7 Reasons to Visit Carlton Landing This Summer

7 Reasons to Visit Carlton Landing This Summer

By Amanda LaMora

“I’m bored.”

It’s the dreaded phrase all parents inevitably hear once the schools empty their busy hallways for the summer. Whether the kids have been holed up in their rooms playing countless hours of video games or running wild through the neighborhood in a blur of bicycle spokes and joyous shouting, it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

And suddenly, you find yourself as the emcee of summer entertainment – on top of holding down your nine-to-five and all the other accoutrements of adulthood. It’s times like these when your schedule – however lax it may be in summertime – needs a bit of shaking up. It’s time for a family getaway.

Specifically, it’s time to get away to Carlton Landing – a charming, lakeside neighborhood where the kids won’t have time for things like electronics and boredom. It’s an escape where the days are measured by the movement of the sun and lasting memories are made.

Once you’ve been, you’ll understand the magic of it all. But for you first-timers, here’s what you can expect on a trip to Carlton Landing.

1. You Won’t Be Staying In a Boring Hotel Room
Hotels, motels, skyscraper accommodations . . . you won’t find any of these in Carlton Landing. Instead, you’ll have a full-size house all to yourself, complete with deep porches, outdoor grills and your own bedrooms. Staying here is about connecting with family, and it all begins with the space you’ll be occupying – a space that truly invokes that “home-away-from-home” feeling.

2. No Gear? No Problem.
No matter where you stay in Carlton Landing, the inviting waters of Lake Eufaula are always steps away – which is how you’ll be getting to the lake, unless you decide to rent a golf cart or bicycle (cars typically stay parked and walking is encouraged). Once you arrive at the shore, visit Lake Days Kayaks & Paddleboards Rental for all your lake fun equipment needs, including chairs, umbrellas and life jackets.

3. Plan On Being Outside – A Lot
Just like many residential neighborhoods, Carlton Landing is home to multiple parks and playgrounds where the kids can be kids. But with so much more to do here, playing outside becomes a family affair. From marshmallow roasting at the firepits or relaxing at one of the two neighborhood pools to engaging in a little friendly competition with bocce ball, sand volleyball or ping pong, there’s fun to be had around just about every corner. You’ll even find a few nature trails to explore on the south end of town.

4. The Food Is *Chef’s Kiss*
No, it’s not gourmet cuisine. But that’ doesn’t make it any less delicious. Mama Tig’s has unlocked the secret to mouthwatering pizza and it all begins with a wood-fired oven. Bud’s Frozen Treats brings smiles to faces of all ages with snow cones and ice cream. The Meeting House, where you’ll also find second-floor bed & breakfast lodging, serves up coffee, cocktails and all the meals in between. And there’s a myriad of seasonal flavors to explore at the food truck park.

5. Connect With Others at Local Events
There’s something about coming together in mutual celebration that makes a person feel like they belong – even when you’re not in your own backyard. Carlton Landing is all about fostering that sense of connection, whether it’s at an outdoor concert, movie on the lawn, rise and shine yoga session, or Sunday morning church service.

6. Shop Till You Pop
You won’t find mass-produced sundries or chain brands here. The seasonal pop-up shops at Carlton Landing feature one-of-a-kind finds, including unique apparel, home décor, handcrafted textiles, jewelry and more. It’s also where you’ll find the local farmers market – a great place to stock up on fresh, homegrown produce.

7. Don’t Want to Leave? Don’t Have To.
Carlton Landing is more than just a getaway destination. It happens to be an active full-time community, complete with its own public charter school. Join the Residence Club and you’ll have access to this dreamy neighborhood year-round, whether that means owning your own rental property or raising your kids in a quiet, tight-knit community.

The 5 Best Patios in Hochatown

The 5 Best Patios in Hochatown

By Amanda LaMora

You don’t have to be an outdoor adventurer to appreciate a nice meal on a secluded patio somewhere. There’s something about eating beyond the confines of four walls that elevates the spirit as well as the meal.

Outdoor dining brings intimacy to the table. It can make an evening meal more romantic or turn a business meeting into something more laid back. It opens a space for us to shed our own walls in the unrestricted air. To pass ideas around the table like a basket of freshly baked bread as laughter flows at the pace of a heavy pour of wine. Not to mention, enjoying a meal outside almost always comes with a better view – a tapestry of vibrant greens and mellow blues woven together with the soft susurrus of leaves overhead and the familiar caress of the passing breeze.

The truth is, if there’s patio seating and the weather is right, I’m eating outside.

The area around Broken Bow Lake is a haven of patio dining hotspots. In fact, I’m pretty sure almost everywhere you go in Hochatown is going to have outdoor seating because it’s such a beautiful area. But a list of “everywhere” wouldn’t be helpful. So, here are a few of the more noteworthy places, all of which happen to be pet-friendly. Whether you’re just passing through or just passing the time, these patios are guaranteed settings for memorable experiences.

1. Abendigo’s Grill & Patio
I mean . . . “patio” is in the name. Do I need to say more? I will, though, because this place has it all: coffee bar, tap room, gift shop, live music and an amazing menu. Abendigo’s is all about the atmosphere and this one has all the good vibes.

2. Buffalo Grill
Specializing in barbecue and burgers, Buffalo Grill is an ideal location for a casual hangout with friends and family. Choose from picnic tables or a covered patio and get in on the fun with outdoor yard games, drink specials and live music on the weekends.

3. Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Tap Room
If you’re passing through Hochatown, it’s practically required you visit Grateful Head. Featuring artisanal pizzas, craft brews, live music and a gift shop full of groovy merch, it’s a chill place to fill up and mellow out.

4. The Eat Out
Going to The Eat Out is kind of like attending a neighborhood barbecue – everyone is welcome and, please, make yourself at home. Outside, you’ll find a large yard set up for games like cornhole and disc golf with a central firepit featuring nightly bonfires and s’mores.

5. Beavers Bend Brewery
This brewery is home to some incredible craft brews, but there’s more here than froth and hops. With outdoor activities like cornhole, Jenga and Connect 4, plus live music and a hot dog food truck, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

5 Keys to a Carefree Spring

5 Keys to a Carefree Spring

By Amanda LaMora

There’s no better time than now to be outside. To skim your fingers across the crystal blue of a cloudless sky and comb tendrils of grass with your toes.

I love the way nature seems to congregate in a unified celebration of these sun-saturated days of late spring. The way the light conjures life from the very ground as sprouts rise to meet the day, awoken by the sun to vibrant shades of fuchsia, saffron and periwinkle.

In our own ways, we all reach for the sun. We push ever-upward toward the promise of something brighter, of growth and new beginnings. Our spirits brighten at the touch of light as our own colors swirl within us until we are happy like yellow and blooming like dandelions, ready to be carried off by the breeze on some hopeful adventure.

Just where that adventure unfolds is completely up to each of us. And Choctaw Country is full of carefree, outdoor activities worthy of the journey.

1. Motorcycling Touring
To hit the open road with nothing between you and the sky but the roar of wind in your ears is one of the many rewards of motorcycle touring. If you have yet to explore Southeastern Oklahoma on your motorcycle, you’ve been missing out on some of the most idyllic byways in the area. Lucky for you, we’ve mapped out the most scenic routes: the Durant, Hochatown and Carlton Landing trails.

2. Fishing
There’s just something meditative about spending a day on the water trying to hook the perfect catch, and Choctaw Country is brimming with amazing locations to cast your cares away. Lower Mountain Fork River at Beavers Bend State Park is a prime location for fly fishing, attracting anglers from miles around in search of the perfect trout. If you come back later in the season in search of bass, be sure to cast your line at Lake Texoma near Durant – one of the best lake locations for striper fishing in the United States.

3. Ziplining
Catch a zipline at Rugaru Adventures in Broken Bow, and you’re in for a wild ride full of stunning scenery as you soar through the treetops with a bird’s-eye view of the forest surrounding Broken Bow Lake. Prefer to keep both feet on the ground? Check out their SWINCAR tours – a new, sustainable way to off-road.

4. Stickball
Historically used as a method of settling disputes without the cost of war, stickball is an important part of Choctaw culture. Modern-day stickball is currently rising in popularity with annual tournaments being held across the nation. Visit Poteau in May, and you’ll be fortunate enough to witness one of these action-packed events at the Poteau Stickball Tournament.

5. Hiking
This list just wouldn’t be complete without mentioning all the amazing trails throughout Choctaw Country waiting to be explored. Robbers Cave State Park is one of my favorite places to get lost; between the fascinating history which earned this park its name and the diverse terrain of rocky hillsides and caves, it’s a place that fosters imagination and wonder. Another great place to hike is at Talimena State Park, where the trails are surrounded by stunning scenic views.

3 easy ways to take it easy in Choctaw Country

3 Easy Ways To Take It Easy in Choctaw Country

By Amanda LaMora

As the calendar turns the pages of another chapter in the year, we find ourselves lost in the business of spring. It’s a season marked by renewal and a transition toward the light, and it practically vibrates with its own energy of growth and productivity. If you find yourself exhausted by all the spring cleaning, change and preparation that come with this season of revitalization, you’re not alone.

When life starts to feel busy and hectic, I think it’s best to shake things up a bit by placing yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. If you’re not native to Oklahoma, there’s another world to discover just on the other side of the Red River. A world that says, “Hurry up and slow down.” We might just find taking the time to slow down could lead us to feeling refreshed and inspired for new adventures.

First, you have to ask yourself: What does relaxation look like to me? Maybe it’s unwinding with a velvety glass of your favorite wine, lost in conversation with a close friend under a canopy of viny branches and tufts of cottony clouds. It might be escaping to a cabin where the world seems to simultaneously shrink and expand, your universe condensed to nothing but the surrounding rustic walls nestled in a vast galaxy of ancient trees and wild valleys. It could even be something as straightforward as a day at the spa, melting under the fluid touch of an expert massage therapist and lost in waves of peaceful music and aromatherapy. It’s up to each of us to discover what works for us.

So, relax. Take a deep breath. Find your center. Here’s where to start:

1. Book a Spa Day
Of course, the hero of the ultimate relaxation experience belongs to spas, and The Spa at Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant lives up to this expectation, cape and all. It’s a virtual bath of the senses that will leave you with feelings of peace and tranquility flowing through every pore. With services including invigorating body treatments, heavenly massages and customized facials, plus all the accoutrement of a full-service hair and nail salon, after just one trip to this slice of paradise, you’ll be planning your next visit … and the next.

2. Visit a Winery
If you’ve never visited a winery, you may have this preconceived notion of a pretentious place full of snobbish people — I know I did before my first winery experience many years ago. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong. If your ideal day of relaxation involves a refreshing vintage and memorable conversation amid the beauty of Mother Nature, these places were made for you. Choctaw Country is home to several incredible wineries, including Blue River Valley Winery and Crystal Creek Winery, both conveniently located near Durant, Whispering Meadows Vineyards & Winery in downtown McAlester and Fish Tales Winery & Bistro in the gorgeous, forested hills of the Hochatown area — just to name a few!

3. Escape to a Cabin
Sometimes, there’s nothing more relaxing than shutting the rest of the world out and escaping to a remote cabin in the woods. It’s a place where you can make deeper connections with the people you hold dear and appreciate the beauty in the mundane miracles of this beautiful planet without all the usual distractions. Hochatown is home to some of the most sought-after cabin escapes in the area, including Broken Bow Cabin Lodging, Beavers Bend Luxury Cabin Rentals, Broken Bow Lake Cabins and more.

Spring Break Road Trip

Get More Out of Your Spring Break Road Trip

By Amanda McCarty

After slogging through months of cold and darkness, we can’t help but anticipate the return of spring. Our bodies seem to be hypersensitive to the gradual transition as the days unfold their hours like petals of light, bringing with them the hint of warmth in the air that coaxes the trees to once again dress themselves in green.

Yes, it is February. But I think now is the perfect time to bring our cabin-fever fantasies to life and start planning our escape. In keeping with the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”

This Spring Break, I’m preparing to escape to the open road. There’s nothing quite as freeing as the wind in my hair, the gentle warmth of the early spring sun on my cheeks and my favorite road-trip playlist cranked to max volume.

You may (or may not) be surprised to find the keys to a memorable road trip along the asphalt corridors snaking their way throughout Choctaw Country. The winding tarmac beckons us to make our own adventures . . . to find our own happiness.

Here are a few destinations worthy of being added to your route:

1. Choctaw Cultural Center | Durant
If museums aren’t typically your thing, hear me out – because you’d be remiss to leave this amazing destination off your travel route. This isn’t your average, sterile hallway full of relics. It’s a fully immersive way to experience the story of the Choctaw people, and all the senses are invited to the party.

2. Robbers Cave State Park | Wilburton
Ever heard of Jesse James? Of course you have. But did you know one of his favorite hideaways was in the stony crevices of the Oklahoma wilderness? The infamous cave he often called home is still there, just on the other side of a steep climb, along with many other caverns and trails just waiting for those brave enough to discover their secrets.

3. Talimena National Scenic Byway | Talihina
What would a road trip be without gorgeous scenery? Full of serpentine curves, lush foliage and stunning views of the Winding Stair Mountains, it’s no wonder this byway has been ranked #1 in Oklahoma. Peppered with historic towns and scenic turnouts, this is a part of the trip where you won’t be able to put down the camera.

4. Heavener Runestone Park | Heavener
You don’t have to travel overseas to explore an authentic glimpse into Viking history. No one is quite sure how or why, but somehow the legendary men of the northern seas found their boots on Oklahoma soil. The evidence of their passage – eight runes deliberately carved into sandstone – is worth seeing with your own eyes.

5. The Hochatown Experience | Hochatown
You’ll often hear people gushing over all the fun they had in “Broken Bow,” but what they’re usually referring to is Hochatown – a buzzing, picturesque town along the shores of Broken Bow Lake. Sample a perfectly crafted flight at Mountain Fork Brewery, “spill the tea” with your bestie at Girls Gone Wine, grab a slice and jam out to live music at Grateful Head or make your way through The Maze at Hochatown. It’s a one-stop shop for fun and entertainment.

Choctaw Country 2023 Bucket List

Choctaw Country 2023 Bucket List

By Amanda McCarty

A new year is quickly approaching, bringing with it the inexorable desire to sweep away the cobwebs of last year’s finely spun dreams and begin anew. It’s a promise of hope — to tap into our potential, to do better, to get things right… this time.

Our energy is precious and so is our time here. If we shift our focus this year, we might find goals worth striving toward.

If you’re ready to add more bliss, wonder and adventure to your life, the diverse landscape of Choctaw Country is a great place to start. As you acquaint yourself with her hills, valleys and bodies of water, you may find you’ve made lifelong friends with her forgotten haunts and well-known paths.

I hope you also find what you’ve been searching for.

Here’s a different kind of New Year’s list to get you started on the right foot:

Start the Year with Family Fun at The District | Durant

Take your family game night to the next level at The District–Durant. Play a wide selection of some of the most popular arcade games and score big when you cash in at the redemption store. Bring your A-game and rule the lane with an hour (or two, or three…) of bowling. And catch the newest blockbusters at the six-screen theater.

Cozy Up in a Romantic Cabin Getaway | Hochatown
Imagine curling up under a fuzzy blanket with your special someone, sipping cocoa — or something a little stronger — by the comforting glow of a roaring fire. The two of you lost in a magical moment as time and the rest of the world drift by on the other side of the surrounding pines. The dreamy cabins in Hochatown are the perfect setting if you’re searching for a space to share an intimate and memorable experience.

Hike the Robbers Cave Trail | Robbers Cave State Park
Hiking through Robbers Cave is like traveling back in time — if one applies a bit of imagination, of course. Known as a hideout for outlaws such as Jesse James, Belle Starr and Cole Younger, one can’t help but wonder whose footsteps came before. Venturing into the mouth of the infamous cave, their stories can almost be heard echoing from the slanting stone walls.

Mountain Gate Poker Run | Talihina
Mount up and bring your best poker face for the Mountain Gate Poker Run. Riders of all kinds are welcome to travel through the beautiful Talihina countryside, picking up a card at each of five stops along the way. Will you end the day with the winning hand? Play your cards right at the final location to find out.

5. MAY
Italian Festival | McAlester
You don’t have to be Italian to appreciate this celebration of Italian heritage. As you make your way through the fairgrounds, you’ll find there’s truly something for everyone’s enjoyment, from the arts exhibits and unique wares of local vendors to live entertainment and, of course, delicious Italian cuisine. Best of all — admission is free!

Summer Solstice Walks | Spiro
Celebrate the official first day of summer with a guided summer walk at the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center. Constructed by Natives more than 1,000 years ago, the mounds offer a unique glimpse into ancient Oklahoma while the tour guide brings the stories surrounding their past to life. The tours run at 11am, 2pm and 7pm, and each one covers about a mile over the course of two hours. Each tour is available for $5 for adults and $3 for children in addition to the Center’s daily admission fee.

Kayak Down Mountain Fork River | Broken Bow
There’s no shortage of places to rent a kayak for the day in Beavers Bend State Park if you don’t have one of your own, and they’re usually relatively cheap. Beavers Bend River Floats is a great place to start if you’re just looking to dip your toe into the water, so to speak. After being shuttled to the drop-off point, it’s a peaceful trip downstream back to their shop and only takes about an hour. The best part, though, are the stunning views as Mountain Fork River cuts its way through the Kiamichi Mountains.

Book a Lakeside Getaway | Carlton Landing
Carlton Landing is a lakeside haven for families in search of making new memories on a magical getaway. There are no hotels here — you’ll stay in comfort in one of the many charming houses equipped with deep-set porches. The focus is to unplug and get outside, and with plenty of local pools, playgrounds, nature trails and kayak, boat and bike rentals, it’s a pursuit that comes as easily as breathing.

Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival | Tuskahoma
Held annually on the Choctaw Nation Capitol Grounds, the Choctaw Nation Labor Day Festival spans the whole weekend in celebration of the three core Choctaw values: faith, family and culture. Games include volleyball, cornhole, softball, basketball and traditional stickball, as well as a 5K run. You can also enjoy arts and crafts, live entertainment and delicious food. Plus, don’t miss the crowning of Little Miss, Junior Miss and Miss Choctaw Nation in the Choctaw Nation Royalty Pageant.

Bigfoot Festival | Honobia
The forests in Choctaw Country are some of the country’s leading locations for Bigfoot sightings, and Bigfoot enthusiasts from all over gather in Honobia each year to celebrate, share stories and learn more about the mysterious creature that has eluded us for generations. In addition to the popular Bigfoot Conference, the Honobia Bigfoot Festival also offers helicopter rides, arts and crafts, children’s activities, live music and storytelling. There’s truly something for everyone, so bring the whole crew… and watch out for Bigfoot!

Talihina Fall Foliage Festival | Talihina
Known locally as the event of the season, the Talihina Fall Foliage Festival offers a cornucopia of entertainment for the whole family including live music, unique shopping opportunities, craft exhibits, car shows, pony rides and a Wild West reenactment. There’s also a bountiful harvest of delicious food and hot, spiced beverages, and the Talimena National Scenic Byway lies nearby amidst the breathtaking scenery.

Choctaw Nation Annual Powwow | Durant
If you’ve never been to a powwow, this is the one to attend. The Choctaw Powwow is one of the nation’s largest, with more than 50 tribes from across the country participating. Join us at the Choctaw Cultural Center for stickball, dancing, music, food and more.

Visit our events page for specific dates and more information.

Choctaw Cultural Center

5 Ways to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month

By Amanda McCarty

Some of the earliest Native American advocates for celebrating this country’s indigenous people were Dr. Arthur Caswell Parker, Reverend Red Fox James and Reverend Sherman Coolidge. They fought for a single day of recognition in a time when our country had yet to acknowledge indigenous people as citizens.

Today, we recognize the month of November as Native American Heritage Month, but what does that mean?

For those of us who live on Tribal ground, we’re fortunate enough to be constantly surrounded with Native culture. But if Native culture isn’t an aspect of your daily life, it can sometimes be easy to forget where we came from. And while the stories of our Native ancestors deserve to be celebrated the whole year ‘round, I believe it’s especially important to do so in November, at a time when the whole country, regardless of race or heritage, is focused on honoring the historical legacy of our “First Americans.”

So, how can we celebrate if we live in, say, Dallas? Lucky for you, Durant is less than two hours north of the Metroplex — a straight shot up Highway 75 — and has everything you need to immerse yourself in a thoroughly Native November experience.

Here are five things you can do during your stay:

1. Attend the Choctaw Powwow
The rhythmic pull of the drums. The blur of color as ribbon-dressed dancers circle the floor. The interlacing of voices in harmony and song. The fragrant aroma of homemade food. The thrill of competition in a heated game of stickball.

If you’ve never been to a powwow, this is the one to attend. The Choctaw Powwow is one of the nation’s largest, with more than 50 tribes from across the country participating. This annual, three-day event kicks off Friday, November 4th at the Choctaw Cultural Center and continues from the 5th through the 6th at the Choctaw Event Center.

2. Take a Class
There’s something about creating things with our hands that allows us to really connect to the past. Maybe it’s because our movements so closely mimic those of the people who came before us. There’s no technology that’s changed there — it’s the simple repetition of muscle and bone that’s been passed down through the generations.

The Choctaw Cultural Center is the perfect place to experience this kind of tactile learning, offering classes on fiber spinning, diamond stitching, basketry and beadwork — just to name a few. While you’re there, be sure to explore the vividly engaging exhibits, living village and the stickball arena.

3. Indulge in Native Cuisine
Speaking of the Choctaw Cultural Center, it’s also a great place to enjoy Native cuisine. Champuli Café offers a variety of traditional favorites, like tanchi labona (simmered pearl hominy corn and braised pork), banaha (cornmeal-based bread) and pinto beans and everyone’s favorite, the Indian taco.

If you’ve never experienced the deliciousness of a fresh, Indian taco, you’ve been missing out. It starts with a generous portion of frybread and is topped with beans, ground beef and the usual taco fixings. Fortunately, while you’re in Durant, there’s more than one place to indulge in this unique dish. The Frybread Express food truck is a local favorite and can usually be found along the highway near the casino.

4. Explore Indigenous Art
Nothing is as capable of putting our lives into perspective in quite the same way as visual art. Each canvas is a story of where that artist has come from — an amalgamation of their experiences and the legacy they wish to leave behind.

The Art Walk at Choctaw Casino & Resort–Durant features over 6,000 pieces of Native artwork and offers a unique journey through a self-guided tour of this artistic landscape. A smaller, but no less beautiful collection is housed at the Semple Family Museum of Native American Art, open to the public from 1pm-4pm Tuesday – Thursday.

5. Support a Native-Owned Business
Celebrating Native American Heritage Month doesn’t have to look overtly tribal. Giving back to the community by visiting local, Native-owned businesses is one of the best and easiest ways to show your support.

While in Durant, you could enjoy a hearty meal at Main Street Barbecue, unwind with your bestie at Blue River Valley Winery, treat yourself to some retail therapy at Five Eighty Vogue or relax with a facial at The Glam Factor.

If you’re curious about more Choctaw-owned businesses, you can view the directory here.

4 Reasons to Visit Talihina

4 Reasons You Need to Visit Talihina This Fall

By Amanda McCarty

Autumn is undeniably one of the most celebrated seasons, and it’s no mystery as to why. The cooling temperatures beckon us outdoors, and our lungs fill with the crisp breath of a new season that washes away the stale tang of summer.

Humming with the vibration of the change around us, every aspect of our lives seems to be aligned with this spirit of metamorphosis. Our wardrobes become layered with cozy flannels and oversized hoodies. Even our palates change as we seek out the warmth of spiced breads and pumpkin-flavored anything.

If this beautiful celebration of change and “letting go” could be perfectly encapsulated in an idealistic bubble, you’d find it in Talihina, Oklahoma. Talihina was made for fall. And if you’ve never had the chance to experience its picturesque views and cinematic scenery, I’ve got four reasons why you should make this your year:

1. The Views
Cruising through the Talimena National Scenic Byway is a must if you’re searching for ‘gram-worthy photo ops and back-roads vibes. Snaking its way through the Winding Stair and Rich Mountains, this unique area is one of the most sought-after places to view autumn foliage in all her majesty. The undulating landscape of peaks and valleys is suffused with tones of crimson, amber, goldenrod, ochre, tangerine and a myriad of other colors whose names have yet to be pinned down. Along the way, you’ll find charming historic towns with welcoming cafés and one-of-a-kind shops.

Many are under the misconception that you have to travel to the northern part of the country for views like these, but they’re much closer than you think — right here in southeastern Oklahoma.

2. The Trails
Maybe it’s our sense of wonder at the transitioning beauty around us, but there’s something about autumn that brings to life a spirit of exploration in us all. There’s no better place to explore the unknown than the hiking paths that furrow their way through the wilderness of the Ouachita National Forest.

Due to the mountainous topography, the difficulty ratings on these trails begin on the moderate side. But as long as you’ve got the proper gear, and maybe a little hiking experience under your belt, they’re well worth checking out. The Talimena State Park to Hells Hollow trail is a good icebreaker with 7.8 miles of rocky terrain perfect for birdwatching or bringing along your furry companion. The Ouachita Bohannon Trail ups the intensity, cutting 17 miles out-and-back into Buffalo Wallow Mountain and offering ample locations for backcountry camping along the way.

3. The Camping
Gathering with loved ones around the glow of the fire, fingers sticky with the melted remnants of s’mores. Sleeping beneath the comforting canopy of ancestral tree branches and shimmering starlight. Surviving off the land — or whatever you packed in the cooler. Camping was made for making memories.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “camper,” Talimena State Park has so many options, you just may find yourself converted to a life of dreamy stays in the wild — whatever your version of that may be. For those who prefer the comfort of a springy mattress in a climate-controlled environment, you’ll find 10 RV sites with 30-amp electric and water hookups. For the camping purist who doesn’t mind a little ash in their dinner (I call it “seasoning”), there are seven designated tent sites and even more options for backcountry camping.

4. The Events
Is there anything more enchanting than a festival in honor of our favorite season? Known locally as the event of the season, the Talihina Fall Foliage Festival is a must-see celebration that just keeps getting better every year.

Here, you’ll find a cornucopia of entertainment for the whole family including live music, unique shopping opportunities, craft exhibits, car shows, pony rides and a Wild West reenactment. There’s also a bountiful harvest of delicious food and hot, spiced beverages, and the Talimena National Scenic Byway lies nearby amidst the breathtaking scenery.

Connect with what matters

Connecting With What Matters

By Amanda McCarty

The fading sunlight of shorter days gives cool breath to the shadows as autumn whispers her impending arrival, and suddenly, camping season is upon us. Like many, I grew up camping and cultivated a love for it that will last my entire life. But have you ever sat and wondered precisely why we do this? Why do we abandon our possessions and comfortable, air-conditioned homes to sleep in the dirt?

When we camp, we give ourselves the space to live in the moment and appreciate the beauty we constantly take for granted. Gathered in a circle around the hypnotizing dance of fire, the conversations become more intimate as stories are told and laughter is shared. The songs of crickets keep tempo in the background as the perfume of woodsmoke lifts the chords of the guitar into the close, velvet sky. The stars seem to have multiplied and hang heavy in the night like pale sentinels over the wilderness.

Here, everything is connected. Everything has a purpose. Dead leaves, fallen to the ground in tones of amber, are given new life as kindling. A slender twig foraged from among the undergrowth becomes the perfect roasting utensil. Pants are the new napkin. The branches overhead become our refuge, and a level stretch of earth, spongy with rotting leaves and moss, becomes the perfect bed.

As the night plunges on into the wee hours, the fire is reduced to a steady glow of coals, pulsing amidst the ash like so many beating hearts. Dusty and worn, we retreat to our tents, blanketed with the comfort of the connections we’ve made — to the earth, ourselves and each other — and the memories we know we’ve created.

I believe these experiences awaken within us something wild — a primitive kernel of humanity we all carry at our core, buried beneath the layers of business casual, iced americanos, mortgage rates, credit card bills and all the other nonsense we’ve accumulated in our pursuit of civilization.

When we strip everything else away, we connect with the ancient wisdom of our ancestors — a wisdom that tells us gratitude is found in making do with less. Comfort is found in snuggling against the cold. Accomplishment is found in struggle. And joy is found in sharing these experiences with the ones we love.

Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons:
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
– Walt Whitman

Beavers Bend State Park | Broken Bow, OK
I don’t think it’s possible to say enough good things about this particular section of Oklahoma. With a myriad of hiking and biking trails, fishing holes, kayaking opportunities and campgrounds amidst stunning scenery, it’s simply an outdoorsperson’s paradise.

This makes Beavers Bend the perfect place to camp, whether you enjoy roughing it tent-style, setting up your home-away-from-home on an RV pad or retreating to the comfort of a yurt along the cool banks of Mountain Fork River. This area also features an incredible selection of privately owned cabins for those who prefer to keep four walls and a roof between themselves and their outdoorsy experience.

Robbers Cave State Park | Wilburton, OK
The Robbers Cave area seems to have been designed with the heart of an adventurer in mind. From cave exploring and horseback riding to mini golf and waterslides, there’s excitement to be found in every corner of the park.

Here, you’ll find campsites for groups, tents, RVs and even sites with accommodations for horses. This is another great area to rent a cabin and also features a 20-room lodge available for larger groups.

Talimena State Park | Talihina, OK
Nestled among the slopes of the Winding Stair Mountains, Talimena State Park offers breathtaking views, whether you’re hiking through Ouachita National Forest, hitting the ATV trails or simply passing through.

This park has the usual offerings of tent and RV setups, but it’s also the perfect backpacking destination. Many of the trails are long, requiring multiple days to complete on foot, and the fairytale forest offers an enchanting place to relax for the night.

Rock Climbing

For the Love of the Climb

By Amanda McCarty

I was once a climber. As a child I would climb to what I referred to as the “tippy-top” branches and dangle upside-down by my knees. The sight of this would surely have sent my mom into the throes of a panic attack, but that’s just how life was when we were kids. We explored the world unsupervised and lived to tell the tales.

I would venture to guess we all started our lives as climbers. We climbed over fences to play with childhood neighbors. We climbed the outside of the playground equipment at McDonald’s, giving no thought to the posted signs warning us not to. We climbed over furniture when the floor was lava. We climbed through windows when playtime involved secrets that must be kept.

For those who grow to pursue rock climbing as adults, “the climb” takes on a new meaning. It becomes more about conquering the physical and mental challenges brought on — challenges unique to each climb. It’s tackling what shouldn’t be possible, and screaming, “I did it!” when the summit is reached. It’s seeing what you’re capable of and the feeling of accomplishment when your doubts are proven wrong. It’s connecting with that inner child who still loves a good climb. Not to mention, it’s a great workout — one you just can’t duplicate within the confines of a traditional gym.

I’d like to say I’m still a climber, but sadly that part of me was lost somewhere along the way. That said, I’m willing to bet there’s a climber still inside of me — and all of us — just waiting to be invited out to play.

With so many opportunities in southeastern Oklahoma, it’s a possibility that deserves to be explored.

Robbers Cave State Park | Wilburton, OK
With the massive amount of boulders and rock formations pushing their way up through the surrounding landscape, it’s no wonder Robbers Cave is one of the more popular sites for climbing in southeastern Oklahoma. Here, you’ll find nine routes from which to choose, with options for trad, top-rope and boulder climbs for all skill levels.

It’s also a great place to land when the climb is over, offering 26 cabins and multiple sites for both tent and RV camping. While you’re at Robbers Cave, be sure to explore the myriad of activities for further entertainment, including hiking and equestrian trails, mini golf, canoe rentals, cave tours, cane pole fishing and so much more.

McGee Creek National Scenic State Recreation Area | Atoka, OK
The area around McGee Creek is known for its bouldering opportunities, which is great if you don’t want to haul a bunch of gear into the forest. It’s just you and your determination keeping you gripped to the face of a rock that’s witnessed the coming and going of millions of generations.

It’s also a beautiful place to camp and features hiking and equestrian trails as well as boat rentals on the nearby McGee Creek Reservoir.

Crag Climb | Broken Bow, OK
If you’re looking for a great introduction into the sport of climbing, Crag Climb is the perfect place to begin. This state-of-the-art indoor climbing gym offers a safe environment to explore the basics of climbing, with access to members of the climbing community for training and advice. But it’s not just for beginners — Crag Climb offers courses from VB-V12 (beginner to expert) as well as climb packages, memberships, party packages and more.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore everything Broken Bow has to offer while you’re in town. From fly fishing, mountain biking and hiking trails to wineries, ax throwing and the annual Bigfoot Festival, there are adventures for everyone just waiting to be had.

Take in the Views

Take in the Views

By Christian Toews
From the June 2022 Biskinik

As spring is ending and we start to see the first glimpse of summer in Choctaw Country, we are making the final leg of our three-part road trip through Southeastern Oklahoma. We visited large cities and small towns in the first part of our trip. We have already seen some of the best and most beautiful areas in Oklahoma – but we aren’t done yet. We will explore even more destinations worth adding to your list in this portion of our road trip. It doesn’t matter if you want to take a day trip or spend a few days in each location. There is plenty to see and experience at all of our stops.

We ended the last section of our road trip in Pocola, Oklahoma. We will travel southwest from Pocola and take a scenic drive to Talihina, Oklahoma. The drive from Pocola to Talihina is beautiful no matter what road you take, but the most scenic route would be along Highway 1. This highway is part of the Talimena National Scenic Byway and is one of the most spectacular places in Oklahoma. The U.S. Department of Transportation has designated this section of road as an official National Scenic Byway. Driving the entire scenic byway takes you across one of the highest mountain ranges between the Appalachians and the Rockies. The whole drive is 54 miles long one-way, so you will need most of the day to explore the byway if you plan to drive its entirety. Stopping at any sweeping vistas along the way is well worth your time. There are no services along the drive, so make sure you stop in Talihina and get some snacks and drinks before you head out.

Chamber of Commerce director, Vera Nelson, said that people come from all over the country and worldwide to visit the Talimena drive. “The most popular time to visit is in the fall, and we get people from all around the world who visit our area.” Nelson encouraged visitors to stop by the visitor center in Talihina and pick up a Talimena Scenic Byway guidebook. You can also visit the Talihina Chamber of commerce website to plan your trip.

Talihina is well known for the Talimena drive, but there are many other reasons to stop in this city from great coffee at My Crystal Chandelier Coffee House & Gift Shop or a historic place to spend the night at Hootie Creek Guest House. If you need to stop for gas and a snack, stop at the Choctaw Travel Plaza. Anything you need for your journey is right here.

From Talihina, we are going to travel west to McAlester, Oklahoma. This large city is well known for the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, where the majority of the bombs used by the United States military are manufactured. With many wineries, breweries, and restaurants, this is an entertaining stop on any road trip through the area. One of the most popular restaurants is Pete’s Place in Krebs, Oklahoma. Krebs borders McAlester and is worth the stop if you love good food. If you are looking for something quick, there have been many developments near the highway through McAlester, and there is a variety of fast food, coffee, and gas options.

Leaving McAlester, we are headed south to our final destination on our road trip. Our last stop has everything you need to stay for a few hours to a few days. Durant, Oklahoma, has become one of Oklahoma’s most popular tourist areas, and with good reason. Durant has something to offer everyone with multiple outdoor recreation options, a world-class resort hotel, and a vibrant downtown.

A few minutes drive from Durant will bring you to Lake Texoma. With approximately 1200 miles of shoreline, there are plenty of swim beaches, recreation areas, and things to do on and off the water. Many marinas in the area offer boat rentals, so you can get out and enjoy being on the water even if you are visiting. If you want to camp, there are plenty of options near Durant to camp close to the water.

After you play on the lake, head to Durant’s downtown. This is a wonderful place to visit a local coffee shop, brewery, restaurant, or shop for some unique treasures. Durant offers a farmers’ market and various other community events during the warmer months of the year. You can visit durant.org and see a calendar of community events to help you plan your stop in Durant.

Choctaw Nation Photo
Nothing says tropical escape quite like three beautiful acres and two pools: one family-friendly and fully equipped with two waterslides, and the other an exclusive, adult-only pool.

If you want a world-class, luxurious experience in the heart of southeastern Oklahoma, visit Choctaw Casino Resort – Durant. With 1,700 hotel rooms available at the AAA Four Diamond hotel, 16 restaurant options, and a variety of bars and lounges, it’s easy to enjoy yourself. Are you traveling with kids? Visit The District, where there is an arcade, six movie theaters, bowling and more. The food and entertainment options are almost limitless.

Visiting Choctaw Casino Resort – Durant in the warm months of the year is particularly appealing because of the newly opened resort pools. Aqua is a three-acre area of pools, cabanas, outdoor bars, and more. One family-friendly pool is fully equipped with two waterslides, and the other is an exclusive, adult-only pool. If you want a place of your own for the day, Aqua offers 50 luxurious poolside cabanas. For more information on Aqua or anything Choctaw Casino Resort offers, you can visit choctawcasinos.com.

Our road trip through southeastern Oklahoma has ended, but now is the time to let your adventure begin. Whether you follow the road trip exactly or create your own from our three-part series, you are sure to enjoy Choctaw Country.

Previous Road Trip Series Articles

Hit the open road and plan your next road trip in Choctaw Country: Part 2

Hit the Open Road

By Christian Toews
From the May 2022 Biskinik

In the first article of this series, we began our road trip around Choctaw Country. We visited Hugo, Idabel and Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

Since the last article, the trees have started to bloom, and everything has become greener with life.

The classic Oklahoma storms have also begun to arrive. But as the old saying goes, April’s showers bring May’s flowers. So, pack up the car and take a road trip through Choctaw Country to watch spring bloom across the southeastern part of Oklahoma.

We will begin the second part of our road trip in Honobia, Oklahoma.

From Broken Bow, where we stopped in the last article, head north to find the small community of Honobia.

While it might be a small town, it has a considerable reputation.

It is one of the hottest spots in the United States for Bigfoot sightings and tales.

Every year, Honobia hosts an annual Bigfoot festival.

Vendors, believers and even television shows gather at the festival to share new information, swap stories and celebrate this legendary creature.

According to honobiabigfoot.com, the 2022 bigfoot festival will take place on September 30 and October 1, 2022.

Shawna Cline owns the Honobia Creek Store & RV Park. She said over 5,000 people make their way to the area for the annual festival.

Cline has owned and operated the Honobia Creek Store with her husband, Chris, for 15 years. “I didn’t realize how many bigfoot believers there were. People come from all over the country and all around the world,” she said.

While the festival in the fall draws large crowds to Honobia, there are plenty of other reasons to visit. Oklahoma’s Little River runs through this area and is excellent for kayaking.

There are many trails to ride side-by-sides and ATVs. Rent a cabin, tent camp or bring your RV and enjoy the beautiful scenery in the great outdoors.

Photo by Christian Toews
Honobia, Oklahoma, is home to the Bigfoot Festival and crystal clear skies perfect for stargazing.

Another popular activity in this area is stargazing.

According to Cline, many people visit and stay to look at the stars. “There have been several people who have camped or brought their RV and took photos of the stars because you can see them so well,” she said. “We stop and look at the stars all the time. I didn’t realize how many people don’t get to do that.”

The Honobia Creek Store also offers a restaurant and a wide selection of merchandise.
One person left a review on Google saying:
“After three years, I had this burger again and it was as amazing as I remember. We stopped there yesterday and the staff is so friendly. The food is amazing.”

If you are looking for a unique outdoor experience, look no further than Honobia on your road trip.
For more information on Honobia Creek Store, check out the Store’s Facebook page.

Our next destination is beautiful Poteau, Oklahoma.

The drive from Honobia to Poteau is breathtaking. You will travel past some of the best scenic views in Oklahoma on your way.

Once you arrive, the options for activities and things to see are almost endless.

Grab a cuppa Joe at the Coffee Cup downtown, then head to Runestone Park in nearby Heavener, which has an artifact from some of the area’s earliest settlers. You can also check out Cavanal Hill, which is known as the “world’s highest hill” because it is barely shy of being classified as a mountain.

If you want to learn even more about the area’s history, you can visit the LeFlore County Museum at Hotel Lowry.

One of the most popular attractions in this area is the Poteau Balloon Fest.

You will be dazzled as the sky is filled with hot air balloons. Stay until the sun goes down, and you will see a truly unique hot air balloon experience where the balloon glows light up the sky. Poteau is a genuinely unique stop along our road trip through Choctaw Country.

To find out more about activities and attractions, you can visit poteau-ok.com.

The final stop on this leg of our road trip is a short drive from Poteau to the town of Pocola, Oklahoma.

This is the perfect location to stop for the night or enjoy some world-class cuisine. Pocola is home to one of the three Choctaw Casino & Resort locations.

This resort is for those searching for a unique experience, where you can enjoy tacos and burgers or steak and shrimp. Enjoy entertainers and try your luck at the tables, this resort offers everything you need to make a road trip stop or a weekend getaway an unforgettable experience.

If you feel adventurous during your stay, you can step right outside Choctaw Country and visit Fort Smith, Arkansas, where there are even more entertainment and attraction options.

Pocola is the perfect place to stop along our road trip if you are looking for a luxury experience for any budget or interest.

To find out more about the Choctaw Casino & Resort in Pocola, you can visit choctawcasinos.com/pocola.

Be sure to join us again next month for the final portion of our road trip through Choctaw Country.