Late in 2007, I had the idea to start a Burning Man-ish campout in Oklahoma. There were lots of places to go within reasonable driving distance. I talked it over with some friends, who liked the idea, so we started making plans. We were joined by more friends, and pretty soon we had a whole group heading out into the wild. ...Only, it wasn't all that wild. Folks liked the idea of camping out, but some weren't too keen on the whole sleeping in a tent and roughing it thing. So, we started looking at places that had cabins to rent. After looking at several camping areas, we settled on Robber's Cave State Park in the beautiful San Bois Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma.
The park sounded perfect. It had hiking trails, boats to ride on, cliffs for climbing and lots of amazing scenery to look at. There were cabins of different sizes, as well as sites for tents and pads for RV's.The cabins even had full kitchens. We figured we could save by cramming everybody into one cabin, so I made reservations. 
My original idea was to call our little get-together Rendezvous, in the spirit of other Burning Man-related "regional burns." It didn't work out that way. What started out as a running gag with a goofy Internet de-motivational poster took off by itself, and the name stuck. 
The first Camp Wharrgarbl was the last weekend in March, 2008. I went through Tulsa and got on the Okmulgee Beeline headed south. At Henrietta, I got on the Indian Nations Turnpike to McAlester, then east through Krebs. I got to Wilburton a little after 5 and headed north on Highway 2 to Robber's Cave State Park.
At the office, they gave me cabin 115, not 114 as they told me over the phone when I made the reservations. "They're the same," the girl said. When I got to the cabin, I was pleasantly surprised to see how big it was. Two bedrooms and a big futon couch, TV, a full kitchen with pots, pans and plates, a fireplace, hot water with towels-- even central heat. I settled back to wait for everyone to arrive. Within an hour we had over a dozen people in the cabin. We ate a big supper and sang songs. The kids roughed-it in a tent next to the cabin. Bob played his guitar. (I had fun getting people to giggle during the serious songs.) We sang and joked and told stories until after 2 AM, when I suggested it might be a good idea to get some sleep. When the lights went out, I don't think it was five minutes before everyone was sound asleep.
Saturday morning, I woke up when the kids came in to use the bathroom, then dozed for a while. The bathroom had clean towels, and we could get fresh towels for Sunday, too. Even with all those people, there wasn't much of a wait for the shower. When April got up, she cooked an amazing breakfast for everyone. She believed she was an army cook in a previous life. Chester sent a text message that he was on his way. After breakfast, we loaded up and headed up to see Robber's Cave.
The road was different than on the map. We got to the parking lot and walked between a pair of boulders framing the trail. It was a pretty good hike to the top, but the path was clear. The cave was at the top of a narrow canyon, and commanded a view of the whole area. A group with sharpshooters could hold a position like that for days. It was beautiful up there. The cave itself was the size of a small house. We followed the trail up and around the cave, leading to other natural formations. The views were tremendous. Everything around us was green and lush. On the trail, we passed some rock climbers rapelling down the cliffs. The sky was overcast, but otherwise it was a great day for hiking: not too hot and not too cold. We had a blast.
Back at the cabin, we sat on the porch and made fun of people passing by. One lady shrieked at her kids when a car started coming down the road, and from then on we'd go "Car!!!" when one approached. Amber-Bob laughed at some cheerleaders practicing nearby (and falling down a lot). We made chalk drawings on the sidewalk out front. Lunch was a wonderful soup made by Sherry; I went back for seconds and thirds. Some people went for a ride on the lake on some paddle boats. The kids got a toy airplane stuck in a tree, and the girls had a great time watching us guys try to get it down. Chester and I went for a walk by some cliffs.
Chris got a fire going in the fire pit. It smoldered for a long time, then finally took off. April cooked a pot of beans for supper, but I had leftover soup. We also cooked hot dogs on sticks over the fire. It's a good thing I brought some dry wood. April brought a big chocolate bunny and took it out to the fire pit. (This was in honor of the recently-canceled "Burning of the Bunny" campout.) She put it in a metal bowl, and we got to watch it melt into chocolate dip. Someone experimented with baking little balls of cake inside of hollowed-out oranges; results were mixed. It had been a busy day, and everyone turned in much earlier than Friday night. I got the futon bed all to myself again. Everyone got the giggles when the lights went out.
Sunday morning, I guess it was about 8 when I woke up. I got my nap out. Everyone else slept in, even the kids. It was so peaceful-- there was no sound anywhere. I felt so relaxed, at peace. It looked like it rained during the night. The chalk drawings were washed away. April cooked another fabulous breakfast, with sausage and fried potatoes. Everybody started packing up. Chester and I watched a cloud of mist roll in over the hills. The mist turned out to be rain-- it just poured down. Amber got wet running a load of stuff out to her car. Huge birds circled overhead. The fire pit was still smoldering, even after getting rained on twice. We were out of the cabin by noon, and after many hugs we all took off our separate ways. I was the first one to get to the cabin, and the last to leave.
(Pic by Chris)
We had so much fun, we started planning Wharrgarbl II almost right away...
Sherry took the lead researching places for the second Camp Wharrgarbl the weekend of March 20-22, 2009. We settled on a campground outside of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, on the Arkansas River. I used to live in Tahlequah, and there's some beautiful country down there. She found a great place at Arrowhead Resort, right on the river northeast of Tahlequah. 

Friday morning, March 20th, I was up at 5 AM. I fell back asleep and woke up at 8:30. That's when I started packing for Camp Wharrgarbl. On my way to Tahlequah, I  listened to NPR's final episode of their series "Day to Day." The show talked about beginnings and endings. I took Highway 51 through Coweta and Wagoner. When I got to Tahlequah, I turned up the main drag past the courthouse and turned east on Downing Street. I followed it out of town to Highway 10, then turned north at River Bend Hollow and through some pretty wooded hills. 

The directions I had downloaded from the website were more confusing than they needed to be. After passing a half dozen other campsites, I found Arrowhead Resort. I remembered we were in Cabin 9, but nobody seemed to be home. I found Amber-Bob and Smog around back, fishing. The cabin was big, clean and right on the river-- a beautiful location.
April & Chris soon arrived with the Squire. Bob arrived in his van, followed by Becky, Riley, Craig, Charity, Kevin, T.J. and Ken and Sherry. Chester arrived when he got off work. It was delightful that Bruce and Susie could make it. April made Wharrgarbl posters and little badges for everybody.
I went for a walk down by the river, and found a secret campsite hidden down behind the trees. A woodpecker tap-tap-tapped on a tree branch. Bob pointed out all the other birds in the skies, including hawks and vultures. Friday night, I had fun playing the TV themes from my MP3 player on Chris' laptop, and seeing if people could guess them. Everybody turned in around midnight. Each of the four bedrooms had a king-size bed, and two bunk beds. I got to sleep in a top bunk.
Early Saturday morning, I went walking down the highway and back. I had to go back to Tulsa for family stuff. I was under orders to pick up a "monkey" birthday cake for April, among other necessities. I found what I needed at Reasor's, and I was literally leaving the parking lot when Charity sent a text message: they already had a cake. Back at camp, Sherry cooked up her amazing hodgepodge chili soup for lunch; it was so good I had three bowls. It was a pretty day, if a little overcast. Bruce and Craig got a fire going in the fire pit around back. Our only neighbors at the resort seemed to be a Baptist church group a few cabins down. Ashleigh arrived, Kim and her new husband dropped by for a visit, and everyone lined up out on the back balcony for a group photo.
Once we got the fire going, we had the traditional Melting of the Bunny, followed by the new tradition, the Burning of the Guitar. We tightened up the strings, so that they'd really pop when the instrument fell apart. Unfortunately, the cheap thing turned out to be made of plastic or something, because once on fire it just melted.
Ken set up a sheet against one wall and started his video projector. We saw "Buckaroo Banzai," mainly because Susie had never seen it before, and then we watched "Ghostbusters." April and Amber-Bob had fun with the Baptist church group down the way by dressing up in their pagan robes and doing a "ceremony" around the campfire. I had been experimenting with homebrewing my own beer, and took the opportunity to test my skills by bringing a couple of gallons of homemade beer to the campout. I even made labels that said Wharrgarbl Beer ("You said a mouthful!"). The result was a big success. The beer was tasty and pretty potent. I was inspired to continue my amateur brewmaking.
The Sun was just coming up when I woke up Sunday morning. Everyone was slow to get up. One by one, we all got up and hit the bathrooms. Several people contributed to my book exchange, and by Sunday morning all but a couple of books found new homes. About 11 AM, what looked like the owner started hanging around out front, so we figured it was time to go. There were many hugs. What few bottles of Wharrgarbl Beer that remained were quickly scooped up. On my way home, I went through Fort Gibson. In all the time I'd lived in the area, I'd never visited the actual fort. I pulled up to the stockade fence and was walking thought the parking lot, when someone said, "Hi, Tim!" It was Smog, with Amber-Bob. They had decided to stop there, too, which we both thought was a hilarious coincidence. They were the first people I saw at Camp Wharrgarbl when I arrived, and the last I saw when I left.
Plans for Camp Wharrgarbl 3 began almost immediately... ...   
(Pic by Chris)
The third Camp Wharrgarbl was held the weekend of March 19 - 22, 2010. We liked Arrowhead Resort so much we decided to go back again. About 20 people had expressed interest in attending. Chester made reservations; at the last minute, we were moved to Cabin 8, next door to the cabin we had in 2009. 
Everyone was concerned about the weather. The forecasts kept saying there was winter weather on the way that weekend. When I traveled through Wagoner on my way to Tahlequah, the skies were clear, sunny, and it was 77 degrees out.
Chester, Shannon and her son were already at Arrowhead Resort when I arrived. Amber-Bob and Smog were there, too. Jack and Kit brought their son Lee, and Chris & April brought the Squire. Several people braved the cold water of the river to explore the opposite bank. Kevin and Susi soon arrived. 

There was a little fire in the fire pit around back. Riley and Chris spent some time trying to knock a loose branch down from a tree to use as firewood. I brought a case of my homebrewed beer to share with everybody. 

When darkness fell, musical instruments were produced and soon music ensued. I got in some reading. It was a relaxed, no-drama evening. I looked around and saw several other people reading, too. I looked over Susi, who also had a book, and said, “Do we know how to have fun, or what?” Everyone turned in about midnight or so. 

Saturday morning, I think I was the last one to get up. April cooked an amazing breakfast. It was raining outside, not so good for hiking, so we pretty much stayed inside and watched movies. I saw “X-Man Origins: Wolverine” , “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” and “Sherlock Holmes.” I brought “A Matter of Loaf and Death,” and we watched the new “Star Trek,” which Susi had not seen. About mid-day it started snowing, with big, fluffy flakes. Sherry made her amazing hodgepodge soup again, and it was excellent.
We didn’t get around to the melting of the bunny until almost 9 or so. He melted good. We watched one more Wallace & Gromit short, and then most folks headed on to bed.
It was just after 8 AM Sunday morning when I got up. It was still snowing. The funny thing was, it was the first day of Spring. The snow had piled up about 8 inches on top of everything. April cooked another amazing breakfast for us all. Ken was shoveling snow, and Chris and Chester wiped off peoples windshields. Everybody wanted an early start on heading home. We posed for a group photo and started loading up. I gave away the last of my homebrew, but kept the neat old box I brought it in. I said my goodbyes and pulled out of the resort about a quarter after 10.
The roads were slippery, but there’d already been traffic, so when I kept to the ruts I was okay. The Cavalier bottomed out a couple of times, but it wasn’t bad. The roads cleared up once I got past Tahlequah. It was 35 degrees in Hulbert, and when I passed Fort Gibson Lake I noticed the wind had seriously picked up. I got home a little after noon. I checked online, took and nap and shaved. It was good to be home. 
Planning started almost immediately for the next Wharrgarbl, maybe someplace with a hot tub... 
(Photo by Chris)
Robber's Cave State Park 
Oklahoma State Parks & Resorts 
Arrowhead Resort 
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2010 by Tim Frayser
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