Growing Grapes and Winery Escapes

Oklahoma events and family travel blog. Resources for wine tasting, RV sites, Oklahoma outdoors, river camping, grape growing, winery tours and promotional events in Oklahoma.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

More Rain Graces Oklahoma

Outstanding Tree
Originally uploaded by FreeWine.
It has been raining all day here. Things are greener these days then they have been all summer. Dianne just took this great landscape shot!

Elephant Rock - Illinois River Yurt Camping

Elephaant Rock

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a secluded hideaway, minutes from restaurants and with access to northeast Oklahoma’s most popular scenic river? How would you like to see deer wander by and watch the face of your loved one when they touch a fawn for the first time? Elephant Rock is truly a magical place where families can discover nature in a safe, humane and friendly atmosphere. I was recently a guest of Rod and Susan Foster at their beautiful nature retreat and was pleasantly surprised at the wealth of fun and interesting things I experienced during my stay.

Rod met us upon arrival and suggested a 14 mile paddle down the Illinois River, Tom and I love the Illinois during the off season so we were quick to agree. The river provided a nice current which made for an easy paddle. We had a wonderful time taking pictures of the wildlife; we even got the rare treat of spotting an Osprey. The large bird was perched high above us in a tree overlooking the river and was not eager to pose, but we managed to snap a couple of shots before we paddled away. Although we saw many species of birds throughout the paddle, it was the Osprey that stole the show.

Many outfitters close during the off season, but Elephant Rock is open year around which is great news for those that enjoy viewing wildlife and experiencing nature. During the summer many loud people float the Illinois and scare much of the wildlife, but the rest of the year it is a beautiful haven for many impressive creatures like Osprey and Bald Eagle. Diverse natural beauty, good cell phone reception, and ease of access make the Illinois a great fall destination.

After our trip down the river Susan and Rod picked us up and we headed back up the hill to the nature park. I assumed that 'Nature Park' was just a fancy way of saying 'on a rough road', but I was wrong! When we arrived we noticed the beautiful yellow and blue canoes and walked up for a closer look, it was then we met June and July the young deer that Susan is looking after. She uses her experience in the Veterinary field to help wounded and rescued deer among other things.

June and July are not related and have very opposite personalities. July was cautious, but friendly with an obvious fondness for a soft petting between her ears. June on the other hand was full of energy, romping, snorting, running about, stopping briefly to nose the cat (Tater Salad) and then dashing off again in her own little version of tag. There were not any pens to contain the wildlife, they roam free and were our companions by choice, which for me, was a very special treat.

After Tom was finished petting the deer, we headed back to our yurt for dinner. A yurt is a Mongolian creation; I would describe it as a heavy-duty deluxe tent with raised wood floors, very capable of being nicer than a regular cabin. I have lodged in a primitive yurt, but never anything as nice as the ones at Elephant Rock. Our yurt was fully plumbed and equipped with the following luxuries: bathroom (with shower), kitchen sink, stove, refrigerator, pots, pans, dishes, linens, fan, air conditioning, heat, 2 double beds, queen futon, bunches of fluffy pillows, towels and blankets, all the things you need to be comfortable. They encourage quality time with friends and family so you will find an assortment of board games, but no TV or telephone.

We chose to cook dinner on the large charcoal grill outside, it was a nice area with lots of room for the family to gather and talk in comfort. After dinner Rod and Susan stopped by for a visit, we had a wonderful time discussing the new plans they have for expanding the Elephant Rock Nature Park to include an amphitheatre. After completion, they expect to provide a stage for the areas many talented artist and host events of their own.

Morning crept in our yurt from the huge skylight in the center of the room; it was an obvious invitation for a morning hike. I stayed behind and brewed some freshly ground hand roasted coffee while Tom and the camera went hiking. There were many deer in the area, not as tame as the ones we saw the day before but equally as beautiful. The trails were nicely cleared and well marked; they varied in difficulty however benches were scattered here and there in case you needed to take a rest along the way.

After drinking our coffee on the front deck, we decided to gather our things and go. We said our goodbyes and headed down the road to indulge in a breakfast buffet at a restaurant we spotted a few minutes away. It was the ending to a wonderful weekend; I enjoyed the quiet nature retreat and I look forward to paddling the Illinois and visiting Elephant Rock Nature Park again very soon.- Dianne M. Jones (Click here to see more pictures from our trip.)

Technorati Tags: , , ,