4 Reasons You Need to Visit Talihina This Fall
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.

Stargazing
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.

Stargazing
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.