For three weeks, we had been planning a trip to the Wichita Mountains to explore the Parallel Forest. We planned some other detours, since we knew that the forest wasn't very large. We were lured by the excitement from the legends about the forest being haunted. Supposedly, if you go there, you might feel disembodied spirits brushing past you, or hear Native American ceremonial drumming, or see figures in the trees performing Satanic rituals. There is even a "witches' altar", formerly a Spanish arista.
One of the planned detours led us to making this potentially serious, gastrointestinal mistake. We had read about the Zodletone Mountain and the mineral springs by the same name. There is a macrobial observatory there, where research has been conducted since 2001. The spring has created a microbial environment similar to environments that existed 2 billion years ago - when oxygen was absent from earth's atmosphere. I know what you're thinking: "Who wouldn't be interested?" We have all made peace with our inner nerds.
There were two houses in the midst of the farmland surrounding Zodletone Mountain. We pulled up at the first one and knocked on the door, hoping someone could steer us in the right direction. No one answered, except a menagerie of small familial pups and one vocal siamese. A young man had stepped out of the neighboring house, so we inquired if he knew where the springs were. He replied in the negative, but said that his grandmother would know. He told us to let ourselves in the house to ask her. Hesitantly, we obeyed.
The directions Mabel gave us led to a dead-end road, with a path to the left through a recently-harvested field. She led us right back to Attempt One. We continued through the field, with windows down in order to listen and smell when the springs were close. Ripe sulphur filtered in, indicating that we must be near. We trekked on foot and crossed a stream, hopped a fence, and slid through "gumbo" mud. I recognized a low concrete wall from one of the pictures online. We had found it. Mabel had told us about the healing properties of the stream. She had seen relatives crippled by arthritis restored to their mobile selves after months of drinking and bathing in the healing waters and mud from the spring.
I'm still not sure why Mabel chose to give us directions to the spring. Whatever her reason, we all decided that we must stop back by to let her know that we found it - and to thank her. We will never know if her surprise and excitement was due to the fact that we found it (safely), or that we stopped back by to let her know.
We continued on our way to the Parallel Forest, but had to cut our hike short because of the total downpour that lasted almost exactly from the time we got out to hike until we got back to the car. We didn't get a chance to find the altar / arista, but we did get to witness the trees bubbling and creating soapy suds in the rain.
After changing to dry clothes, we explored the nearby town of Medicine Park. There, we saw the most amazing sight - monarch butterflies gathered in clumps of a hundred or so in the trees. This sighting only added to the mysticism of our day's adventure. But, the most incredible part of the day was that not one of us suffered any ill-effects from drinking from Zodletone Springs! It really must be healing after all!