The Comforts of Lake Murray State Park

9 minutes
A look at Lake Murray Lodge at Lake Murray State Park from the dock. Photo by Greg Elwell

A look at Lake Murray Lodge at Lake Murray State Park from the dock. Photo by Greg Elwell

If there’s one word I’d use to describe the lodge at Lake Murray State Park, it’s comfort. And that word cropped up again and again over my short getaway to southern Oklahoma—not too dissimilar from many of you who visited our state parks as lodges and cabins across the state reopened last weekend.

Like much of Oklahoma, I’ve spent the last month-plus working at home, eating at home, sheltering at home, sleeping at home, and basically sticking around the house, so when the opportunity to visit Lake Murray came up, I jumped at it—cautiously.

Inside Lake Murray Lodge visitors enjoy views of the lake as well as some local history. Photo by Greg Elwell

Inside Lake Murray Lodge visitors enjoy views of the lake as well as some local history. Photo by Greg Elwell

My parents are older folks. My kids are younger folks. As much as I am desperate for some non-home time, I am also endeavoring to be safe and to keep them safe. Maybe some of you are in the same boat, which is why I come back to comfort.

An ideal vacation is one in which you have no worries, right? Which makes an ideal vacation in the age of COVID-19 almost impossible. Worries are everywhere right now, at least for me. So I chose comfort. However many options a vacation spot has—and Lake Murray State Park has plenty—you should choose the ones that reduce, rather than increase, your worries.

Hole in one! Okay, actually it was a "hole in several." Photo by Greg Elwell

Hole in one! Okay, actually it was a "hole in several." Photo by Greg Elwell

For me, that meant choosing mini-golf instead of the sunset cruise. I really, really, really wanted to go on that sunset cruise. Lake Murray is beautiful at night and during the day, but those moments when the two meet are truly spectacular. But I was worried about being around people without having space to distance, so I chose the comfort of the mini-golf course instead.

Anyone who knows me even a little knows I’m a restaurant guy. I don’t love eating in restaurants, because that’s not a strong enough word. I true love eating in restaurants. Skilled chefs making the food I want, delivered by friendly, knowledgeable servers in a welcoming atmosphere is my soulmate. But even as restaurants are reopening their dining rooms, I am still not comfortable there. Yet. So I choose takeout with varying degrees of success.

Lake Murray is not in Ardmore—it’s about fifteen minutes south, give or take a speeding ticket. That presents challenges for takeout. The food probably isn’t going to be as piping hot and fresh as it would be delivered in a dining room. When you ask for disposable cutlery, you really need to check and make sure they gave it to you, or else you might end up like this:

The food from Ardmore's Cafe Alley is delicious, even without silverware. Photo by Greg Elwell

The food from Ardmore's Cafe Alley is delicious, even without silverware. Photo by Greg Elwell

Had I chosen a cabin at Lake Murray, I could have brought my own food to cook. The lodge is much more hotel-like, in that rooms are not equipped with facilities to prepare your own meals. The flip-side to that is that the lodge is much more hotel-like, in that the rooms are extremely comfortable and offer all the amenities of the lake without any hint of roughing it. As a delicate flower, I appreciate that.

I would love to grab a seat inside Cafe Alley to chow down on that cherry-mustard glaze-covered pork chop and char-grilled corn on the cob, gobble chips slathered in Caddo dip, and sip a cold Alley Tea, but I’m not there yet. And that’s okay.

Another great spot for takeout in Ardmore is the classic Hamburger Inn. Photo by Greg Elwell

Another great spot for takeout in Ardmore is the classic Hamburger Inn. Photo by Greg Elwell

It reminds me of my horse-riding morning just outside Hochatown. As an absolute beginner, the rest of the group had to go slow to accommodate me. I felt bad that they couldn’t gallop off like a scene out of a Western, but I didn’t feel bad about being safe and responsible. Your vacations, at least for the next little bit, will likely need to make accommodations for someone in your group. On their behalf, I ask for your patience and understanding.

I don’t begrudge the businesses that are opening up, be it a restaurant or a store or a spot for recreation. They’re moving at a pace that is comfortable for them. The same is true for me. I’m probably not as cautious as some of my friends, but I’m certainly more cautious than others. And I suppose I’d rather do fewer of the things I crave—sunset cruises, breakfasts in the booth of a new-to-me diner in Ardmore—while sleeping soundly at night than forcing myself to move too fast and worry at every cough and every chill I feel.

Buckhorn Trail at Lake Murray State Park is a great trail for beginners. Be sure to apply bug spray. Photo by Greg Elwell.

Buckhorn Trail at Lake Murray State Park is a great trail for beginners. Be sure to apply bug spray. Photo by Greg Elwell.

Usually, weekends like the one I spent at Lake Murray are a blur of activity. I’m happy to say that this one was incredibly laid back. I putted at a colored golf ball. I took my sunscreeen-and-bug-spray-clad body into the woods to walk along Buckhorn Trail a few times. I sipped coffee on a balcony while tossing bits of biscuit to a family of passing geese. I watched more than a few cooking competitions on TV and read comic books on my tablet and nestled myself in the warm sheets and blankets on the king-size bed and just enjoyed being somewhere other than home for a few days.

I was happy to see the staff and many of the guests at Lake Murray State Park wearing masks. I still gave everyone as wide a berth as I could, because I’m trying to be safe and to keep them safe. That’s the trick of an asymptomatic disease—you may not ever know you’ve had it, so you have to be careful for the sake of others, as well as yourself.

Geese are frequent visitors to Lake Murray Lodge. Photo by Greg Elwell

Geese are frequent visitors to Lake Murray Lodge. Photo by Greg Elwell

Perhaps the situation will change drastically in a month, a few months, or next year. When it does, I will head right back to Lake Murray and Ardmore to do all the things I missed this time around. But even an imperfect vacation, where worries sometimes preclude us from doing everything we want, can be a relaxing comfort in a time when being comfortable isn’t easy.

Get There
Lake Murray State Park, 13528 Scenic Hwy 77 Ardmore, OK 73401 or TravelOK.com
Get There
Lake Murray Water Sports & Mini Golf, 3323 Lodge Rd Ardmore, OK 73402 or TravelOK.com
Get There
Cafe Alley, 126 Caddo St Ardmore, OK 73401 or TravelOK.com
Get There
Hamburger Inn, 27 N Washington St Ardmore, OK 73401 or TravelOK.com
Written By
Greg Elwell

Web Editor Greg worked for newspapers, medical research organizations, and government institutions before he joined *Oklahoma Today*. He also is the publisher of the website I Ate Oklahoma.

Greg Elwell
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