Today we got away and drove the Talimena Highway, or more accurately, the Winding Stair Mountain Trail. It follows a ridge top path between Talihina, OK and Mena, AR, in the Kiamichi Mountains. We were just a little late to catch all the foliage colors of fall. Still, it promised a picturesque drive with wide high views of the valleys on either side, and the mountains beyond in each direction. It’s quite popular, especially with motorcycle riders.
So we climbed toward the sun, starting on the west end in Talihina. As soon as we got to the highest elevations, the clouds rolled in over the ridge. Thick clouds. At the Wilhelmina State Park Lodge, visibility was less than 100 yards. We still drank in some history lessons, then drove on down to Mena. As we turned north to find a parallel route back the way we came, down through the valley on the north side, the sun came back out.
The view from the valley was far more interesting. No, not because of the clouds up on top blocked the view, but because there is only so much you can see from up there in the first place. You are looking down into the valleys, but by the time your gaze moves up the next slope, it’s just distant green humps. The view of the peak itself was pretty monotonous. From the valley floor, you see up, but you also see the very many lovely details. Rocky creeks, green waters, mixed forests and far more color below the tops of the tall pines. I will remember the valley view far, far longer. I’ve already seen the view from the top when it was clear, and it doesn’t stick in my mind.
Indeed, I now wish I could find a place to live down there. I want to pass through there again sometime soon. Did not the fog roll in to tell us the things we really wanted and needed for our souls were down in the valley? You can’t buy land on the ridge, because it’s all government owned. Food and drink are pretty high-priced, and very limited. It was entirely too crowded with tourists. In the valleys, there is land for sale, a great many homes and shops, and the prices more — ahem — down to earth. We weren’t boxed in by the filthy rich flaunting their toys.
I love the mountains because they make the valleys so beautiful.