I arrived in Altus, Oklahoma in mid January, and based on things I'd heard from other people, really didn't have too high of expectations. My three months here, however, has absolutely flown by. Despite being in Southwest Oklahoma (really only 15 minutes from Texas to both the West and South), there is a ton of stuff to do around here. People complain all the time about being bored, but the truth is, you can be bored anywhere. All it takes is getting out and enjoying the finer (sometimes, more subtle) things in life. Most people won't believe me, so I'll list the top 20 things you should do if you are either in Altus or around this general area. (I started with a top 10 list, but quickly found so many things looking at my old pictures that I decided to make it 20.) Here we go.
I selected one picture for each item, but you can click on most of the pictures to take you to an old blog post with more pictures, or go to the Oklahoma or Texas Albums. Enjoy!
1. Quartz Mountain: This is the gem of Altus. It's not actually in Altus, and seeing how flat Altus is, you would never realize it's a mere 20 minutes to the North. There is a plethora of stuff to do here... rock climbing, hiking, fishing, boating, swimming, or just adventuring, this place has it. The lake is held in place by the Altus-Lugert Dam, created in 1927 over the town of Lugert after it was destroyed by a tornado. Oklahoma is in a drought, and the lake has been about 27 feet below normal the entire time I've been here, so you can even see and walk around the old foundations of the town of Lugert, which in itself is pretty cool. The first time I went, I had the pleasure of seeing some bald eagles. On two different occasions, I stumbled upon caves. I've found some ancient stairs leading to a majestic hilltop. I've seen a three foot catfish. Whether you stay on trails or decide to hike off the trails (careful of the rattlesnakes in the summertime), there is enough outdoors stuff to do here that you can't get too bored with it.
2. Jester Caves: One of the best secrets of Altus. Okay, again, not in Altus, but only about 40 minutes to the northwest, in Greer County. You may have to do some research or talk to some people to find the caves, but the end result is a 6 mile long gypsum cave system - the largest in the United States and 8th longest in the world. Pretty impressive for Oklahoma. It took me three separate trips on two different days to find one of the three main entrances to the cave system. Bats included in this adventure, but they play nice.
3. Wichita Mountains: Equally as awesome as Quartz Mountain is the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, only about 45 minutes to the east of Altus. Hiking, fishing, kayaking, or just looking at animals, it's here. Among the animals I saw were Texas Longhorn, Bison, prairie dogs, turkeys, deer, and more. They also have the Spanish Cave here, if you can find it as well. Lots of lakes, and even included is an old castle like tower at Jed Johnson Lake. Close by is the famous (infamous, really) Meers Restaurant that despite what you may have heard, I can't recommend. Certainly cool to see once, but the food wasn't all that special, and the service terrible. However, for the lack of choices of food in the area, this is really one of your few options.
4. Rattlesnake Derby: If you are in town for this, it's a must see. It's held in Mangum, Oklahoma each year on the last weekend in April in an attempt to get rid of as many of the snakes as possible. They catch them, butcher them, eat them, play with them, and more. And it's quite educational as well.
5. Altus Chalk Art Festival: Held in April each year right in downtown Altus, you can watch local artists come and draw chalk art. Better yet, go draw yourself!
6. Restaurants: Food is a necessity and there are several awesome, locally owned delicious food places to eat in and around Altus. The place pictured below is the Hamburger Inn in Mangum - they have awesome burgers and super friendly people that work there. Definitely worth the twenty minute drive to Mangum. It's owned by Sammy and Bonnie Parker and they've been serving burgers since 1927 (thanks Melissa for this fun fact). Others include, in Altus, Fat Daddy's for hamburgers (and great service every time), Backdoor Steakhouse in Blaire for steak, or Luigi's Pizza for calzones. Val's is good too if you are looking for cheap, decent food ($2.99 burger and fries on Mondays!) but don't expect over the top or fast service.] Dusty Covers is a book store and coffee shop... you can find a good book to read, eat some awesome soup, drink some great coffee, talk to some locals, or seclude yourself in one of their many different rooms. If you're looking for a Starbucks, this isn't it, but sometimes it's the simple things in life that mean the most. Whether you want to read a good book or stay inside on a rainy day, this is the place (okay, so it might not rain in Altus... ever. Like I said, we're in a drought. Stage 3 water conservation baby!)
7. Lightbulb at the Mangum Fire Department (and tour that goes with it): In Mangum, Oklahoma, just a half hour up the road from Altus, there exists the (at the time we visited) second longest-burning lightbulb in the United States. Truly impressive. It's located at the Fire Station, and the firemen are awesome enough to give you a tour, let you slide down the fire pole, let you climb all over the trucks, try on the gear, you name it. Mangum is a small enough town that you will likely be their only excitement for the day.
8. Palo Duro Canyon: This is located near Amarillo, Texas, about two and a half hours west of Altus. The trek is worth it though as it is the second largest canyon in the United States after the Grand Canyon. Driving the two and a half hours to get there, you will be amazed when you finally stumble upon it that such a canyon can exist amongst the flat prairie land. Needless to say, you can't really get bored here either if you're into hiking.
9. Holy City of the Wichitas: This mini city (not quite a city that people live in, but still large enough to walk around) is the mini Jerusalem of the Americas. A replica of Jerusalem, it includes a statue of Christ (the Christ of the Wichitas), made of actual stone taken from the Holy Land, that overlooks the mountains. This city is also the location of the longest continuously running Easter passion play and at the peak of its popularity, hosted hundreds of thousands of people that came to watch the play. Definitely worth seeing.
10. Old Headrick Bridge: Located in the town of Headrick, only 10 miles east of Altus, this bridge was abandoned in 2009 and now exists as a good isolated hangout spot. Great for bonfires, getting spooked by wild skunks and hogs, searching for ghosts, staring down cows that have escaped from their field, walking along railroad tracks, or getting away from city lights to stare at the stars. If you aren't in to any of those things, then research the history of Oklahoma bridges and go see a truly spectacular one - at almost 2000 feet long!
11. Jay Buckle Spring: Another great local gem is Jay Buckle Spring, a cool little natural spring with a great rope swing! What more could you ask for on a hot summer day?!
12. Haystack Mountain: Near the Jester Caves, this mountain (really a hill) is likely located on someone's private property. If that deters you, look at it from afar. If that doesn't stop you, hike to it (make it real adventurous and hike it at night) and climb up it. It get's pretty steep going up, but is definitely climbable and quite a site from the top. The top is a flat plateau about 25 feet by 50 feet. Yes, it may only be 100-200 feet tall, but Haystack Mountain, at 1,962 feet above sea level, is the 76th highest mountain in Oklahoma.
13. Old Abandoned Houses: There are hundreds of abandoned buildings in Altus, around Altus - anywhere you look. People have experienced the hardships of droughts and tornadoes here and have up and left. Go explore some of the old houses... you'll find some pretty cool things. There are enough around that you can even avoid the ones with No Trespassing signs where people clearly don't want you crawling around.
14. Rodeo: This is Oklahoma. They have rodeos. Even the high school rodeo right in Altus had hundreds of competitors from lots of different states. Pretty impressive for such a small town. If you are here and they have a rodeo going on, you should go.
15. Wine Tasting: Who knew Oklahoma made wine? Probably the closest wineries to Altus are located near Anadarko, and actually make decent wine! I can personally recommend Woods and Waters Winery and The Range Winery, both of which offer free wine tasting. Their specialties here are sweet wines, which I'm not a fan of, but they also have their fair share of dry wines and make some good rieslings.
16. Nowhere, Oklahoma: There is actually a town (okay, technically an unincorporated community) called Nowhere, Oklahoma. Haven't you always wanted to say you've been to Nowhere and back, literally?
17. Gold Adventures: Seriously bored? Research some of the old gold stories in this area. It is rumored that there is more hidden gold and treasures in Southwest Oklahoma than anywhere else in the United States. And the number of stories prove it. Some of the more famous ones are in Devil's Canyon near Quartz Mountain or in various parts of the Wichita Mountains. Unfortunately, with stories of gold and treasure, there are also stories of people trying to protect the hidden treasure that might be on their land or their surrounding land. You don't want to end up in front of a crazy Okie with a gun - they may be more willing to take care of you themselves than call the cops. Alright, so your chances of finding some gold are probably pretty slim, but southwest Oklahoma does have some awesome geology including Quartz, Gypsum, and Granite.
18. Mater: Something about Oklahoma... it seems to be the hangout spot for Mater and Mater's family.
19. Find an Old Railcar: Some are just cool to look at.
20. Visit a Windmill: Southwest Oklahoma is home to the Blue Canyon Wind Farm, the largest in Oklahoma. Have you ever sat at the base of a massive windmill and just meditated on life? Just sayin. Those things are impressive.
21. (As a last resort) Visit Oklahoma City: Of course, you could make a whole separate list for this city, but some highlights include the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Stockyards, Bricktown, or the Brewery where you can taste some awesome truly-Oklahoman 3.2% beer.
22. Dallas: Because if I include OKC, why not Dallas, right? Except now there are 22 things on this list. Oops.
So the next time you find yourself in middle of nowhere, flat, southwest corner of Oklahoma, Altus and are bored, or if someone you know traveled to Altus and thought it was boring, just remember, every place is what you make of it. If you want to be bored, you can be bored. If you want to stay inside all the time and watch T.V., you probably won't find anything more exciting than the Office or Modern Family (don't get me wrong, I love these shows). All it takes is getting out, being willing to drive a little without knowing quite where you are going, and just getting out of the car. Talk to and get to know some Oklahomans. Enjoy the wonderful Earth God has given us.
It's been a pleasure Altus. Thanks for all the adventures and to all my friends for going on adventures with me! See you around.