Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains have long been a part of my life. My first trip there was when I was but 9 years old. My family had a sort of reunion in the picnic area at the base of Mount Scott. I remember my older cousins boulder hopping on the rocky flanks and my unsatisfied desire to join them.
My next trip there happened 14 years later. I was a fledgling rock climber and had heard great things about Elk Mountain. My naiveté about the scale and complexity of those boulder-piled mountains and the intense summer heat found me convulsing with cramps at the end of the journey.
Despite somewhat auspicious beginnings, I befriended the rock and have since summited many of the Wichita’s peaks, slept many nights in their shadows, and explored many miles on- and off-trail, looking for summits and treasures and to feel the past where I tread in the footsteps of Indians who hunted and lived and explored these same haunts. This past Summer I bushwhacked more than I hiked. I chose my own way, and I was rewarded with grand views and fantastic sightings. I walked within herds of buffalo. I spied 20 elk from one mountaintop. I found a 4-foot long antler lying among a martian-like landscape of white, twisted trees in a controlled-burn area. I stumbled upon the skeleton of an elk, its spine arched over a boulder, where coyote or lion or bobcat had feasted heartily. I even had a very rare sighting of a porcupine in the crevasses and caverns between massive rocks near the Spanish Canyon, where an outlaw Spaniard lived in a cave within Indian territory in the 1800s.
My house is in one of Tulsa’s oldest neighborhoods. It sits up on a hill near a monument for Washington Irving, who wrote about his passage through this land in “A Tour On The Prairies.” Irving traveled with a troop of Rangers exploring the territory and looking for Osage hunting parties. While encamped near my house, Irving wrote, “Just as the night set in there was a great shouting at one end of the camp, and immediately afterwards a body of young rangers came parading round the various fires bearing one of their comrades in triumph on their shoulders. He had shot an elk for the first time in his life, and it was the first animal of the kind that had been killed on this expedition.”
Just down the hill, at the base of this neighborhood, is Tulsa’s oldest park. It was sold to the city by Chauncey Owen, who inherited the land from his Creek Indian wife, Jane Wolfe. Chauncey hoped, rightly, that the creation of a park would increase the attractiveness and value of the remainder of his property in this neighborhood (á la George Kaiser). Quanah Avenue divides the park from the neighborhood, and is a main thoroughfare used by the numerous shapes and sizes of ducks and geese that call our Owen Park home. Swan Lake we are not.
Quanah Parker, the last great Comanche war chief, roamed the plains and peaks around the Wichita Mountains until his surrender and assimilation into a new culture at Fort Sill. Quanah was born in Elk Valley, where I have climbed so many boulders and slabs, to Peta Nocona, a Comanche chieftain, and Cynthia Ann Parker, who had been kidnapped as a child by a Comanche war party that massacred her family in Texas.
In 1890, Quanah built a mansion at Fort Sill and lived as the leader of the Comanche people on the reservation. His residence, called Star House, was moved off Fort Sill to Chache, Oklahoma in 1957. I went to see it last weekend, but was disappointed not to have found the house, only The Trading Post, which is owned by the man who now owns the dilapidated Star House.
If you’ve spent much time at the DoubleShot over the past couple of years, you probably met one of our regular customers, Greg Peterson. Greg is one of those charismatic guys who has a genuine smile and a way of making you feel like he thinks you are better than you really are. If he told you his career is as a college football coach, you wouldn’t have been surprised; tall and imposing with an athletic build, he looks the part. His most recent stint was as the offensive coordinator at the University of Tulsa during their successful seasons. In his time at the DoubleShot he cycled a lot and conversed warmheartedly, and he exuded a desire to coach again. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for him, he was hired as a wide receiver coach at Eastern Illinois University and moved to Charleston, Illinois (not far from where Cynthia Ann Parker was born).
Before he moved, Greg connected me with a friend of his, Jon Jost. I emailed Jon a couple of times and found that he was from Nebraska, and is married to a Costa Rican woman (á la Peta Nocona). They had recently moved to Costa Rica and were farming coffee. I met Jon at the convention of the Specialty Coffee Association of America in April and we talked about trail running and coffee, both of which flourish in the Cordillera de Talamanca, the foothills of which Jon’s farm is perched.
Jon and his wife, Marianella have successfully mined the channels and found brokers and roasters who are eager buyers for all of their coffee. They are also opening up these pathways for their neighbors. At SCAA, Jon gave me two coffee samples, one from his farm, which was already sold out, and the other from a farm called Finca Sircof. I sample roasted these coffees and put them on the cupping table with coffees from Africa and Brazil. This Sircof Venecia Honey really separated itself from the others with aromas of berry and a sweet, smooth taste.
Finca Sircof is owned by Marcos Oviedo. His farm is near the farm of Jon Jost. Marcos has spent the last few years improving the quality of his coffee, building a micro-mill on his property, and experimenting with different processing methods. The Venecia variety is a new type of coffee for us, and I really like it. A mutation of the Caturra variety, it retains the solid structure of the Caturra, but benefits from slower ripening to add density and complexity.
Marcos processed this coffee using the Red Honey method: after picking only ripe coffee cherries, the skins were stripped off and the beans dried with the fruit pulp still intact. This method results in a very tasty coffee with sweetness and smooth, slightly fruity vanilla aromas.
This is the coffee we are drinking to celebrate Thanksgiving. To celebrate relationships. Washington Irving drank coffee near my house, in the vicinity of the future Quanah Avenue. Quanah Parker drank coffee in my weekend home in the Wichita Mountains. And thanks to Greg Peterson, Jon Jost, and Marcos Oviedo, we will drink delicious coffee with our families in our homes and at the DoubleShot this holiday season.
Read more about this amazing coffee and buy a pound on the DoubleShot website. We are selling the coffee in one-pound commemorative black bags with a card affixed bearing a photograph of Marcos and information about the coffee. Happy Thanksgiving.