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Tenkiller Trail Trials

February 7, 2015

The first Saturday in early February 2015 was a warm day with a high around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. That convinced Wendy and me to make a 270 mile daytrip to Tenkiller Ferry Lake to hike a couple of short trails on its northern and southern ends. I first visited Lake Tenkiller in quest of hiking trails back in May 2010, only to be rebuffed by the overgrown Gum Springs trail at the eponymous state park and disappointed by the paved trail through the park. Wendy and I visited the area in early November, driving along the northeastern shore of the lake as part of a Tahlequah daytrip, and promised ourselves to return later to hike three short trails scattered along the lake shore. We’d hit two of those three trails on this outing, eager for new trails neither of us had ever hiked.

Tenkiller Trip (click map for slideshow)

We left Bartlesville around 10 a.m. and stopped 55 miles down the road at the Full Moon Cafe in Broken Arrow for lunch. The food was fine, but the waitress was fairly hopeless. She did offer to compensate with a free dessert, but we passed, not needing an unnecessary dessert to weigh us down on uncertain trails. Another 70 miles of driving took us southeastward down the all-too-familiar but thankfully speedy Muskogee turnpike and across to Lake Tenkiller, passing the enormous Greenleaf Nursery as we wound our way around to the Standing Rock area on the lake’s northeast shore.

Remnant of the Standing Rock Nature Trail

Lake nature trails in Oklahoma are often poorly maintained, and Tenkiller is no exception. A 1988 article claims:

Spectacular stone formations, huge boulders and frequent glimpses of the lake can be seen along the 1 1/4-miles Standing Rock Nature Trail. This path is made up of two loops, each with two segments: Big Pine and Three Sisters on the first loop, and Big Cedar and Hi-Knob on the second.

And the Tulsa Audubon Society mentions the Standing Rock Nature Trail trail in its entry on Lake Tenkiller. But Wendy and I found no signs or marked parking areas or trailheads, only a wide spot off the road at its intersection with Whippoorwill, where a freshly bulldozed utility right-of-way led due west down to the lake shore. I found a dim trail leading directly southwest, which was sufficient for us to lace up our boots and head out. We’d only find a trace of the promised trails.

Standing Rock area tracks

Wendy find a geocache

The trail soon led by several large boulders projecting out of the soil; I don’t know if they are the eponymous standing rocks or not. The dim trail led onward, with a view of the lake through the trees, until the trail began a very steep descent to the water. As we carefully made our way down, sharp-eyed Wendy spotted a plastic box tucked under a ledge. It was a geocache; I last stumbled onto one years ago. This one was in good shape, with a notebook to log our visit and various tchotchkes. I deposited a gold dollar, while Wendy donated a little packet of fizzy rocks candy and a DumDum sucker. This cache has been in place since 2007, although its notebook log only had a few entries from recent years. We returned the cache to the ledge and I camouflaged it with some stones and pieces of bark.

Treacherous bluff

It was treacherous making our way down the eroded bluff to the shoreline, and I slid partway and Wendy skinned up one hand on an unexpected slide. As we were bandaging her hand, the wind blew off my hat, flipping it into the water of a small cove. I had to immerse my boots and lower legs to wade out and retrieve my trusty Tilley, so I spent the rest of the day squishing around in my boots.

Fossil imprints

Some fishermen were nearby, drifting along the shore, with a couple of powerboats out on the lake. The rock we were treading on had thick cracking layers we could pry apart with our bare hands. We carefully made our way upslope, and I bushwhacked about, hoping to find another segment of trail, but nothing turned up. Meanwhile, Wendy was finding rocks with embedded crystals and fossil imprints. Bushwhacking turned up no more trail segments as we made our way back to the car.

End of the trail

Curious, we then followed the bulldozed pathway leading due west down to the shore, discovering that it was an AT&T fiber optic cable right-of-way. Two fiber optic lines emerged from the soil and headed down into the lake. The fishermen who had been near us before at the end of the old trail were making their way along the shore. We climbed back up to the car and headed off for another trail. A map from 1982 shows a small nature trail loop a bit east of our initial hike, so maybe some more trail remnants are there, leading down to the end of the cove where my hat went for a float, and I wonder if a loop once climbed the knob hill southeast of where we hiked. When we return to Tenkiller for the Buzzard Roost trail we might poke around this area some more.

Overlook/Island View Nature Trail

Looking at the hours of daylight left, we saved the Buzzard Roost trail at Cato Creek for a return trip. We drove almost 20 miles down the eastern shore of the lake to cross the dam and park our car at the nearby Overlook Park. A trail there is often called the Overlook Trail, but it is marked at the trailhead as the Island View Nature Trail. It was promised to lead along the lake shore northwest to the United Methodist Boys Ranch, a group home for foster children. The Corps website says that a second leg of the trail is under construction toward the Strayhorn Landing campground, but we found that to be out of date.

Overlook/Island View trail track

Bluff

From the overlook we could glimpse the dam and a couple of islands. We found the trailhead and soon passed a bluff, but it offered a limited view of the lake below. Occasionally along the trail we could see through the winter-bared trees the lake and its islands, but the views would be largely blocked in summer.

Maintained trail

After the earlier hike along an abandoned trail, it was nice to be on a maintained trail which had decent stream crossings, including wooden bridges that show signs of both wear and maintenance. One longer bridge even had hand rails with recent repairs; the Student Conservation Association did some great maintenance on this section of trail back in 2012.

We eventually reached a fork; the right branch looked less travelled, and we took it first. Soon we reached a failed bridge, where Wendy was a damsel in distress, and I pretended I was Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, breaking the bridge at Khazad-Dum.

Damsel in distress

The trail on the other side of the bridge was much fainter, but could still be made out by its linear depression and occasional rock curbs. We passed flotsam deposited by high waters, and the trail eventually petered out where it approached a private home with its own tennis and basketball courts, with a large boat anchored nearby. We saw some large moss-covered rocks along the bluff and a large vine which had once coiled around a now-destroyed tree. Its coils resembled a snake gorging on a meal. Sharp-eyed Wendy found a rock with a heart-shaped hole.

Mossy rocks

We returned to the fork and followed the maintained trail up to the Boys Ranch trailhead. Wendy readily admits she has a poor sense of direction and was crestfallen when we reached the parking area and she realized it was the far end of the trail, not the trailhead where we had parked. We hiked under four miles this day, but steep elevation changes, faint trails, and some bushwhacking took their toll. We were both glad when we returned to the car; the winter weather has prevented us from hiking as much as we would like and our endurance has eroded.

We drove back to Tulsa for dinner at Chopsticks and then returned to Bartlesville. Tenkiller continues the pattern seen across Oklahoma, where lakeside trails vary considerably in their maintenance and a good fraction are abandoned. Arkansas has far more great trails, but few novel ones are left within daytrip range, and both Wendy and I face workloads which make overnight travel something limited to longer breaks. We both look forward to returning to Missouri and Arkansas for part of Spring Break; meanwhile we’ll enjoy familiar trails and the occasional novelty within daytrip range.

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Posted by on February 8, 2015 in day hike, photos, travel

 

Beautiful Skies Above Elk City Lake

January 24, 2015

Wendy and I hiked 4.15 miles from the south end of the Table Mound Trail up at Elk City Lake in Kansas. The skies were gorgeous.

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Posted by on January 24, 2015 in day hike, photos, travel

 

Twixtmas in Kansas City

Late December 2014

Wendy and I decided to spend some of the time between Christmas and New Year’s, a period which I shall term Twixtmas, in Kansas City, MO. This shorter trip 200 miles north was a deliberate contrast to our longer vacation the prior Winter Break, when we drove 575 miles south to San Antonio, TX. Rather than fleeing it, we would allow winter to embrace us in its grip. It made our time together in the Paris of the Plains all the cozier. The map below provides the locations of the Kansas City attractions we visited, and you can click here for a slideshow of our trip.

Osage Hills

A couple of days before we embarked, we hiked 3.5 miles at Osage Hills, knowing that we’d soon be walking cold urban sidewalks. It was relatively warm and sunny on the bluff above Sand Creek. The Creek Loop was mushy, and Sand Creek was running well from recent rains.

Wendy at Osage Hills (click image for slideshow)

Union Station

Union Station

The day after Christmas we headed north out of Bartlesville, stopping at the Copan Truck Stop for a huge and delicious cinnamon roll, slathered in thick icing. We arrived at Kansas City’s Union Station in time for lunch at Harvey’s. The immense Grand Hall and North Waiting Room were decked out for Christmas. At one end was a lovely, huge Christmas Tree, with more trees and nutcracker guards up high. Holiday lighting at the entrance and along the length of the North Waiting Room invited one to walk its length to arrive at a nice display at the entrance to the Model Railroad Experience.

North Waiting Hall at Union Station

Crown Center

Wendy and Maxine (and Floyd)

We took the The Link, the enclosed elevated walkways, over to Crown Center, enjoying the view of the downtown skyscrapers. We toured the Hallmark Visitor Center, where Wendy posed with crabby old Maxine and her dog Floyd. Then we walked over to the lobby of the former Hyatt hotel, the site of the infamous skybridge collapse I analyze in my Failure By Design lesson.

Country Club Plaza

Our own hotel for this stay was a few miles to the south at Country Club Plaza. I eschewed the Best Western Seville Plaza, where I’ve previously stayed, for fancier top-floor accommodations at the well-located Courtyard by Marriott, which is housed in the 1925 building which was once the Park Lane Apartments. I am always glad when an old building is successfully renovated for continued use, and judged this renovation as a great success.

Feasting at Buca di Beppo

During the trip Wendy and I enjoyed dining at Buca di Beppo and other Plaza restaurants, although I regretted not planning ahead so that we could finally have dinner out with a gracious former student living in the KC area who has repeatedly offered her and her husband’s hospitality during my infrequent visits to the area. Wendy loves KC, so hopefully we can finally connect on a future trip.

The Plaza was outlined in lights at night, although it was not nearly as impressive as the Christmas lights we saw earlier in the break in OKC.

Art Museums

Synthesis by Tom Price

We walked over to the Nelson Atkins Museum, my favorite KC destination, which was also decorated for Christmas. Wendy liked Wayne Thiebaud‘s Apartment Hill, and I thought that the Synthesis resin columns by Tom Price looked like something out of Star Trek. We quested through the museum for truly small treasures: a few items from the city’s Toy & Miniature Museum deposited in various rooms while the museum undergoes renovation. Then we enjoyed a chocolate cupcake in the museum’s Rozzelle Court before venturing upstairs where we found an interactive create-your-own-Rodin-sculpture kiosk. Both my effort, Despair, and Wendy’s creation, Strengthmake me question what was in that cupcake.

The bright sky beckoned us back outdoors, where teepees set up on the grounds contrasted with the stately nearby residences. Along our walk back to the Plaza, we discovered, on the grounds of the Kansas City Art Institute, the life-size statue of Thomas Hart Benton sculpted by Charles Banks Wilson and Nick Calcagno in 1989.

No that is NOT Thomas Hart Benton; Crying Giant shows how I feel about the Kemper

On another day we walked over to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, which inevitably disappoints me. Crying Giant by Tom Otterness reflected my view of most of the works on display, while Wendy is more accepting of contemporary art and enjoyed June Ahrens’ Used and Worn display of used soap and other materials. She also got a kick out of Elizabeth Layton’s I am LovedIn it, Grandma Layton (she didn’t begin drawing until she was 68) depicted an elderly woman holding her wedding dress up to her body.

Myself, I am a great admirer of Wendy’s own creations. Just before we left for Kansas City, she completed her third paper mosaic, depicting a bear hidden amongst autumn trees. It joins her earlier depiction of a winding snake and a thunderbird, all originally inspired by the tile work we saw this summer at Albuquerque’s KiMo Theatre.

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Downtown

My Treasure in the vault

We ventured downtown to tour the public library housed in a renovated bank building, including the big vault turned into a film room and a small vault Wendy had fun posing inside. Out of one window we spied two pigeons huddled together atop a stone eagle. Wendy and I agreed that snuggling was the best remedy for the cold weather.

We also drove to the very northern end of Main Street to walk the Town of Kansas Bridge which leads out over railroad tracks to a platform above the south bank of the Missouri River. A train passed under us as we walked toward the river’s edge, where stairs led to the Riverfront Heritage Trail. Signage provided history on the early years of Kansas City and told of the task of taming the riverfront bluffs in the mid-1850s. I found the stark riverfront and industrial zone unwelcoming, but Wendy liked it, posing atop a giant round concrete platform adjacent to the trail.

I wanted to drive along Cliff Drive northeast of downtown, but it was at least temporarily closed to vehicular traffic, and the surrounding area was too sketchy for me to feel comfortable with a long walk along it. A petition seeks to close the drive to vehicles permanently; I don’t live there, so I only have the out-of-towner perspective that I’d rather drive it than walk it. A beautiful sunset compensated for the inaccessibility of the planned cliffside drive.

Sunset behind downtown Kansas City

Wendy and I also visited The Scout statue overlook of downtown after dark to see the lights and the red glowing flame effect atop the tower at Liberty Memorial. The cold and the lack of a tripod prevented me from getting a sharp panorama, so we drove over to Liberty Memorial for a closer look at the tower and its top as well as nice views of Union Station and the old Western Auto sign. I was able to steady myself there for a sharper panorama of downtown Kansas City.

Union Station from Liberty Memorial

Heading Home with a stop in the 1950s

On our way back home, we stopped at the Johnson County Museum in Shawnee to tour their 1950s All-Electric House. The colors, fabrics, materials, and items of that era have been faithfully gathered together or reproduced in it. Some of the “modern features” were laughable, such as the switch to slide back a painting and reveal the black-and-white tube TV behind it, but some of the home automation features were quite similar to today’s Smart Home ideas. I think the real highlight of Shawnee for Wendy and me was their large Russell Stover store, where I stocked up on half-price milk-chocolate-coated marshmallow Santas.

Kansas City is always fun, and Wendy and I both look forward to returning there someday. Winter’s cold grip will probably keep us off the trails for awhile, but a wonderful New Year awaits.

Click here for a slideshow of this trip

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in art, day hike, photos, travel, video

 

Winter Break Began in OKC

December 20-21, 2014

OKC Xmas (click image for slideshow)

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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in photos, travel

 

Overcast Day at Kight Hill

December 13, 2014

It was an overcast and somewhat dreary day, but Wendy and I needed a hike to help us recover from a burdensome week at work. We did not have the energy nor time to venture far, but I didn’t feel like re-treading the trails at Osage Hills or up at Elk City. So we drove 45 minutes southeast to Lake Oologah for my second visit, and her first, to Kight Hill.

The Will Rogers Country Centennial Horse Trail provides up to 18 miles of equestrian pathway along the south shore of Lake Oologah. The south end has a couple of miles of trail out on a hilly peninsula projecting into the lake. Websites and maps incorrectly refer to it as Kite Hill, not realizing it is actually named after H. Tom Kight, the Claremore legislator who sponsored the establishment of the Oklahoma Military Academy, now Rogers State University.

Kight Hill (click image for slideshow)

We parked at the end of the side road by the Outpost Mobile Home Park and trod the rather boring mile-long straight-away to the peninsula. The trail was slightly soft from an earlier light rain, but not too muddy despite the churning from horse hooves. We’d seen a herd of horse trailers at the official trailhead nearby.

Equestrians (and dogs)

So it was no surprise that we encountered a group of riders, who greeted us. The leader complimented us on our protection against hunters: I was wearing a bright orange knit hat and Wendy was in a bright orange vest. Deer gun season ended last weekend, but I figured some scofflaws might be a threat. After the riders departed, Wendy spotted a shotgun shell on the trail, and toward the end of our hike we would hear repeated shotgun blasts nearby.

The churned mud and horse manure impeded my enjoyment of Kight Hill, but I was glad to be out on a trail with frequent views of the lake. I spotted some rocks projecting out of the lake just before the trail turned away southward. The sky was finally showing some strips of blue amidst the clouds.

Lake Oologah

On the west part of the hill trail we could plainly hear the distant roar of the power plant, while on the south part the plaintive wail of train whistles and rumble of the rails of the many trains which intersect Claremore called out across the darkening afternoon sky.

We saw several snapped trees along the trail, with stairsteps of fungi decomposing them. When the main trail finished circumnavigating the hillside and climbed up top, I took a fork that led us away from the upper loop I had trod three years earlier. Soon I recognized Trail H, which I’d used for a steep descent on the earlier hike. This time my MotionX GPS app’s satellite map reassured me that the main path would eventually loop back down and Wendy and I took that longer, but still steep, way down.

We ended our trip with a tasty meal at the nearby Hammett House in Claremore, where I enjoyed a small steak and Wendy thoroughly enjoyed her seared pork loin with honey mustard glaze and cranberry relish. It had not been a good day for photographs, but at least we were back on the trails as we headed into finals week and then a much-needed Winter Break.

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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in day hike, photos, travel

 

Thankful for Quartz Mountain and the Wichitas

November 27-29, 2014

Trip to SW Oklahoma (click map for slideshow)

Warm and sunny days on Thanksgiving Break 2014 allowed Wendy and me to take short hikes around Baldy Point at Quartz Mountain and The Narrows in the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma.

On Thanksgiving Day we drove down to Oklahoma City to visit my parents before heading on down to the Quartz Mountain Resort for a couple of days, following up our previous visit in June 2013. Wendy had asked to return to what I consider the best of the state resorts. We enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving meal at the lodge’s Sundance Cafe that evening, although, of course, it couldn’t compete with my mother’s home cooking earlier in the day.

Quartz Mountain’s Future in Doubt

Quartz Mountain Lodge

I’m sad to see the resort is enduring a state feasibility study in this time of ill-advised income tax cuts and business tax breaks. Wendy and I can attest to how schools have suffered mightily because of the shortsighted fiscal policies of our legislators and governor, which have put immense stress on all state services. The rich folks who get almost all of the benefits from state income tax cuts can afford fancy private resorts, but the rest of us rely heavily upon state lodges and state parks, which are especially important to day hikers like me. The severe drought has only made things worse for Quartz Mountain, with Lake Altus barely above its conservation pool level and dead as a fishery. If you’ve stayed at Quartz Mountain Resort and would like to keep it operating, take the survey to help with the feasibility study.

Baldy Point

Baldy Pt. Hike

On Friday morning we had breakfast at the lodge restaurant and then were ready for a day hike. We had already hiked the trails around the lodge on our previous visit, so I drove us westward to Baldy Point, which I’d hiked back in December 2010. This time Wendy and I would almost completely circumnavigate the hill, which rises over 260 feet above the surrounding farm fields. We would ascend on its gentler northern slopes, rather than the steep southern side which attracts rock climbers.

Southern face of Baldy Point

Berries

This time I could not locate the Summit Trail at first; it was faint and overgrown. So we started out on the broad trail along the southern base of the hill, which leads through cedar and mesquite trees with frequent openings to the southern face. Where I see a crack in the rock, a climber sees a challenge. As usual, I was more focused on large features and vistas, with Wendy discovering berries, odd-looking plants, and crystalline rocks as we rounded the hill onto the Cedar Creek Trail. Most of the trail signs have been wiped clean by time and neglect, and the Cedar Creek area has been literally burned out in the drought.

Burned-over Cedar Valley

The burned trees meant we were not tempted to walk the Cedar Valley Trail, and the Black Jack Pass Trail was closed due to hunting. So we ascended the northern slope of the hill, onto unfenced private property, for a sweeping view of the valley below and the fields and granite hills to the west. We descended and walked east to the area’s other trailhead before returning west through the mesquite forest.

Buffalo Gourd

I finally located the Summit Trail’s faint path, and we made our way around the west end of the summit. Wendy had remarked earlier how she’d love to pitch golf balls from the slopes and was laughing when she found a golf ball along the trail. She also spotted a buffalo gourd, which she cracked open on a tree to examine its fibrous interior. At the time we had no idea what the gourd was, but my mother’s guidance and Wendy’s exhaustive internet research identified the plant and its uses.

Prickly pear cacti spilled from a huge boulder as we ascended the western slope, where Wendy was feeling adventurous and crawled through gaps in the rocks. I found a pivot rock, and we turned back once it was clear we’d nearly made it back around the hill. Our 2.7 mile hike thus included two forays a couple of hundred feet up the slopes.

Baldy Point Summit

Lake Altus Dam

From on high we’d seen the Lake Altus Dam, so we drove over to see it and the lake. Then we returned to the lodge to relax, taking a walk along the Twin Peaks Trail before dinner. Afterward, Wendy got a kick out of Suzanne Klotz’s The Dancer of Illusion mixed media work on a corridor wall, and we later encountered a half-dozen deer on a walk around the lodge buildings.

The Manchurian Candidate

Angela Lansbury knocks it out of the park in The Manchurian Candidate

We ended the day with me treating Wendy to the classic 1962 movie The Manchurian Candidate on the DVD player I’d brought and hooked into the lodge television. It is a disturbing and unusual film, with Angela Lansbury giving the performance of her career as the domineering mother. Her intensity is truly frightening when the film makes its big reveal. It is hard to believe she was only three years older than the actor portraying her son, let alone that this is the same actress who played Miss Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks and was Jessica Fletcher for 20 years. Wendy and I loved how director John Frankenheimer captured her twitching cheek on the stage in Madison Square Garden as she awaits the climactic shot.

The Narrows

Cotton fields

The next morning, after a final breakfast at the lodge, we drove eastward through Kiowa county. Wendy had been fascinated by the cotton fields in the area, and we stopped by a huge bale near Roosevelt so she could get a close look and feel. My mother and her siblings picked a great deal of cotton back in the day, as did members of Wendy’s family. The mechanical picker has thankfully brought an end to that hard labor, but the economies of scale consolidated the small cotton farms.

Prairie Dog

We were headed to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge to hike. The oaks in the refuge still had some autumn colors, and we first stopped at the refuge’s Prairie Dog town, watching the dogs watch us and listening to their high-pitched barks. There have been at least six colonies of Blacktail Prarie Dogs at the refuge over the years. One of my favorite photographs is a snapshot I took of wildflowers at one of those colonies back in 1989.

The highlight of our day was a hike 1.3 miles out and back on The Narrows, a short but rigorous trail along West Cache Creek.

Narrows Trail

West Cache Creek

We found a record number of cars at the Boulder Camp trailhead, and I took us down the trail’s right fork along the low route before we made the steep ascent for a view of the narrow channel below, the vista to the north and lovely cliffs to the east, and the Narrows to the south.

Eastern cliff above The Narrows

Hikers on Eagle Mountain

We heard a group of repellers celebrating their successful ascent farther down the creek and could see fellow hikers high above the chasm up on Eagle Mountain.

A nearby hiker gave scale to the view south. We descended partway down the hill for the views and then turned back, since Wendy was not inclined to bushwhack down The Narrows as I did back in 2010, reaching the junction with Panther Creek.

We happily returned along the trail, soon passed by an energetic Army guy running along the rough trail while carrying a heavy load of rappelling ropes. Later we encountered a large Asian American family which had scampering kids and teens out front, followed by the parents, one of whom was belting out Motown’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough on a boom box, with a clumsy teenager who bounced her way among us, and at last the polite elders in the back. It was quite a show!

Fall Colors in the Wichitas

We enjoyed dinner with my folks in Oklahoma City before returning to Bartlesville. It was great to get away from our mutual school workloads for a few days before facing the hectic final weeks of the semester. We’ve both been so overwhelmed by schoolwork, with big projects still working their way down the pipeline, that I suspect our Winter Break will feature a few nearby get-aways rather than one long trip.

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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in day hike, movie, photos, travel

 

Fall Above the Fields at Elk City

November 8, 2014

The skies were sunny and the temperature in the mid 50s when Wendy and I drove an hour north to Elk City Lake for a fall hike above the fields up on Table Mound. I had recalled how beautiful the mound looked back on a solo hike in November 2011, so three years later we assembled three miles of hiking from portions of three different trails: Table Mound, Post Oak, and Eagle Rock. Throughout our hike we were on the prowl for evidence of xanthophyll, carotenes, and anthocyanin: the yellow, orange, and red leaves of autumn.

Table Mound Hiking (click image for slideshow)

Table Mound bulks up above the Elk River and the lake, a rocky protrusion which has attracted quarry menhikers, and bikers. We began this day hike on my favorite section of the many miles of trails at Elk City Lake: the north end of the Table Mound Trail. It starts at the scenic overlook high above the dam and runs north along the western rim of the mound. Just below is the lower section of the trail, and the trees down there protrude upward at the edge of the bluff so that the upper trail is at canopy-level, providing nice views of the high leaves. At the end of the mound there are lovely views of the fields to the north, including the Old Fashion Baptist Church nestled up against a wooded slope about a mile away. I always stop and shoot a panorama up there.

View north from Table Mound

Pillar

The trail then makes a steep descent through a slit in the top to circle around the base of the bluff, where huge chunks of rock have broken away and slid down the slope. I leaned against the pillar of stone which supports one large overhanging slab, playfully checking that it would not topple; if it did, I’d sure find out the hard way!

We enjoyed the bluff and the autumn leaves along the trail. Where the Table Mound Trail falls away from the bluff, it is only yards from the Post Oak Nature Trail, which runs along the top of the mound. We jumped trails, and I led us up a dim and unofficial side track to a promontory providing a view of the eastern shore of the lake.

Eastern Shore

On the Post Oak Trail there were large red and orange leaves; Wendy collected some particularly large specimens. She later arranged them along with a piece of copy paper which illustrates their size. We circled back to the overlook and then drove down to the dam to hike part of the Eagle Rock Mountain Bike Trail. This was the only trail at the lake which Wendy had not yet hiked, and even I have not hiked all of it; I finally found an online map of its various loops only after we completed our hike.

The small parking area on top of the eastern end of the dam was marked closed, so we drove down to the outlet spillway. Wendy loved the colors arrayed across the side of the mound. At the trailhead we found three boys having fun rolling down the slope of the dam. One eagerly asked if we were hiking the trail and told us how it was pretty hard, but he admitted he had bushwhacked a bit, so maybe that made it harder. I did that myself back in May 2012, when I deviated from the Hillside loop to climb my way to the top of the mound. This time I’d see a new section of trail for the first time in years at Elk City, since Wendy and I completed the Hillside loop.

Autumn on the side

We walked through the tall grass around the north end of the mound to reach the Elk River, where a series of concrete pyramids closes off an old road which leads onto private property. There is a metal beam and a section of curved pipe embedded in some of them; what they were originally used for, I have no idea, but a lot of quarrying and concrete work has been done on the mound over the decades. The bike trail turns back and ascends the mound there, and this time we followed its zig-zag path eastward back along the side of the mound to the tall grass area, passing some of the big chunks of rock which had tumbled their way down from above.

Table Mound at Sunset

It was the golden hour as we exited the trail, driving away from the mound as the sun set behind the hills to the west. We stopped to enjoy the western sky as the day ended. We are blessed to have the trails of Elk City Lake and Osage Hills so close to home. Hopefully we’ll enjoy some more fall foliage in the weeks to come before we head to Quartz Mountain for a few days over Thanksgiving Break.

Click here for a slideshow from this day hike

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2014 in day hike, photos, travel

 
 
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