Intern-al Affairs: Unforgettable Heights

7 minutes
Intern-al Affairs is the weekly blog for Oklahoma Today summer intern Haley Humphrey. Check back each week as she explores Oklahoma's past, present, and future. Read her previous “Intern-al Affairs” entries here:
Sharing the Light
In the Cards
Hidden Histories

I found my peace again at Black Mesa in Kenton.

Not being an introvert, the coronavirus transition to isolation has had some wear and tear on me. But climbing to Oklahoma’s highest point taught me a few things about myself and others.

Black Mesa and the vast surrounding area in Kenton is home to cattle, elk, deer, and mountain lions. Photo by Haley Humphrey

Black Mesa and the vast surrounding area in Kenton is home to cattle, elk, deer, and mountain lions. Photo by Haley Humphrey

When my dad decided that our next hiking trip would be to Black Mesa, I practically threw myself in the car, ready to leave my home office for a while. My dad and I have hiked many trails throughout Oklahoma, including Charon’s Garden, The Narrows, and Dog Run Hollow all at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, and part of the Winding Stair Mountains at the Ouachita National Forest, but Black Mesa was unlike anything we had ever experienced hiking here before. The desert-like terrain was magnificent. The dry, brisk air brought back memories of Iraq for my dad and reminded me of Colorado.

Exploring Black Mesa and the vast area surrounding it helped me realize that a change of scenery is connected to positive emotions. It’s still seclusion, but it’s a different flavor of seclusion. With Colorado to the north, Texas due south, Kansas off to the east of us, and New Mexico to the west, I felt my mind stretch for miles.

My indoor isolation in my home office is full of unnecessary thoughts and distractions that bog down my mind as the days wear on. On Black Mesa, they evaporated and blew away into the wind. My attention was on the rocks packed into the sand and dirt-covered trail that crunched underneath my Salomons, the cholla cacti and juniper around me, and the sun above the mesa. On this hike, my mind felt untamed, like the madness of the world could not touch it.

A flower blooms from one of the many cholla cacti that cover the grounds of Black Mesa. Photo by Haley Humphrey

A flower blooms from one of the many cholla cacti that cover the grounds of Black Mesa. Photo by Haley Humphrey

Before and after our excursion, the sweet additions of seeing Kenton dogs and cattle gave me an extra dose of happiness, but it was the few people we met on our journey that truly made the trip more worthwhile.

The Hitching Post is a bed and breakfast owned by Kenton ranchers Jane and Bob Apple. Visitors can choose to stay in either the Log Cabin on their ranch just outside of Kenton or mosey farther into town at the Log Cottage—as my dad and I did—or historic Rock House, which was built sometime around 1910 and is Jane’s childhood home.

This Hitchin Post sign leans against The Rock House, which was built in about 1910. Photo by Haley Humphrey

This Hitchin Post sign leans against The Rock House, which was built in about 1910. Photo by Haley Humphrey

I went back through Oklahoma Today’s archives to see if anyone else had written about the Hitching Post and discovered it’s been well loved by previous staffers a few times over the last twenty years. Even further back in the February/March 1997 issue, writer Maura McDermott wrote the dream story—traveling to different B&Bs across Oklahoma to share her experiences at each. Though she didn’t stay at the Hitching Post, she did say she felt like she was at home at every stop.

After our stay and getting to meet Jane, Bob, and some of their family members, I can happily concur with McDermott—the people who run Oklahoma’s B&Bs are some of the best people you will meet in your lifetime.

The Apples have been running their group of B&Bs since 1998 and when they aren’t taking care of their ranch, they enjoy meeting folks who come to explore Black Mesa. Jane said they were the first ones in Kenton to offer lodging for visitors.

“Just come in, hitch up, and stay a while,” Jane says, regarding the concept behind the Hitching Post’s name.

Jane Apple stands in front of The Rock House, her childhood home, which she allows guests to stay in when they travel through Kenton. Photo by Haley Humphrey

Jane Apple stands in front of The Rock House, her childhood home, which she allows guests to stay in when they travel through Kenton. Photo by Haley Humphrey

Jane gives tours around the Mesa; her favorite place to show guests is Coronado’s signature on Autograph Rock—a spot near Boise City in Cimarron County where some historians claim Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado y Luján carved a Castillian-style inscription of "Coronatto, 1541." Coronado and his men made an expedition through Oklahoma’s panhandle in 1541 in search of fortune.

Whenever guests leave Kenton after seeing Black Mesa and the surrounding special landmarks, like dinosaur tracks and the tri-state marker of Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico, Jane says she hopes they take “memories of the uniqueness of the area and the friendliness of the people” with them. Well, her wish came true with me. I’ll never forget Black Mesa, nor the friendliness of Jane Apple at the Hitching Post.

Get There
Black Mesa State Park & Nature Preserve, County Rd 325 Kenton, OK 73946 or TravelOK.com
Get There
Hitching Post Lodging & Ranch, 101 W Cedar St Kenton, OK 73946 or TravelOK.com
Written By
Haley Humphrey

Haley Humphrey
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