#19 Rattlesnakes & Rock Quarries

My last few days in Oklahoma could be described in many ways! Id personally say “weird” and “wild” are two good words to sum them up! I had found out about the “Waurika Rattlesnake Roundup” which is a rattlesnake festival in the southern part of Oklahoma state near the boarder of Texas. My childhood home was basically a reptile sanctuary as we had numerous pythons, boas, monitor lizards, frogs etc so the idea of being able to go to an actual festival dedicated to a venomous snake seemed pretty badass to me! I have always been fascinated by rattlesnakes and growing up on the East Coast I never had any experience with them so this would be my first chance…. but that will come later in this story! The roundup was on Saturday so I had Friday to kill and then I would finally be able to finish up my adventures in Oklahoma and move onto my next adventure.

Wednesday night I was at Starbucks trying to catch up on editing photos when I decided to use Google Maps and just poke around the area and see if I could find anything interesting from the GPS perspective. Within minutes I had found what appeared to be an abandoned set of small rock quarries… with turquoise green water. It was like I was having flashbacks to living in Vermont again, when I spent every bit of free time I had, hunting out all the coolest old rock quarries! Well after finding this little gem on maps I decided it was a done deal and I would go check it out the following day. So the following day after doing some photo editing at good ol’ Starbucks I left and made my way to the quarries. The closest I could get to the rocky hillside was about a half mile away on the other side of a field of tall grass. No big deal..! However I had been getting swarmed with ticks the past week in Oklahoma and there is honestly no creature on earth (excluding Lampreys) that grosses me out more than ticks! So I parked my truck and began the trek through the field and up onto the hillside. It became pretty apparent right off  that this was an area I would have to be overtly cautious about getting bit by a rattlesnake. I spent  two hours or so poking around the different quarries and knew that I would have to come back sometime in the future with a good crew of cliff jumpers and have a blast. The quarry appeared to be red granite which was super cool to see as back home in Vermont we have tons of traditional granite quarries. When I made my way around the last quarry on the property I noticed an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake sitting in some grass soaking up the sun. My heart rate immediately spiked when I noticed it, how many others had I walked by unknowingly? I did my best to get a photo with my wide angle as I had left my backpack on the other side of the quarry. This would just be a nice little taste of what was to come at the roundup.

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The following day I did just about the same thing, setup at Starbucks for the first half of the day and then hit the road to explore yet another quarry in the area. Here are some choice shots. This one would be an equally amazing cliff jumping spot.

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After two days of quarry explorations and more than a week of staying in the same part of Oklahoma I was getting tired… Thankfully the roundup was the next day and then I would be on my way to Kansas City, Missouri for the next leg of my adventure.

The following day I awoke bright and early and headed south towards Texas. Waurika is a small town not more than 30 minutes from the boarder of Texas. Each April it hosts the “Rattlesnake Roundup” which is a weekend long carnival and event featuring all sorts of reptilian sights and spectacles as well as some carnival rides. My intentions for going was solely to capture badass pictures of one of the most dangerous animals in the continental United States! The RATTLESNAKE! Within the first hour of being in the town I realized I was under prepared…. All the people that looked like “snake hunters” had boots going up to their knees where as I had standard style commando boots that went up to the lower shin. In my head I was assuring myself that I would be plenty okay as long as I kept my distance…. trying to ease my doubts and fears of getting bit by one of the venomous serpents! By the time 11am rolled around everyone was caravanning at the bottom of main street and getting ready to drive out to the hunt spot. I was eagerly waiting in my truck for the lead car to take off when I saw more hunters putting on shin pads. I realized I might as well grab some t-shirts and tie them around my shins just to be safe and to keep me protected. When we arrived at the spot the hunters gathered around one of the local fireman who began explaining the rules and emergency response information. Thats when the reality set in…. were going Rattlesnake hunting!!!! I saw a group of 4 guys known as the “Bad Aces Coalition” and asked them if they would mind a tag along photographer. They didn’t seem to care and were happy to have another set of eyes to help spot rattlers! Here are some shots from the day… if I had any energy or motivation id describe it a bit more but I think the pictures will do the talking… All I can say is what a great time and I definitely got the type of shots I wanted.

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the Bad Aces Coalition

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Rattlers like to hide underneath rocks, always be wary where you step or place your hands

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Corey flashes his light down a hole to see if there are any snakes

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the Diamondback strikes the claw

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you couldn’t ask for a better model… probably one of the most badass looking creatures on earth!

After hiking around for about 4 hours the crew ended up catching only two rattlers in total but it was a fun day nonetheless! I exchanged contact info with the guys and told them id send them all the photos later in the week. They told me I had a place to stay down in Texas anytime! I was just about destroyed by the end of hunt and decided I didnt have the energy to go back to the festival and actually eat some rattle snake. Unfortunately I can’t cross that off the ol’ bucket list but maybe thats a good reason for me to go to another Rattlesnake Roundup in the future haha! I headed to the nearest Wal-Mart and crashed for the night knowing that the next day would be filled with more adventures and possibly the end of my time in Oklahoma.

The next morning I began my journey north towards Kansas City, Missouri. As I was making my way north I decided to take some back roads like I always try and do and once again my decision paid off when I stumbled upon a small abandoned church. Although the interior wasn’t any mind blowing architecture it was still a cool place to explore. The drive then took me through Oklahoma City where I decided to stop and see the Myriad Botanical Garden which is centrally located downtown. To explore the greenhouse you had to pay $8 which I felt was worth it to capture some interesting pictures. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m really captivated by greenhouses so for me it was totally worth it.

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inside the abandoned church

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Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma

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inside the Myriad Botanical Garden in OKC

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an exterior view of the Myriad Botanical Garden

I finished up at the botanical gardens and continued on my way North. I knew if I raced to Tulsa I could hit the famous Blue Whale of Catoos for sunset if my timing was just right so I put the pedal to the medal and made my way north. There was a pretty famous roadside attraction on the way called “Pops” which is a historic diner and soda store pretty much offering every soda brand and flavor you could ever imagine or have seen! It was a super cool place to make a pitstop at and my only regret was that I couldn’t stay there to shoot the soda bottle illuminated by its neon lights at night.

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The exterior of “Pops”. This bottle is illuminated at night

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Inside “Pops”

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Blue Whale of Caboose

After shooting the whale I made my way to the nearest Walmart and got ready to enter a new state the following day! The cruise up to Kansas City provided some awesome explorations including one relatively historic Mental Hospital as well as a super famous EPA Superfund site that is one of the most toxic places in America; “Picher” Oklahoma! Here are a few shots from the mental hospital, I can’t provide too much information as I’m trying to protect the location. I didnt see a single lick of graffiti on the whole property and thats a rare find in this hobby!

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the exterior of one of the mental hospitals buildings

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Dentists office in the main building

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Pink Bathroom, presumably the womens ward

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I wish I took more photos of these patients… so crazy to see these poor souls 

The last location in this post is Picher Oklahoma which as I said above is one of the most famous superfund sites in the country. The reason for this is from the bi-products of Zinc and Lead mining called “chat”. Chat is the mine tailings that are left behind from the mining operation and they were stacked in massive piles all around the town. When it would be a windy day people would unknowingly be breathing in microscopic particles of this carcinogenic substance. If your interested in Picher and that area as a whole id suggest looking around on Youtube, there are some pretty interesting videos! Here are some photos.

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an aerial perspective of Picher. The government bought everyones property and demolished there homes excluding a few small run-down shacks. You can see the chat piles in the distance!

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abandoned homestead

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Old Picher church

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A backroad leading to one of the titanic “chat” piles which are toxic bi-products of lead and zinc

I tried to upload a few more photos of Picher but it didnt seem to want to work.  I  am sitting in New Orleans right now and have been here for the past week exploring. That means I still have to do a blog post for both Kansas City as well as this whole past week in New Orleans. I am officially ready to blow my head off. As much as I know its worth keeping this blog up to date its also becoming a drag and a cause of stress. Not sure if I will continue it as I can’t truly spend the time to write and express myself the way id like……

-J.J