws! Get your online booking working for this great hotel!)
The hotel’s Springs restaurant served a great dinner, and the Hollywood Suite has a dining area and sitting room, bedroom, and enormous bathroom with glittering tiles, a two-person jacuzzi tub, and glass-walled shower. Wendy and I were more impressed with the bedroom’s long corner window seats than the oversized television, and on Friday we used them to admire the heavy but beautiful morning sky over the park.
The sky forebode rain, but we ventured out to the park to the Bromide Springs area to hike up the massive conglomerate rock pile of Bromide Hill in our rain gear. From the hillside we could see the hotel poking out above the trees. We gazed from the overlook and then made our way back down amidst a heavier rain shower, which brought our short hike to an end.
I drove us over to the Little Niagara swimming hole only to find it empty. We posed in our respective umbrellas atop the dry dam; as usual, Wendy looked much more stylish than yours truly. Displays at the nearby nature center explained that starting in 2009 the springs went dry after over 25 years of continuous flow, but periods of no flow have occurred repeatedly over the past century.
We admired the animals on display, including a small frog and some snakes. I bought a book about the golden age of the Park Service’s rustic architecture, and then we made our last stop at the park at Hillside Spring. Wendy posed for me beside the spring, and then took a great shot of its flow with her iPhone.
Clearing skies as we drove out of town led me to stop at the Chickasaw Cultural Center. The tribe spent six years and $40 million on the 109 acre facility, which opened in 2010. We liked the statues of a Chickasaw Warrior by Enoch Kelly Haney and Arrival by Mike Larsen, which had several nice features, including contrasting figures looking forward to the new lands in Oklahoma and back at the former ones in Mississippi and Alabama.
We enjoyed walking around the Honor Garden and the Chikasha Inchokka’, a recreation of a Mississippi homelands settlement. The Chikasha Poya (“We are Chickasaw”) Exhibit Center had a large Spirit Forest exhibit and beautiful mosaic with tiles imported from the Scoula Mosaicisti Del Friuli in Spilimbergo, Italy.
The day closed with a delicious dinner at Cafe Alley in downtown Ardmore along our journey southeast to Tyler, Texas for their annual Rose Festival. I’ll document that event in the next post.