While June 1 wasn’t technically a storm chase, it was our farewell to the 2021 Tornado Alley safari. Alethea Kontis and I didn’t have a whole lot of time for tourism this year, given we were chasing almost the entire trip, so we put aside a few hours on our last day in the Plains for a favorite stop.
First we paused in Hollis, Oklahoma, to grab a couple of photos. I’m fascinated by the old “Busy Corner” gas station there, which still has vintage pumps and a fantastic sign.
Then we headed on to visit the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma.
I’ve visited this park a handful of times during my 25 seasons of chasing storms, and I almost always see something new. The visitors’ center was closed (due to Covid, I presume), but the view from Mount Scott is stunning, and over the years, fields of wind turbines have sprouted in the distance. The wildflowers are gorgeous. There are bison and birds. And this was my best visit ever with the prairie dogs, who seemed to be a lot more active on the more accessible side of the road. That doesn’t mean I didn’t cringe when some noisy tourists came and threw junk food at them. Leave the poor prairie dogs be! They’re perfectly happy munching on their flowers and bugs.
I had a nice long lens this time, so I captured some adorable photos, from a single prairie dog enjoying a snack to whole families on alert at their burrows.
We ended our park visit with a walk in the Parallel Forest, the remains of a government experiment to plant 20,000 cedar trees in neat rows as a wind block. Time has worn down its angles and lines, but you can still find fascinating views of parallel trees lined along inviting paths.
Goodbye, Tornado Alley, until — I hope — next time.