Icy Bluffs at Osage Hills

Hike Date: January 24, 2016 | SLIDESHOW | MOSAIC

Meador PostWe were blessed with two warm weekends in late January 2016, and Wendy and I were determined to do some hiking. A sunny and windy Sunday afternoon found us undulating westward along hilly Highway 60 west of Bartlesville to Osage Hills State Park for a three-mile hike.

I’ve hiked at the park over 30 times since July 2009, with many of those treks documented on Flickr. I had fun creating a trail map over the years, which is still featured on the state’s tourism website. For this outing, I opted to park at the old stone pump house [2012 photo] built by the CCC. While the three mountain bike trails originate there and are a welcome alternate hiking system, I was hoping we might find the nearby off-trail bluffs interesting. So we headed southwest around the field to the big metal shed, where a side trail (a dotted line on my trail map) leads over to the Lake/Tower Loop.

Trail Track

Wendy and I were surprised at how muddy and wet the trail was; we hadn’t experienced this much moisture over in Bartlesville. Thankfully that meant that when we clambered down into a gully between this side trail and the main lake loop trail, we found a frozen side stream. There was a nice frozen puddle below some lovely icicles.

Farther upstream there were layers of icicles clinging to the bluff, and Wendy posed amidst this winter wonderland to provide scale. At the head of the gully I shot a panorama of the icy bluff, frozen waterfall, and its pool from beneath a large overhang.

Wendy had fun ducking behind an icicle curtain, and plucked an ice sword for herself.


Then we hiked past the park office to the campground for a pit stop at the bath house that is kept open through the winter. Ascending the hillside on the lake trail, we passed the CCC observation tower [2011 photoand climbed past the old amphitheater [2009 phototo the remains of the CCC camp. Recently I found some great photos of the camp online at Kyle Thoreson’s Crosstimber Naturalist website. That told me the old stone chimney at the camp [2011 photo] was once on the north wall of the officer’s quarters, as shown in a nice schematic and a historical photo. The display board at the camp site, which has been blank for years, ought to be refitted with blow-ups of these photos and diagrams and protective transparent covers.

Wendy got a nice shot of a fractured smoking mushroom along the trail. When we reached Lake Lookout, she spotted a frozen sheet of water flowing down a rock slab. She clambered down to search for more icicles and found them, snapping a photo of me atop the water feature.

We took the side trail down to the dam and visited the spillway, but there was too much flow from the lake for icicle formations. We walked along the Lake Lookout access road to complete our three mile hike at the old pump house. Wendy and I are both grateful to have the trails of Osage Hills only 30 minutes west of home, and the following weekend would find us journeying an hour north to revisit the trails at Elk City Lake up in Kansas.

Slideshow | Photo Mosaic


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Posted by on January 30, 2016 in day hike, photos


Told Tales, Part 1: De Profundis

Meador PostA tradition Wendy and I have followed when we are on the road, particularly at Christmastime, is reading short stories to each other. It all began a few years ago with me reading to her the final paragraphs of Oscar Wilde‘s De Profundis, even though it is actually not at all a short story.

De Profundis (From the Depths)

De Profundis

In 1897 Oscar Wilde was completing the final months of a two-year imprisonment for homosexual acts. He composed a 50,000 word letter to his dissolute lover, an epistle which may never have been delivered. It was partially published in 1905 but not completely and correctly published until 1962Max Nelson in The Paris Review describes the piece as, “…petulant, vindictive, bathetic, indulgent, excessive, florid, massively arrogant, self-pitying, repetitive, showy, sentimental, and shrill, particularly in its first half…It’s also one of the glories of English prose.”

The title refers to the penitential Psalm 130, which begins with, “From the depths, I have cried out to you, O Lord” or “De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine” in the traditional Latin translation. The final part of the letter is the most touching, in which Wilde longs for nature after spending two years in harsh conditions, including months of hard labor. A fall he suffered in the jail chapel, caused by illness and hunger, had ruptured his ear drum, an injury that would contribute to his death three years after his release, at age 46.

I have a strange longing for the great simple primeval things, such as the sea, to me no less of a mother than the Earth. It seems to me that we all look at Nature too much, and live with her too little. I discern great sanity in the Greek attitude. They never chattered about sunsets, or discussed whether the shadows on the grass were really mauve or not. But they saw that the sea was for the swimmer, and the sand for the feet of the runner. They loved the trees for the shadow that they cast, and the forest for its silence at noon. The vineyard-dresser wreathed his hair with ivy that he might keep off the rays of the sun as he stooped over the young shoots, and for the artist and the athlete, the two types that Greece gave us, they plaited with garlands the leaves of the bitter laurel and of the wild parsley, which else had been of no service to men.

We call ours a utilitarian age, and we do not know the uses of any single thing. We have forgotten that water can cleanse, and fire purify, and that the Earth is mother to us all. As a consequence our art is of the moon and plays with shadows, while Greek art is of the sun and deals directly with things. I feel sure that in elemental forces there is purification, and I want to go back to them and live in their presence.

NPG P317,Oscar Wilde,probably by Lord Alfred Bruce DouglasI strongly identify with Oscar’s longing to escape into Nature. I wear too many hats at work, and my varied responsibilities tax and sometimes overwhelm me. Day hiking is my escape, allowing me to shift my focus from the endless to-do list at work to the serenity and beauty of the natural world. Oscar’s suffering far exceeds my own, however, and the final paragraph of De Profundis shatters me:

All trials are trials for one’s life, just as all sentences are sentences of death; and three times have I been tried. The first time I left the box to be arrested, the second time to be led back to the house of detention, the third time to pass into a prison for two years. Society, as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed. She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.

Sharing that profound prose triggered a series of shared stories between Wendy and me, with Wendy eventually responding by reading to me “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” by Flannery O’Connor, which will be the subject of the next installment of this series of posts on our Told Tales.

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Posted by on January 24, 2016 in short stories, Told Tales


Winter Break 2015, Part 3: San Antonio

December 30, 2015 – January 2, 2016 | SLIDESHOW | MOSAIC

Meador PostOur penultimate stop for Winter Break 2015 was a return, after two years, to the River Walk area of San Antonio near the memorable Alamo. This time, instead of staying at a hotel east of I-30 and having to walk several blocks to reach the Alamo and the River Walk, we splurged on a second-floor room at the Emily Morgan Hotel, overlooking the north wall of the Alamo. I chose that venue for its prime location and architectural interest.

Emily Morgan & The Yellow Rose of Texas

The Emily Morgan, now a Hilton Doubletree hotel, is a 13-story flat-iron building. It is a major contributor to the shock that greeted me, like many others, upon first seeing the fabled Alamo. When I first visited San Antonio in 1984, I was expecting the Alamo to be an old fort/mission out in the desert, with images from the 1960 movie by John Wayne in my head. So I was flabbergasted to find the iconic building dwarfed by skyscrapers crowded around what is left of its footprint. The 13-story Emily Morgan building, with its front door 13 steps from the north edge of the Alamo, was built in the 1920s as a medical building. Back then it was filled with 400 doctors’ offices, a 50-bed hospital on the top floor, and a morgue with crematorium. It became a general office building in the 1970s and then a hotel in the 1980s. In 2012, $4.5 million was spent renovating it into a 177-room Doubletree by Hilton.

Emily Morgan is sometimes called the Yellow Rose of Texas

Emily Morgan is sometimes called the Yellow Rose of Texas

While the building had always caught my eye whenever I visited San Antonio, its name carried far more meaning for Wendy, a native Texan, than it did for this Okie. Emily Morgan is a misnomer for Emily D. West, a free black of mixed race who was born in Connecticut and contracted to work at a hotel at Morgan’s Point, Texas in 1836. She was captured by Mexican cavalrymen and was in the Mexican camp during the decisive Battle of San Jacinto. A myth arose that Santa Anna was caught unprepared by Sam Houston’s forces because he was preoccupied by a dalliance with Emily.

Later this was amplified by mid-20th century claims that she fit the description of the girl in the blackface minstrel song The Yellow Rose of Texas. I was unaware of the song’s history, as I’d only heard it a few times, and then in the sanitized cowboy versions from Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, or Ernest Tubb. Mitch Miller’s version of the song, which portrayed it as a Confederate marching tune, was once quite popular. Personally, if I’m going to listen to a Texas song, I’d rather listen to Bob Wills’ western swing version of Deep in the Heart of Texasor clap along with Gene Autry on it; even Pee Wee Herman knew about that.

Neogothic Architecture of the Emily Morgan

The Emily Morgan hotel interested me more for its architecture than for the historical connotations of its name. The building is a very tall V, with rooms trailing back from the point, and we secured a second-floor room at the point, directly above the lobby. Thankfully, the very point itself was the bathroom, providing auditory insulation from the tourists on the streets below. It had a huge frosted window beside a bathtub which could produce “champagne” bubbles. In the living area we could look down from an arched window and see tourists snapping photos in the north yard of the Alamo.

The building’s Gothic Revival exterior features carvings and grotesques appropriate for its origins as a medical building. An old crone and a fellow holding his tongue and his head adorn the doorway, and there is a caduceus, the winged staff with entwined snakes, to symbolize the medical arts.

Alamo Plaza and Paseo del Rio

Alamo Plaza Christmas Tree

We were just steps from Alamo Plaza, so I stepped out one night to capture photos of the lights in the trees, the Emily Morgan rising up into the sky, and the beautiful Christmas tree, which came complete with boot spurs. I took the opportunity to snap some photos for folks struggling to compose family shots in front of the tree and the old mission. People are uniformly grateful when a friendly stranger offers to help out so everyone can be in the family shot.

We walked over to the Paseo del Rio, the River Walk, of course. Wendy took day and night shots from the Commerce Street bridge, happy to be up out of the crowds on the riverside sidewalks below. I delighted in lunch at the Casa Rio, my favorite stop in San Antonio, with its colorful sidewalk umbrellas, yummy food, and fun mariachi band. We also enjoyed the holiday lights from the Market Street bridge. San Antonio is a beautiful, and warm, place for Christmas.

Paseo del Rio on a holiday night

Briscoe Western Art Museum

The river taxis were too crowded with tourists for me to suggest we take their “Museum Reach” taxi service upriver to the San Antonio Museum of Art. I saved that for a future visit. But we did walk to the Briscoe Western Art Museum. Its three floors featured more recent works than what one finds at most western art museums in Oklahoma. That’s because it is relatively new, housed in an old Carnegie library that for years was the Hertzberg Circus Museum. Its opening evidently was troubled and long delayed, but we enjoyed it.

Wendy and I both promptly noticed Canyon Princess by Gerald Balciar, a smaller and darker cousin to the huge rendition of it gracing Oklahoma City’s National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. I liked the diorama of the Battle of the Alamo, and the striking bronze The Line – Colonel Travis by James Muir. The image of Colonel Travis drawing a line in the sand, asking men to cross who were willing to die in a doomed defense of the Alamo, is a dramatic part of the Alamo legend. Much like the tale of Emily Morgan, there is no hard evidence this actually happened, but it is a memorable, if possibly fanciful, episode.

How Many More by Blair Buswell

The museum’s standout piece for both Wendy and me was Blair Buswell’s magnificent How Many More bronze of a Native American with his arms wrapped about himself, prepared to swing a tomahawk. The museum wisely put him at a height where he could gaze into our faces with an intense but weary look. “Look at that face!”, we both exclaimed. Wendy took a great shot of his visage with her iPhone, staring down the Indian warrior with her modern technology.

Fort Worth

Trip Map

All too soon it was time for us to head to Fort Worth for our reservation at the downtown Omni for New Year’s Eve. I chose to take the Hill Country route along Route 281 instead of I-35. Wendy and I enjoyed the scenery, but it was still a long drive north. By the time we reached the hubbub of the hotel overlooking the convention center and the railyard, we were too exhausted to contemplate our planned event at Bass Hall. Instead, we ordered up room service and had a quiet New Year’s Eve together. The next day we met seven of her relatives for lunch at Babe’s in Arlington and enjoyed a family-style meal. It was fun to meet folks I had only known through Facebook posts and Wendy’s remembrances. Then we drove north back home, with a full weekend to recuperate from our adventure before returning to work.

A final panorama from this trip

It had been a long trip down to the Texas coast, but we were glad we had made the most of our Winter Break. The cold grip of winter would embrace us soon, leaving us pining for our Spring Break in mid-March.


< Winter Break 2015, Part 2: Corpus Christi & Padre Island

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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in art, photos, travel


Winter Break 2015, Part 2: Corpus Christi & Padre Island

December 28-29, 2015 | SLIDESHOW | MOSAIC

Meador PostThe Omni

Over the decades I’ve stayed in a wide variety of hotel rooms: dirty and dreary, cheap and clean, elegant and expensive, and other combinations. For our winter break, I opted to book rooms for Wendy and me that were above standard grade but not over-the-top. So instead of the Best Western-style mid-range rooms I’ve usually booked for our vacations, I looked for properties with some outstanding locations or features and booked small suites rather than single rooms. Our favorite room for the trip turned out to be the King Executive Suite at the Omni in Corpus Christi, high above the shoreline of the bay with separate small balconies for the living area and the bedroom. Wendy kids me about my fondness for vistas, and the room provided a nice panoramic view to the north of the Harbor Bridge and the USS Lexington.

Corpus Christi View from the Omni

We arrived after sundown and were tired from the long and dull drive from Austin. So we had dinner at the hotel’s Glass Pavilion restaurant. We celebrated our arrival at the coast with seafood: I had a decent fish and chips, although it was nothing like what you can get on the pacific coast, while Wendy enjoyed most of her crab cake. I suppose we should have had shrimp if we really wanted local cuisine. We were amused by a couple near us who asked a nonplussed waiter snooty questions about the origins of the food. They really should have headed to the Republic of Texas restaurant on the top floor of the hotel for that kind of dining experience.

Up on the Bluff

The next day was bright but chilly, starting with yummy french toast, fancy syrup, and bacon from the friendly room service. Later we ventured out for lunch, walking alongside the bay to the aptly named Shoreline Sandwich Company a couple of blocks south. We discovered it was closed for renovations, but its sister location four blocks east was open. So we perambulated inland, climbing up to North Upper Broadway Street, which runs along the city’s bluff above the bay area. Our sandwiches were good, as was the people-watching.

Corpus Christi Cathedral

Back on Broadway, I noticed a cathedral a few blocks south, so we walked by for photos. The Corpus Christi Cathedral is an appealing edifice, with both a 97-foot bell tower and a 125-foot clock-and-bell tower which are each adorned with pretty glazed terra cotta domes. It was designed by C.L. Monnot of Oklahoma City, who designed a little version of it as Corpus Christi Catholic Church in my hometown.


Down by the Seawall

We then descended the bluff to walk along the shoreline, noting how various electrical boxes have been adorned with fun artworks. In the early 1990s, the city built eight beautiful gazebos along the seawall, called the Miradors del Mars, or sea watchers. There is also the Mirador de la Flor, or overlook of the flower, built to commemorate Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, the Tejano singer who was killed in the city by a business partner back in 1995. A large white rose sculpture recalls her nickname “The Flower”, and she is represented by a life-size bronze statue, complete with bustier and microphone. The lower seaside section of the mirador has hand-painted floral tiles.

The Mirador de la Flor is at the entry of the People’s Street T-Head, which projects out into the bay with sailboats, stores, and restaurants. Wendy and I enjoyed the Laughing Gulls resting on the pilings, along with the varied accents of the mariners, which Wendy said sounded like Karl in Slingblade.

Laughing Gulls

Dinner was at Thai Spice. The couple operating the restaurant were very sweet, and we enjoyed our dishes, which were artfully cut and arranged.

Padre Island

The next day we checked out of the Omni and drove to the Padre Island National Seashore before we headed to San Antonio. Back in college I would hear students say they were “going to Padre” for Spring Break. Being repulsed rather than attracted by the crowded mayhem of wild beach parties, I didn’t pay much attention. So I was a bit puzzled by my first impression of Padre Island. It lacked the wide beaches and development I was expecting; only later did I realize “going to Padre” for Spring Break meant the town of South Padre Island, which is on the opposite end of the island from Corpus Christi. Since it is the world’s longest barrier island, it is almost a three hour drive from Corpus Christi to reach the party beaches down south. And you have to drive there on the mainland, as 70 miles of the island is undeveloped and protected.

Malachite Beach on Padre Island

Enjoying the seashore

The relative calm and lack of extensive development suited us just fine. We drove to the visitor’s center at Malaquite Beach, donning both beach shoes and jackets before we walked past the vegetation onto the long sandy beach. There Wendy delighted in scouring the shoreline for seaborne treasures. I enjoyed the immensity of the ocean before us, with its swells and crashing waves. Some willets entertained us as they dug for food in the sand, and occasional flocks of birds flew in formations overhead.

Wendy had only been to an ocean once before when she briefly visited a foggy beach in Galveston, so this was a special treat for her. We did not stay but for an hour or so, and she said she could have stayed out there for days searching for unfamiliar treasures. But we had to get to San Antonio, so I steered us to Corpus Christi for a late lunch at Five Guys Burgers, which we both enjoy. I assured Wendy that she will again get to explore beaches on our summer honeymoon in the Pacific Northwest.

The drive to San Antonio was through afternoon mist and rain, with us arriving in the crowded downtown area at nightfall, slowly threading through slow pedestrian and car traffic to the Emily Morgan Hotel adjacent to the Alamo. Our stay there is the subject of the next post.


Winter Break 2015, Part 3: San Antonio >

Winter Break 2015, Part 1: A Trek to the Coast

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Posted by on January 9, 2016 in photos, travel, video


Winter Break 2015, Part 1: A Trek to the Coast

December 24-27, 2015 | SLIDESHOW | MOSAIC

Meador PostThe trek south to Corpus Christi via Checotah, Oklahoma City, and Austin

Trading a Lake for a Gulf

Wendy and I waited out the first days of Winter Break 2015, declining to make hotel reservations until several days before we had to head out for Christmas visits with relatives. This allowed the weather forecasts to tighten up enough to steer us clear of our tentatively planned retreat to a favorite resort, Sugar Ridge on Beaver Lake in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas. A strong El Niño pattern would be bringing days of rain to the region, in what would eventually develop into widespread flooding to end the wettest year in our young state’s history. I’m used to the showers of the Ozark woods, but they are not much fun in December; we both prefer water below and beside us to having it come down from above.

I knew that Wendy would not want to take a literal flight to escape the widespread precipitation; she was already trepidatious about our jetting to the Pacific Northwest for our honeymoon next summer. So I determined we should drive south, far south, to the Texas Gulf Coast, even though it meant that after Christmas in Oklahoma City we’d be facing a ten hour drive southward instead of four hours eastward. Two years prior we had enjoyed a Winter Break in San Antonio, liking our stay there so much that we had abandoned plans to drive onward from there to Corpus Christi. It was the time to retrieve that ambition.


Our Trek to reach the Gulf Coast

Christmas Traditions

The trip necessarily began with Christmastime visits to our parents. We visited Wendy’s mother first, enjoying lunch at the 69 Diner in Checotah. Christmas Eve found us snuggled in at our favorite hotel in Oklahoma City, maintaining our tradition of reading short stories to each other for the occasion. I selected Oscar Wilde’s Nightingale and the Rose to read to my partner, who dearly loves those flowering bushes. Wendy selected Dorothy Parker’s The Waltz for me, with its amusing contrast of inner and outer voices.

Christmas Day featured meals with my parents, with Wendy and me spending mid-afternoon on a one-mile walk at Bluff Creek Park below the north side of the Lake Hefner dam.


A hike at Bluff Creek

Stormy Southward Trek

The day we embarked for the coast was brooding and wet, as forecasted. We rolled southward down Interstate 35 past the slumping slopes of the Arbuckles, winding through Fort Worth, thankfully avoiding the tornadoes that would later sweep through the metro area. Our closest call was a series of loud tornado warnings from our iPhones as we hurriedly made our way past Itasca, successfully dodging a storm cell that was bearing down on the interstate. We then relaxed with some tasty burgers at Dave’s Burger Barn in Waco.

Interstate traffic had been quite heavy throughout our trip, but it reached stop-and-go levels south of Waco as we approached Temple. The stress was sufficient to convince me to divert onto the far more placid, if less direct, route 95 to the east. We were amused to find ourselves driving through Granger, Texas (I checked, but there is no Wendy, Texas…yet. It’s a big state with a long future ahead of it.) It was too dark and too late for us to gawk much, and we finally diverted west again to secure a room in Austin before we faced the drive onward to the coast.

Austin Interlude

We have friends in Austin who kindly took us out for dinner and fellowship two years earlier, so the next morning we considered trying to meet up with them. But the exhausting drive the day before and the prospect of hours more of travel to reach the coast, along with the proximity to Christmas, convinced us otherwise. We decided that we were better company with each other than becoming disheveled intruders into what might well be holiday family time. We did relax a bit with lunch at Bucca di Beppo, with its amusingly irreverent atmosphere. They fortuitously played our song as we waited for our food, cementing their status with us as a romantic interlude.

Having decided to continue to avoid the interstate for the drive to Corpus Christi, we needed to head eastward. That provided the opportunity to route ourselves along Mount Bonnell in Austin and make a brief stop to enjoy the expansive views, both north and south, of the Colorado River from the small park up top.


The Colorado River viewed from Mount Bonnell

I could zoom in with my camera on some of the structures at the University of Texas a few miles southeast from the Mount, and there was a distant view of the skyscrapers of downtown Austin.

We heard varied accents from the brave souls who joined us on the chilly and windy crest. We were glad we had stumbled on the more gradual western trail climb to the top, rather than tackling the long flight of stone steps on the east, which we used for a rapid descent.

Our Journey to the Body of Christ

We then headed southeast on Austin’s highways for our journey to Corpus Christi, which is named after the Feast Day of the Body of Christ. At one point, Wendy suggested we turn onto Route 183, but I vetoed that and stuck with Route 130 for a bit longer, with the rejoinder, “Yeah, but look at the speed limit!” Part of that route has a limit of 85 miles per hour; Texans tend to think big.

We did finally leave 130 behind, at Lockhart, where we were struck by the imposing and beautiful edifice of the Caldwell County Courthouse. It peeked out over downtown at us and demanded that we pull in at the town square and gawk at its creamy limestone, red sandstone, and Second Empire profile.


Caldwell County Courthouse in Lockhart, TX

The remainder of the drive to the coast was rather monotonous, but I was happy to trade an interstate packed with aggressive Texans for a relaxed drive through small oil towns along sleepy roads.

We traveled southeast from Beeville to reach the long 183 bridge between the Corpus Christi and Nueces Bays at sunset. The colorfully lit Harbor Bridge welcomed us into Corpus Christi, where we would spend a couple of days in a lovely room at the Omni hotel on the bayfront.


Winter Break 2015, Part 2: Corpus Christi & Padre Island >

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Posted by on January 3, 2016 in day hike, photos, travel, video


Oxley’s North Woods

Trip Date: December 21, 2015; SLIDESHOW | MOSAIC
Post by Granger

Meador PostI spent the first Monday of Winter Break doing some Christmas shopping in Tulsa, but the warm and sunny weather also lured me onto the trails. I’ve walked the trails at Redbud Valley, Turkey Mountain, and the main area of the Oxley Nature Center many times. But I was far less familiar with the separate North Woods section of the Oxley Nature Center, leading me to take a 2.3 mile hike in the woods bordered by Bird Creek, Flat Rock Creek, and Lake Yahola.

Mohawk Park

I drove to north Tulsa’s Mohawk Park. The North Woods Unit trailhead is a short drive west from the Oxley Nature Center’s main entrance. It is on a dike northeast of Lake Yahola, the artificial lake for the Mohawk Water Treatment Plant which is fed water from the Spavinaw Water Project.

Trail Track

Tree Fungi

The Oxbow Lake Trail, which evidently was once called the Beaver Lodge Trail, led between Nelson’s Oxbow and Coot Pond, quickly reaching a turnoff for the Sierra Club Trail. I took that turnoff and followed the new trail north along the east side of Nelson’s Oxbow Lake. The North Woods are a mature oak and hickory forest, and the trails were often completely covered in acorns, along with other nuts. I would pay a price for all of those oak trees – the next day my neck was itching and I found I had received multiple bites from the dreaded oak mites that have been very active in 2015.

The trail wriggled through the woods and terminated at a long flowline cut through the woods. There I turned northwest and followed the flowline to the trailhead for the North Woods Loop Trail. I trekked counterclockwise along the trail, following the north shoreline of Nelson’s Oxbow, noting that a tree tilted over into the water would be great for turtles, although none were evident. Some fallen logs featured large, whitefunnel-shaped fungi, while others sported colorful fungal fans.

Fungal fans

Sunset over Lake Yahola

The trail looped along the south shore of Bird Creek and then followed part of the east side of Flat Rock Creek before heading south back to the flowline. From there I took the Oxbow Lake Trail, which I had turned off earlier, and followed it past Mallard Lake back to Coot Pond. Mallard Lake lived up to its name, with ducks quacking at me and some taking flight when I passed. When I reached the dike, I took the opportunity to climb the side of Lake Yahola to shoot the sunset.

This was a short hike, frequently punctuated not only by bird calls but also by booms from the Tulsa Gun Club located at the opposite end of Mohawk Park and the occasional overhead roar of a small plane from the nearby airport. But I thoroughly enjoyed trading the crazy hustle and dangerous traffic of Christmastime in Tulsa for an isolated stroll through the woods. Wendy and I hope to share a final hike or two in 2015 when we head south to Texas between Christmas and New Years.



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Posted by on December 23, 2015 in day hike, photos, travel


Transplanting the Harper Rose

December 21, 2015
Post by Wendy

Wendy's Post

Granger and I just finished building a raised rose bed at his place and transplanting a humongous rose bush. He and I will marry next July, so in the meantime we’ve been organizing as well as purging some of our various belongings. When he makes changes and improvements around his house in preparation of me coming over, he says he is “building his nest,” like a bower bird does to attract a mate. He’s added cabinets both within and without one bathroom to make me more at home. He has also agreed to a lot of gardening tasks that he wouldn’t normally do.Transplanting this climbing rose bush and building a bed for it were quite an undertaking for us both.

I’ve cared for many roses in the past; at one time I was tending 24 different bushes including hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, climbers, shrubs, and miniatures. When I downsized to my apartment, I kept three of my original rose bushes – Perfume Delight, a deep pink hybrid tea; Dream Come True, a yellow and ruby grandiflora; and Social Climber, a pink climbing rose bush.

Harper Rose, a Social Climber, at my apartment

Harper Rose, a Social Climber, at my apartment

Social Climber is the commercial name of the pink rose bush I planted in memory of my Grandma Harper. In fact, after she passed away in the early 2000s, I started rose gardening to deal with the grief. So you could say that she got me started on that hobby.

Harper Rose Blooms

Harper Rose Blooms

After moving to Bartlesville, I began adding bushes to my garden and learned many things in the process. Around 2009, I was perusing the Jackson & Perkins Rose catalog and found Social Climber. The pink profusion of roses in the photo reminded me of a birthday card I once got from my grandmother, who we affectionately addressed as “Harper.” When my older sister was very young, she could not say “grandma,” so from that point on, Grandma Harper was called “Harper.”

When I planted the rose bush in her honor back in 2009, I named it the Harper Rose. I received the bare root in the mail and meticulously followed the directions and pointers I’d found online for planting bare root roses.

The Harper Rose bush is very special to me. Since I planted it in her honor, I gave it extra loving care and attention, much as I would give her if she were here. I grew up mostly in East Texas and had both sets of grandparents as neighbors. So my little sister and I spent many days visiting Harper and “Poopah” in their tiny trailer.

Their walls were completely covered with greeting cards that friends had sent. Usually we’d find Harper sitting with a large cloth napkin in her lap, eating stale toast and jelly, reading the Bible, and leaving crumbs everywhere. Writing letters and keeping up with old friends was a duty she took seriously. Kids these days have no concept of writing letters.

Wendy and Harper

Wendy and Harper

I really admired Harper because even though she had many painful ailments, she never complained. Back when she was middle aged, she tried to erect an American flag on Independence Day, and fell, injuring her elbow. From that point on, into her later years, she had to soak her elbow a few times a day to reduce the pain. To this day, when I smell BenGay, I think of her.

Harper had osteoporosis so bad that her back was humped over, making her look like a turtle. She later had to go to Mayo Clinic to get artificial elbows and knees. If this were not bad enough, she also suffered from glaucoma. I still remember her procedure for the special eye drops. After putting the drops in, she had to keep her eyes closed for a certain amount of time – the amount of time it took her to recite Psalm 23 which begins, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want…”

Harper was very dear to me, so as a result, I take great care of the rose bush that is her namesake. I planned a raised bed to be made from cinder blocks and even planned the composition of the dirt. Many years of rose research helped in this endeavor. What I’ve learned about rose-growing has led me to one simple recipe for rose success:  Good sun, good drainage, good dirt, good fertilizer, and water regularly. All of these necessary ingredients were considered when planning this rose bed.

At my apartment, the Harper rose bush got morning sun, which helped it to thrive. Six or more hours of direct sunlight is the usual recommendation, so Granger and I selected a spot in his yard that met that standard.

Building the Raised Bed

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We measured and dug a shallow, square trench within which to place the first layer of blocks. We saved the clay-rich dirt on an old sheet in the yard. Too much clay is not good for roses as it prevents good drainage. But I wanted to save some of it in case the soil we created ended up having too much drainage. I didn’t want any of that invasive Bermuda grass in the bed, so we spent a lot of time removing clumps of it from the clay dirt.

It is said that roses don’t like to sit in water as it rots their roots. So we first put in gravel to help with drainage. Then we put down some wire mesh, the kind one might use to build a chicken pen or a rabbit hutch. In our case, we put it down to deter the hungry moles who have been taking over the yard. Next, we put down landscaping cloth to keep the weeds out. Finally, we laid down the first layer of cinder blocks and threw in some more gravel.

Putting down those heavy blocks was tiring, so a few days later we put down the second course. Later a third course was placed. In all, there are 27 blocks. We put that heavy clay dirt into the holes in the blocks to make them even more stable. All the while, we were adding various ingredients to the bed soil:  bags of top soil, pine bark mulch, potting soil, enriched garden soil, compost that Granger and I had created over the past year, blood meal, clay dirt, gravel, gypsum rocks from one of our hikes, chopped banana peels, more egg shells that hadn’t made it to the compost barrel, and some wet, partially decomposed dead leaves.

The last step in the construction involved gluing down shorter cinder block caps which matched the lower blocks in two dimensions. They create a place for me to sit when I tend the rose bush.


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For weeks, I considered the transplanting process and how best to execute it. So many warnings danced around in my head: Keep as many roots intact as possible; keep as much of the native dirt around the roots as possible; don’t let the roots sit out in the air for too long; protect the canes in transport; for climbers, it’s best to avoid pruning the main canes: only prune the side branches; remove all foliage so that the plant uses its energy for growing roots and adjusting to the change of environment; only transplant during the dormant phase…

Well, there is no dormant phase for this bush. It’s a vigorous grower, and even in December, it’s showing new little reddish sprouts of leaves popping out of the canes.  It’s like a happy little dancing child.  But I had to move it.  Ready or not, here we go.

I had no idea how big the root ball would be, but I was about to find out. First I cut up some old shirts into strips and squeezed the canes together as much as I could without breaking them. Those canes are as big around as carrots. The heavy wind made it quite difficult to wrap cloth strips around the spread out and thorny branches; just when I thought I had the strip wrapped around behind the bush, the wind would whip it back out or get it stuck on a thorn.

There was a lot of wrapping of branches, not only to confine them but to protect myself from the huge thorns. I didn’t wear gloves since it is hard to tie things up using bulky elk skin gloves. So my hands got pretty well butchered.

After the wrapping of canes, I got a small blanket and wrapped it around the bush, tying it all up with duct tape. Then with the bush contained and rendered harmless, I got to digging. In a circle about a foot away all around the bush, I’d stand on the shovel wiggling it side to side and then sit on the handle of the shovel. I did this over and over, huffing and puffing, sweating up my coat. Down, under, and up, down, under, and up.  That bush was a beast. I didn’t realize how heavy the plant was until I was on the grass, my arms wrapped around it, pulling it free of its home, panting,“Come on, Harper!  It’s time to go!”

I laboriously hefted it onto the big piece of cloth I’d laid out. Then I got to work, tying that cloth around the root ball. There were two long roots popping out, and I didn’t want to damage them, so I let them stick out freely.

The next big feat was lifting the plant to put it into the shallow rubber basin for transport. Granger had asked me earlier, “Do you want me to come over to your place and help dig up that rose bush?” And I had foolishly told him I could do it myself. With a primal grunt, I lifted rose bush, basin and all, into the trunk of my Impala. I think I used up all of my calories from breakfast in that one lift.

Long Cane

Long Cane

After chugging a Gatorade and replenishing my shaky, depleted body with a snack bar, I carefully wrapped some exposed canes. I did this so that they would not be damaged by the trunk lid, which could have potentially bounced up and down as I drove the three-minute drive over to Meador Manor. Finally I tied a strip of red cloth to the longest cane just in case another car tried to follow too closely. Wouldn’t want them to get gored to death.

Actually that cane had been closer to ten feet long in the past. Recently, it had grown so high that it touched the railing of the floor above my apartment. I had tied it back down so it would not intrude on the upstairs neighbors’ plants. Trying to confine the Harper rose bush to my tiny garden space has been a major chore over the last three years. I’m glad it will have space to roam in its new home. It’s a sprawler.

Worx Aerocart

Worx Aerocart with Wagon Attachment

Once I got the bush to Granger’s place, he helped me unload it into the Worx Aerocart he bought a few months ago for my gardening projects. That cart has been used a lot, what with all of the cinder blocks, loads of loose and bagged dirt, and gravel.

When we got the bush into the back yard, I dug a big hole in the bed of dirt. Then I got some of the clay and heavier dirt and formed a large cone in the middle of the hole.  This helps give the roots something from which to “fan out”. We hefted the bush up and down into the hole, gently pushing it down onto the dirt cone. Then we adjusted it to where those long roots sticking out had a little more room. We adjusted the height where it sat to be sure the bud union was slightly underneath the top layer of dirt. Granger held the bush in place while I adjusted the roots and filled the hole with water. When it was full, I stood back and studied the canes to be sure they would fan out in the proper directions.  For years I’ve been “training” those canes to spread and grow the way I want.

With Granger still holding the bush in place, I started backfilling the hole with dirt, gently packing around the roots to remove all air bubbles. Once we got the plant packed in and all of the dirt in, we went to work unwrapping the canes and cutting off the tie-downs. I tied one cane over to another so that it would not cross and damage an adjacent one. Over time the cane will grow in the direction I desire. I’ve often heard people say that their rose bushes are taking over their place. I tell them to not be afraid to cut on bushes or control errant branches by loosely tying them down. To make that rose bush do what you want, you’ve got to tame it and train it – especially climbers. It’s just like having discipline with kids. Structure and boundaries are paramount.

A Surprise from Granger

A Surprise from Granger

Love and care are also important. Speaking of love and care, two weeks ago, Granger showed up at my front door with a bouquet of red roses and a big smile. I heard a song playing on his iPhone in his pocket.  It was Frank Sinatra singing, “Try a little tenderness…”

Like loved ones, rose bushes need tenderness in the form of regular attention and loving care.  I’m counting on Granger to deeply water the Harper rose bush for the next couple of days. And I’m eager for next summer when we get back from our honeymoon in Oregon and start our married life together. Then I will get to give Granger and Harper the daily love and care that they both need.

Granger has literally “promised me a rose garden” and helped me to build it.  This contrasts with the old song by Lynn Anderson.

Lynn Anderson Rose

Lynn Anderson Rose

Coincidentally, I recently took a photo of the rose named after Lynn Anderson at the Tulsa Rose Garden. There’s a neat story behind this rose and how it came to be named for the country singer:

As a thank-you gift to the country singer for donating a copy of her 1971 gold album Rose Garden to the American Rose Society’s 100th anniversary convention auction, says Anderson, “they sent me photos of six roses and great descriptions of them to choose from. The one I chose said ‘extremely hardy’ and I thought that description suited me to a ‘T’.” In her xeriscape garden at her home in New Mexico, Anderson grows many plants, including high-altitude wildflowers and cacti. Because she has a dry, rocky soil in combination with a busy travel schedule, Anderson donated several of her rose bushes to the Chamber of Commerce, the local hospital and a women’s center in Taos, N.M. “That way they’re cared for by pros, and lots of people get to see and enjoy them.”

Lynn Rene Anderson (September 26, 1947 – July 30, 2015)


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Posted by on December 21, 2015 in gardening, roses, Wendy


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