I first hiked that trail four years ago, revisited it two years ago, and now the 2.5 mile route has become somewhat faded and overgrown. The fading blue tree blazes are crucial for locating the leaf-obscured path, so we were glad to hear from the Card Creek Recreation Area host that he will have some Boy Scouts working this spring to clear and re-blaze the trail. All of the trails at Elk City have rugged areas, and this trail is gentle up top but rugged on its lower sections.
A scattering of what at first looked like ice-covered stones led us to investigate, discovering the remnants of what I suppose was a glazed terra cotta basin that was completely coated in glass. Later the camp host speculated it might be a remnant from an old glass factory in the region; before World War I the natural gas supplies in the area led to a number of glass factories, which eventually folded due to a shortage of suitable sand.
Our dawdling stretched out the hike enough so that Brothers Railroad Inn in downtown Independence would be open for a tasty Italian dinner. I enjoyed my baked meat ravioli, but Wendy’s chicken parmigiana was atypical and she’ll choose something different the next time we’re in town to hike more trails; there are still a few sections of trail at Elk City she has yet to experience.
Last weekend Wendy and I took advantage of warmer weather to escape for another lakeside hike, this time at Okmulgee Lake. Although she grew up mostly in her home state of Texas, she graduated from Okmulgee High and once taught elementary and high school students there, so she was familiar with the lake, although she did more swimming than hiking there. I had a more photogenic hike there back in the autumn of 2011, but Wendy and I enjoyed the chance to escape the pressures of our jobs on another day hike.
I’ve been swamped for the past month with work on a corporate grant proposal and design work on the high school expansion, and the weather was quite wintry for much of that time. But Wendy and I did manage two lake hikes which I finally have time to document, the first at Kaw Lake in late January.
An Imposingly Impassable Trail, or Possibly Passable?
The seasons impact the Eagle View Trail (click image for slideshow)
The Eagle View Trail at Kaw Lake, a few miles east of Ponca City, is not maintained well by the Corps of Engineers. The trail is about 12 miles long, open to equestrians, and winds along the south shore of the lake from Osage Cove to Burbank Landing.
Over 3.5 years ago, in early June 2010, I discovered it was terribly overgrown at both ends, but tried to hike it from the Osage Cove trailhead. I struggled for ten minutes northwest toward the lake shore before giving up, having struggled my way through chest-high grass and other overgrowth.
My frustration at never making it to the lake along that trail festered for years. So when Wendy and I wanted to escape town on a late Sunday in January 2014, I proposed that we have lunch in Ponca City and then see if the trail was passable in the winter when the overgrowth would be minimized.
Trying the trail in mid-winter turned out to be a good choice; the trailhead was much clearer than what I’d found in late spring years earlier. We’d manage a 4.7-mile in-and-out hike this day until the trail faded noticeably.
While retracing our route we encountered a young couple on horseback, with one horse slipping and sliding around on the wet rocks. I was glad Wendy and I had followed trail etiquette and stood far back from the trail to give them passage.
In 2013 my hiking mileage of 111.4 miles had plummeted 58% from what it had been 2012, and was down 65% from my peak mileage of 326.3 miles in 2011. I have almost exhausted the supply of new trails within a reasonable range without an overnight stay, and 2013 was when Wendy became a big part of my life. While she likes to hike, we enjoy many other sorts of outings as well.
I started 2014 with a bad cold, but as soon as it let up, Wendy got me back out on the trails, helped along by some warm weather days. Limiting our travel time, we stuck with the closest trails to home.
A series of close hikes (click image for slideshow)
On January 19 we drove 37 miles southeast to hike the Skull Hollow Nature Trail at the Hawthorn Bluff Campground on Oologah Lake. I knew the part of the campground with the trailhead would be closed, but we were able to pay a day use fee at the box and park near the gate to that portion of the campground and walk a quarter mile to the trailhead. We followed the main trail’s outer loop, ignoring the two smaller inner loops, and then extended our walk to 2.1 miles with a trail to a park gazebo.
After pausing at the lake overlook, where a cold south wind blew right into our faces, we crossed a footbridge to begin walking the perimeter of the hillside, walking through the trees near but above the lake shore. Wendy hears better than I do, and knew a Cardinal was around. I finally spotted him and he posed for a photo shoot.
I’m glad Wendy got me out hiking, providing much-needed breaks from multiple meetings each day of the work week, most of them concentrated on the design process for the big expansions coming soon to the high school where we both work. If only grading papers were as relaxing…
Our final true vacation day in Texas was spent visiting art museums and attending a New Year’s Eve concert in in downtown Fort Worth. (Originally we’d hoped to visit some of Wendy’s friends and relatives in the Arlington area on New Year’s Day, but weather intervened again with a winter storm headed for Bartlesville. So we had to pack up early on New Year’s Day to make it home before the storm hit.)
Fort Worth Stops (click image for slideshow)
Gloria’s at Montgomery Plaza
We left San Antonio early on the day of New Year’s Eve as well, successfully beating the traffic from the Alamo Bowl, driving 270 miles north that morning to Fort Worth. We had lunch at Gloria’s Latin restaurant at Montgomery Plaza. I enjoyed my fajitas and Wendy enjoyed sampling a chicken tamale, pupusa, Yuca, fried plantain and gallo pinto on the Super Special plate. The restaurant is in a huge multi-story building (here’s a photo by Dave Hensley) which was built in 1928 and was the largest building in Texas at the time, a Montgomery Ward store and catalog center. It is a Mission Revival building with 12-inch solid concrete walls and is now condominiums, restaurants, and retail.
Kimbell Art Museum
After lunch we drove over to the Kimbell Art Museum, which was having a large exhibition of 100 works from the Art Institute of Chicago. We didn’t realize the scope of the exhibit and were frankly shocked to walk in and be standing a few feet from Picasso’s Old Guitarist, one of the most significant works of modern art. We’ve seen reproductions of it over the years, including slides in the art appreciation course I took in college, but I never thought I’d see it in person without visiting Chicago. Wendy was excited to see original works by Matisse, and she discovered Mondrian at this show. We overlap in our appreciation of the latter’s works, with me having a few old Mondrian prints I purchased back in college now tucked away in a bedroom closet. After the many fine “modern art” paintings from the early twentieth century which we saw at the McNay and the Kimbell on this trip, we are both spoiled.
Neither of us wanted to plod through the exhibit with the audioguides, opting to just dash through, weaving around the viewers transfixed for long periods in front of each work by the narration they held up to their ears.
Wendy liked the Mixtec Rain God Vessel, which was created more than 600 years ago, along with the much older Standing Dignitary figurine from Peru with its inlays of mother-of-pearl, purple and orange spondylus shell, mussel shell, turquoise, pyrite, greenstone, lapis lazuli, and silver. Kudos to the Kimbell for their great website descriptions of their collection.
Part of the permanent collection is in the recently opened pavilion designed by Renzo Piano. The main building is a famous design by Louis Kahn and the addition also uses concrete walls and innovative use of natural overhead light. I’m not a fan of Kahn’s monolithic style and am put off by so much bare concrete, although his skylights at the Kimbell are quite nice. For me, the best part of the new pavilion is the use of wood in the beams and flooring, warming the space, and the soft, natural, overhead lighting in some of the galleries.
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
I’ve enjoyed past visits to the neighboring modern art museum, but this visit was a disappointment. None of the visiting works impressed me, with most of them striking me as shrill, angry, obvious, and reflecting little technical skill. I was sad to see that the nifty Ladder for Booker T. Washington was no longer on display, but in its place was an interesting three-dimensional piece of stones and bits of glass suspended mid-air on uniformly arranged strings. Outside I could still enjoy Roxy Paine’s Conjoined.
The most memorable part of our visit at this museum was when a patron ahead of us at the admission booth balked at the lack of an audioguide. The ensuing conflict between him and his wife about this was an amusing interlude for us, but not for them.
The Active Pool
Our next stop was the Water Gardens designed by Philip Johnson in the 1970s. I hadn’t visited this spot in years and it was Wendy’s first time to see the area. We were annoyed by the dearth of adjacent parking; we finally found a meter south on Lancaster, but had to scale the large walls to enter from that way. Clearly the design was intended more for the adjacent convention center than other visitors, unlike the more accessible and child-friendly Keller Fountain Park I’ve visited in Portland, Oregon.
We saw the dramatic Active Pool first, which was featured in the old Logan’s Run movie. I enjoyed taking the open steps down 38 feet to the bottom with the dramatic cascades about me, pouring 10,500 gallons per minute into the central pool. Wendy, who is always more safety-conscious than this testoterone-addled guy, found it a treacherous spot, especially for children. There’s a reason this sort of architecture is called brutalist!
The Aerating Pool was less interesting with its array of sprinklers; it would be much more popular, especially in summer, if it were designed for kids to roam about in.
When planning this trip I wanted our first New Year’s Eve together to be something special, and I found a suitable event in downtown Fort Worth. I never want to drive on the night of New Year’s Eve, so I booked us a pricey room at the Courtyard by Marriott Blackstone. This 1929 skyrise hotel eventually fell on hard times, sitting vacant for decades, but was gutted and rebuilt for a reopening in 1999. It is less than a block from Bass Hall where the evening’s festivities would occur, so it was perfect for our needs.
Due to its location, the hotel depends on valet parking in area garages. Being used to carrying a pack on long day hikes, I despise paying for valet parking; I’d rather just haul my luggage in myself and spare the expense and delays. Thankfully Wendy is just as willing to lug it with our rolling suitcases, so we scouted around and finally found an available public garage a few blocks away. We rolled into the lobby, which has few traces of the original design, and found our 15th floor room to be quite modern and comfortable.