Everyone's description of Turkey Mountain reflects heavily on their personal experiences with it.
I was recently at the Tess Run race at 8 AM on Turkey Mountain. The temperature was 90 degrees, the humidity was sitting at 89%, and it had been raining for the last two days. Naturally, the race course started at the bottom of the hill, and ended with a slippery, mud-laden race back down the rocks. Tim W. sums it up nicely on his one-star Facebook review of the place: "Just rocks, roots and ruts."
"Guess who will NEVER do another trail run!! That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It was rocky, muddy, slick and those hills...MY GOD," Brie Wright, a local runner, posted about her Turkey Mountain race experience. And many hikers, runners, and bikers would agree with Brie's assessment of Turkey Mountain. River Parks Authority has made it their mission this year to identify major issues at the wilderness park, and to work with the community to develop a Turkey Mountain Master Plan. Some of the major issues identified in these town-hall style meetings were accessibility, parking, and security...but by far, the number one issue was "unmarked trails", "confusing trails systems", and "no markers". As a one-star review on Facebook puts it; "Five marked trails and about 2000 unmarked ones." (Thanks, Nausleus G.)
It was actually this network of unidentified paths and trails that led me to TOTS almost two years ago. In July of 2017, I set off to explore Turkey Mountain for the first time...on my own...with no map...and no water...at noon. Classic. Obviously, I got hopelessly lost, and after five discombobulated miles in the sweltering heat, began to panic. Eventually, I made my way to Powerline and followed its linear beacons back to my oven of a car, swearing that I was never coming back to this stupid, stupid place.
Two days later, I mentioned my hapless adventure to two strangers at a dog park. They cheerfully told me that they were members of a trail running group that ran at Turkey Mountain every Tuesday night. Perhaps I was interested in learning the trails under the guidance of the group?
Encouraged by the idea that I might learn to navigate the trails, I showed up. Two years later, here we are. Admittedly, I do still occasionally choose the wrong turn to get to where I want to go, but now, I usually know where I am and where I am going.
But what is it about Turkey Mountain that keeps calling the TOTs crew back, week after week, year after year? Sure, as long-distance TOTs member Clint Green put it, "It's a place to go get away from the city hustle." What is so special about the place that we will put in over 100 hours of trail time before we even really know where we are going? Why do we choose to run along its dark, uneven paths in January when there's a lit, paved trail not half a mile away?
It turns out, all of those things that other people hate about Turkey Mountain... it's twisty, rocky, sandy paths; it's unmarked spiderweb of bewildering trails; its constantly changing topography due to weather; the strange trail markers only known to locals; its lack of predictability...those are all the things we love about it.
While other folks see a confusing maze of dusty single-track, TOTs member Carrie Rives believes "the size and number of trails means I can mix and match and do something different every time." Some citizens may feel the lack of foot traffic to be concerning, but TOTs's David Cullison enjoys "feeling more secluded than you really are." And many people may call attempts to run and bike at Turkey "insane", but Melinda Woods of TOTs sees it as "the closest thing Tulsa has to a mountain, that's been made into a hiking, running and biking-friendly place."
In general, trail runners aren't the group to seek out "normal" or "easy"; Tulsa's trail runners are no exception. We see the steep, sharp "Lipbuster" hill and think, "Hey, let's make a race out of just that hill." We plan a summer half marathon and go, "Let's start the race at midnight." We look at the windy, complex trails of Turkey Mountain and find a 50k race within those routes.
Turkey Mountain is dirty, rough around the edges, and a bit unrefined. It requires you to be flexible, light on your feet, and prepared for additional mileage, weather, and a lack of resources. It's not very popular with most folks, but if you spend some time digging, you'll find hidden gems in the unexplored back corners. In these ways, Turkey Mountain embodies trail running itself.
So go ahead, Daniel R, and complaint that there's "No horse rentals and no bear sightings. Don't recommend."! Let Anne M. note that, "You can't see anything because of the trees." While most people see Turkey Mountain for what it lacks, we see it for what it is- our home base.
And to Jack R, who believes our beloved Turkey Mountain is, "An absolute cluster...You'd have to be crazy to run this."...thank you. We are.