TALIMENA STATE PARK, OKLAHOMA — He walks the first few miles of the Quachita Trail.
“5 miles just about every day,” says Harold Keyser.
Mile marker 0 of the trail begins at Talimena State Park.
If Harold kept walking he’d end up in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“That’s 233 miles,” says Harold while walking.
“We’ll never make it by nightfall,” jokes a park visitor.
Keyser and his wife manage the campground at the state park.
From mid-October to Thanksgiving it’s packed with tourists hoping to catch the steep hillsides in their full glory, the best of Oklahoma’s Fall color.
“It’s been beautiful,” says Harold. “It’s brought the foliage up on the Talimena Scenic Drive and here in the park to near it’s peak.”
Harold took this job a year and a half ago when the forests of southeast Oklahoma were parched and brown.
As last winter approached the foliage just got browner.
This year, with regular rains, it’s a different story.
“These last few weeks we’ve had at least one rain a week,” he says.
Brilliant color brings ‘leaf peepers’ in every form.
They take the slow, curvy road from Talihina to Mena, Arkansas and pull off at every overlook.
If they happen to pull into the Talimena campground, Harold is ready for the first question asked most often.
“Are the leaves at their peak here,” asks the latest visitor?
“We’re just about three days past the peak,” he answers.
“Shoot!” remarks the visitor.
The right answer is always elusive.
The peak of the season might occur here one day and over the mountain on the next.
Harold does say the process from green leaf to understory carpet takes the better part of a month.
The drive and the trail, the whispering pines, and the screaming leaves, put on a long show that’s good for the soul.
One of Harold’s duties as campground manager at Talimena State Park is taking daily pictures of fall color for the Travel Oklahoma website http://www.travelok.com .
There you’ll also find daily reports on the weather and what the leaves are doing.