Far across the Oklahoma Panhandle, in a secluded corner of the state, is a spectacular landscape unfamiliar to many Oklahomans. Black Mesa State Park is the driest, coldest and highest spot in Oklahoma.
It gets its name from the black lava rock that coated the land 30 million years ago. It's full of diverse wildlife, clear skies, and a growing number of tourists.
The drive there is seemingly flat, with remnants of the Dust Bowl still dotting the landscape. But west of Boise City, everything changes.
"Right when you get to the park, it drops off and you're in a valley and it's really pretty," said Park Manager Polly Kiker.
Tall mesas paint the skyline, and at first you see more cactus than people. The tiny town of Kenton has a population of just 14.
"My granddad came to this country in 1886," Jane Apple said.
Her family owns the Hitching Post, which is an assortment of homes and log cabins. But Jane provides a lot more than just a vacation rental. If you want to roll up your sleeves she'll put you to work on her ranch. Every other morning Jane loads up her pick-up with feed and heads out to find her 150 cows.
Jane also acts as a tour guide, showing people around the Mesa's most popular spots. That includes the 13 dinosaur tracks still carved into the ground next to Carrizo Creek.
Jonathan: "So what kind of dinosaur was this?"
Jane: "It was a two legged dinosaur. And there was another track way down here."
This is also where you can find the three-state marker, which separates New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma. But the biggest attraction is climbing the Mesa itself.
"Lived in Oklahoma for six years so we decided to check it out," said visitor Brad Moses.
It took Brad and two sons more than three hours to complete the nearly 8-mile roundtrip hike. It's important to pack lots of water, snacks, and sunscreen. About two miles into the hike, you'll reach a steep incline that'll take you to the top. There you'll find a monument marking the highest point in the state of Oklahoma, 4,972 feet.
But the true magic here at Black Mesa may come out when the sun goes down. With almost no light pollution, Black Mesa is one of the best, darkest spots in the country to see the stars.
"You can see the Milky Way," Kiker said.
According to park employees people come from around the world to check out the stars at Black Mesa. In fact every September, astronomy fans come for a week-long star party.
Between this subtle glow in the middle of the night, and the orange sky of what looks like a painted sunset, beauty is all around.
"It's just a work of art," said visitor Danielle Shreve.
Whether you're staying for a few days or just a few hours, you can experience it all right here, in our state.
"It could be in New Mexico, it could be in Arizona, but it is here in Oklahoma," visitor Terry Shreve said.
Black Mesa State Park:
The Hitching Post: