- ABOUT US
Megan Rossman, Photography Editor
Photo by JOHN JERNIGAN
By Megan Rossman
June 5, 2014
Summer is coming. Some of you embrace this fiery time of year, when the wind ceases to come sweeping down the plains, and stubborn high-pressure air masses ensure that the sun will radiate for months with a hateful intensity that feels spurred by some eons-old vendetta written in the stars.
It’s nothing new. In Oklahoma, weather patterns of biblical force are referred to as seasons. It’s 111 degrees and street lamps are melting in Stillwater? That’s not a plague, it’s just summer.
Living in a land of extremes breeds a certain fortitude in people. I suspect the roll-with-the-punches attitude of Oklahomans is produced in part by the summers they live through. Fortunately for those of us that are not heat tolerant, there are some things we can do to help take it all in stride.
Get underground: Tornadoes aren’t the only reason Oklahomans sometimes retreat into the Earth. There are things to see down there. Last summer, I visited Alabaster Caverns State Park in northwestern Oklahoma for the first time, and I heartily recommend it as a summer road trip destination. The internal temperature hovers around 60 degrees in the summer, and the neon lighting gives it the feel of a subterranean theme park. I was tempted to slip away from the tour and hide with the bats among the rocks and underground streams until fall. Watch your step, it can get slippery on the trail. I fell. The gift shop is a necessary stop for pieces of alabaster and an assortment of bat-related merchandise. Bonus: Cafe Bahnhof—a delicious German restaurant owned by a real German with a fantastic beer menu—is a mere forty minutes east of the park in Waynoka.
Consume sugary drinks: Supposedly, the Sonic Sunrise is a secret menu item at this omnipresent drive-in, but I feel like the last person to discover the combination of cherry limeade/orange juice. I will never drink anything else at Sonic. The fizz and orange juice is the fast-food equivalent of a non-boozy mimosa. It’s perfect for summer, and you don’t have to go far to find one.
Immerse yourself: I’m partial to Grand Lake, but there’s no shortage of beautiful bodies of water and accompanying state parks in Oklahoma. Lake Murray State Park near Ardmore, McGee Creek near Atoka, Greenleaf and Cherokee Landing State Parks on Lake Tenkiller, and Foss State Park in northwestern Oklahoma are other popular spots to cool off. There’s a contingent of people who like to float down rivers en masse, too. After an excursion to an overcrowded, nearly current-free river last summer, I remain suspicious of float trip proposals. I spent little time peacefully floating in my inner tube, and more time swimming, trudging, and trying to avoid being hit by canoes in what felt like a five-mile death march. I didn’t expect certain members of my party to make it out of the water alive. However, my body temperature felt very reasonable despite the turmoil, so there’s that.
Hide: Good news, it’s the twenty-first century, and you probably have air-conditioning in your home. Do you even need to go anywhere? Probably not. And if you do, my advice is: Wait until dark. When the temperature is above 90 degrees, I prefer to wait until the sun is low or absent from the sky before I go outside. One complication, however, is that it’s hard to be a functioning adult and also not leave your house all day. If you figure out a way, let me know.
Save your hide: If you’re a near-translucent Caucasian like me, you probably need to use sunblock religiously when you’re outside for long—or even short—periods of time. I rarely think to apply it anywhere but my face, and I suffer every time as a result. Thanks to an eight-mile hike at Black Mesa, I’ve had a v-shaped sunburn on my chest for about a month now. Don’t be like me; load up on that SPF.
Admire the bugs: I’m talking about fireflies. I don’t have time for other bugs. The appearance of fireflies fills my heart with pure, simple joy. With their glowing abdomens, they look like something that should inhabit only fictitious realms, so I’m particularly thankful that they exist in this one.
I despise the heat and humidity of summer, it’s true, but I will get through it. Until then, you’ll find me lurking in the shadows like some kind of ghoul.