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Looping Lake Leatherwood

Meador PostHike Date: March 17, 2016 | SLIDESHOW | PHOTO MOSAIC

On Saint Patrick’s Day 2016, Wendy and I circumnavigated Lake Leatherwood near Eureka Springs, Arkansas on a 4.1 mile hike. Far less hilly than our trek a day earlier on the Dogwood Overlook Trail, this hike was a beautiful walk through the forest in one of the largest municipally owned parks in the nation.

Beautiful Lake Leatherwood (click image for slideshow)

Lake Leatherwood Hike

Leatherwood Park

Leatherwood City Park is 1620 acres and was developed in the late 1930s under the Soil Conservation Service and Works Progress Administration with labor from the Civilian Conservation Corps. A limestone-covered dam impounds the 80 acre lake, and the old cooking pavilion, diving platform, and bathhouse remain in service. What piqued my interest was that 25 miles of hiking and biking trails have been developed around the lake area, and the city has a nice online map detailing them.

Beacham Trail and The Point

It was a 15 minute, 9 mile drive from Sugar Ridge Resort to the park, with a long and winding road to the Beacham Trail entrance. That trail circumnavigates the entire lake, but I was disappointed to find the trail on the east side of the lake is a rutted and rocky road. So we took the Point Camp turnoff to escape the monotony. That led to a nice point out on the lake, where we could get a panoramic view of the dam and the surrounding forest. We saw groups of hikers making their way across the dam in the distance.

Point Camp Panorama

Wendy hunts for crystals

Leaving the point, we diverted onto the Fuller Trail, which was much more to my liking. It led across a rocky streambed, where Wendy delighted in hunting for pretty rocks and crystals while I clambered upstream. I reached the Beacham Trail and turned back. When I rejoined Wendy, who was still busily sniffing out rock treasures, she made it clear we must return to this spot in the future. I happily agreed.

The Fuller Trail led past another creekbed and approached the lake shore. A fisherman in a white shirt and his boat gleamed out on the lake. The trail then ended, and we were back on the Beacham, which was now more trail than road as it approached the dam.

Lake Leatherwood Dam

Down the face

Before we took the straight shot across the top of the dam, I peeked around the back side, pleased to find a trail leading down past its eroded limestone blocks to the spillway. The dam is actually built of concrete and covered in hand-cut limestone blocks quarried nearby, making the erosion less worrisome. The water roaring down its rocky face was quite impressive, and we enjoyed the view from below and from above. The tranquility across the lake to the south contrasted with the roaring water toppling over the edge of the dam to the north.

Crossing the dam, we soon reached the limestone quarry, which was a cut from a rock ledge. There were a number of large stones still waiting in the quarry, decades after they were cut.

Calm After the Roar

I enjoyed the quiet and isolation of the narrower stretch of the Beacham Trail on the east side of the lake, with plenty of lake views. We passed a peace symbol made of rocks, bringing to mind my childhood visits to Eureka Springs and the hippies that hung out there back in the 1970s. Today it is still a bohemian oasis in the Ozarks, welcoming alternate lifestyles.

Fording West Leatherwood Creek

Stranded bridge

The trail wound up and around three different entry creeks before reaching the floodplain of West Leatherwood Creek. The wide rocky creek bed was quite different from the forest trail we had been using. A wooden bridge stranded in the rocks tried to provide access. But the bridge we really needed had been swept away, so we got our boots and socks wet fording the creek. It was a shame the beavers had not felled some trees in a direction that would have helped us out.

We passed some cattails as our hike came to a close, with us walking past campsites and old rental cabins to return to our car. It had been a delightful hike. I look forward to returning here, both to let Wendy find more rock crystals and to hike the Miner’s Rock and Overlook trails on the hillside above the east side of the lake.

A Maelstrom at Crystal Bridges and The Open Road

Our brief stay in the Ozarks was drawing to a close. The next day we headed home, stopping over at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, where we admired a whirling mass of painted aluminum by the walkway. Maelstrom by Alice Aycock reminds one of a tornado vortex, or flower blooms, or a shell.

Maelstrom by Alice Aycock

The temporary exhibit, which we enjoyed for free thanks to our dual memberships in Woolaroc and its membership in the North American Reciprocal Museum Association, was The Open Road, a photography exhibit on road trips. I liked the grumpy-looking woman in front of a colorful wall in an untitled piece by William Eggleston. Joel Sternfeld’s McLean, Virginia, December 1978 was a standout with its portrayal of a fireman picking out a pumpkin as a house burns in the background.

Wendy and I were grateful for our short break in the Ozarks. Our next hike would be at the end of March, on the Skull Hollow Trail at Lake Oologah.

SLIDESHOW | PHOTO MOSAIC

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in day hike, photos, travel, video

 

Above Beaver Dam: The Dogwood Overlook Trail

Meador PostHike Date: March 16, 2016 | SLIDESHOW | PHOTO MOSAIC

Wendy and I have been working most weekends since Spring Break on preparing for her move into Meador Manor with our marriage in July. So we passed on many weekends of good hiking weather, and I haven’t had time to blog about our hikes on Spring Break. Now that the city cleanup days are over and the Manor is almost ready, I can start catching up on my pending posts.

Wendy and I spent several days of our 2016 Spring Break at Sugar Ridge Resort on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas. We had previously stayed in the same cabin in June 2014 and March 2015. Previously we have hiked the short trail on the old railroad grade at Beaver town nine road miles northeast of our cabin and the Bench Rock Nature Trail four road miles southwest of our cabin. We again wanted to hike on this visit, and I selected a couple of nearby destinations that were unfamiliar to both of us. The first was only a couple of miles southeast of our cabin: the Dogwood Overlook Trail at Beaver Dam Site Park.

The Quest for Online Maps

I've created over 150 trail tracks since 2009

I’ve created over 150 trail tracks since 2009

I had read online that the trail was two miles over steep terrain, although I wasn’t sure if that was an out-and-back distance, a loop, or one-way. I could not find an online trail map, although I read that local Boy Scouts had created a new hiking trail map available at the Corps of Engineers office in Rogers. Ideally every hiking trail would have a map online in PDF format along with GPX and KMZ GPS files. But that is easier said than done; I have not been posting my own maps in those formats either, instead only creating trail track views in Google Earth from KMZ files exported from my iPhone’s MotionX GPS app, which I edit in Corel Presentations and upload in the photo albums for my blog posts. I’ve created over 150 of those suckers thus far. Starting with this hike, I’m adding links to my Trail Track images and GPX and KMZ files to my Day Hikes spreadsheet. Eventually I would like to find the time to add similar links for previous hikes.

Trail Track (click image for slideshow)

Time to Hit the Trail

Beaver Dam

We took our time getting started, enjoying watching Downy and Red Bellied woodpeckers at our cabin feeder. Eventually we were ready to head out, and drove the couple of miles over to Beaver Dam. The trail entrance was in the overlook area, which was not yet open to vehicle traffic. So we parked uphill at a recreational vehicle dump station and trekked cross country to the overlook. As we gazed down at the spillway, the siren sounded, indicating the hydroelectric generator was starting up and there would be increased flow downstream into Table Rock Lake.

We located a flight of stairs at the trailhead, where a sign told us the Boy Scouts did more than map this trail: Troop 136 in Bentonville, Arkansas built it. Later I read online that its construction was an Eagle Scout Service Project. Bentonville is 30 road miles southwest of the dam.

Elevation Changes

Backtracking at the Quarry

The stairs initiated the first of what would end up being five steep ascents on our journey. I logged the elevation changes, showing that we ascended 50 feet for a higher view of the dam spillway, following helpful tree badges. We spotted the trail’s eponymous dogwoods as we climbed the hillside to reach the edge of the large quarry. Highway 187 snakes around it on the south side of the dam. Wendy had me pose for a photo. There was one finished block embedded in the ground at the base of the quarry, and Beaver Lake was visible above the edges of the quarry as we gazed westward along the quarry’s old road. It turned out that the dump station we had parked at was at the end of that old quarry road.

Beaver Dam Quarry

The trail led up along the ridge on the east side of the quarry, with the land sloping off to the east and abruptly ending in the quarry’s edge to the west. We ended up climbing 100 feet to reach highway 187, where the trail faded out after reaching a gate. Lacking a map, I thought we might have missed a turn. So we backtracked down to the quarry, finding no side trails. So we trooped back up the hillside to the highway and crossed it, happily discovering a trail badge and arrow on a tree on the far south side. They need to put up signage on the north side of the highway to help newbies to this trail.

The Way Down Leads Back Up

Fan fungi

On the other side of the road, the trail made a steep 200 foot descent to reach its closest approach to the shores of Beaver Lake. The lake earns its name; we saw clear signs that beavers had downed and chewed a tree near the trail. We got a nice view of the lake below along with some tiny fan fungi which were growing on a log.

Bluffside trail

The trail turned and made a steep 90 foot climb to a bluff line, where some handy wood steps were built to allow us to ascend to walk alongside the bluff. Wendy posed for me, and we enjoyed passing by a small waterfall. I shot some video of it.

The trail has a number of benches, for which we were grateful given its propensity for steep climbs and dives. Along the 150 foot ascent from the bluff back up to highway 187, I relaxed on a bench, snapping a photo of a nearby dogwood bloom. Meanwhile, Wendy the rock hound scoured the area for geological finds. She laughed when she found a rock that had been slathered with some of the green paint from the bench. A branch farther along the trail had been slathered too, but its paint was lichen.

We reached the highway, where this time there was a nice large “Hiking Trail” sign on each side of the road, making it easy to spot this crossing.

Tree hole

The trail descended 230 feet on the opposite side of the ridge road, winding its way through the forest. We spotted a distinctive tree hole, and I liked the Dogwood blooms sprinkled across the forestscape.

We reached an old dirt road, which led back to the overlook area, with a gate marking the end of the trail loop. As we returned to the car, we could see the Sugar Ridge Resort perched across the lake. I used my superzoom camera to show our cabin to the right of the large unfinished Moon Stone Farm building atop the ridge.

Perseverance Pays Off

We enjoyed our hike, which gave us a good workout with its constant steep elevation changes. The steep hillsides made it seem longer than two miles, and admittedly our backtracking to the quarry stretched the hike to 2.6 miles. We also were both getting over colds, so we had hacked and coughed throughout our trek, blowing our noses regularly.

We weren’t hiked out yet; the next day we would have another great hike at Lake Leatherwood. More on that in the next post.

SLIDESHOW | PHOTO MOSAIC

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in day hike, photos, travel, video

 

The Super-Deluxe Home

April 9, 2016Meador Post

The clean-up of Meador Manor continues as we race toward the city’s annual Spring Clean-up and Operation Clean House. Our friends the Hendersons will be loaning us their pickup truck in a couple of weeks so that we can haul items to the Phillips 66 parking lot and the Washington County District 2 Barn where Operation Clean House will rid us of accumulated lawnmower oil, a gigantic old CRT computer monitor and old printer, and possibly an old dishwasher. We are grateful to the city, county, and several environmentally responsible companies for making this possible.

Goodwill

Goodwill lets us pay it forward

Then we plan to haul to Goodwill several huge bags of gently used clothes, valances, and bedding, along with various oddball items and unwanted small appliances. Wendy’s family benefited from thrift stores as she was growing up, and she sincerely believes in paying it forward.

The foyer is filling up with items to be donated or disposed of

The foyer is filling up with items to be donated or disposed of

The Super-Deluxe Home

A second closet has been cleared

A second closet has been cleared

Wendy opted to use two standard bedroom closets when she moves in, with me using the walk-in closet off the study for my things, a portable bed, and our luggage. So we cleared out one bedroom closet last weekend, and this weekend we cleared out the other one.

Legos I will pay forward

Legos I will pay forward

I had a bunch of Legos I wanted to pay forward, but Wendy did me a favor and let me work elsewhere while she gathered them up into a big bag for Goodwill and disposed of the old beat-up boxes. When I was very little, my parents got me hooked on building things with TOG’L Blocks. Later, my aunts had some old Legos, and they gave them to me after noticing how much I enjoyed playing with them. My parents augmented that with the 135 and 145 Lego sets, so I had perhaps 1,000 pieces which gave me countless hours of enjoyment. After bagging them up, Wendy came to me and asked, “Did you notice the instructions typed onto one of those boxes? Was it for some sort of game?” I had no idea what she was talking about.

So she brought to me what she had found taped inside one of the boxes: Building Specifications for The Super-Deluxe Home. It says a lot about me as a child that I had carefully typed out and taped to the box detailed requirements I had devised for a high-quality Lego house. The architects and contractors who have worked with me over the years on school additions will not be surprised at what follows:

My youthful specifications for The Super-Deluxe Home

My youthful specifications for The Super-Deluxe Home

The End of Analog

I'm disposing of all of my analog recordings

I’m disposing of all of my analog recordings

I’ve written at length before about the evolution from analog to digital storage. I had crammed all of my old phonograph records and cassette tapes into that bedroom closet. We junked the cassettes, along with the last two cassette players, and boxed up all of the vinyl records to give away. At school I have a selection of 78, 45, and 33 1/3 rpm records which I use with old phonographs to illustrate circular motion concepts to my physics students. But at home I will have no more analog sound recordings.

Wendy decided to repurpose the old stereo cabinet, which was also stored in that bedroom closet, for her crafts area in the study. We reworked a wall which once had shelves of paperback science fiction novels to now have the cabinet and deeper shelves. Wendy also is reworking some old cassette storage bins she found in the closet into storage bins for her paints.

She has a real knack for organizing things, and has convinced me to have drawers in another part of the house for commonly used tools, rather than having them stowed in an inconvenient tool box. Here is what her crafts look like when bundled up at her apartment:

Wendy's crafts bundled up at her apartment

Wendy’s crafts bundled up at her apartment

And here is how we’ve changed the scifi corner into a crafts area, although we may wind up shifting things to put her little desk there:

Decluttering the Big Closet

The walk-in closet off the study was cluttered with my clothes and some of the luggage. Before I tackled that closet, I visited Kmart to get a set of plastic drawers and three clear plastic bins, and we had already purchased a large blue plastic bin at Dollar General. The new set of drawers allowed me to gather my socks, various shoe items, and miscellaneous articles. I put that unit up on a side shelf, taking the place of an old plastic shelving unit that was overflowing with underwear. I took apart the old shelving unit, sawing down each of the legs to form two raised shelves I stuck in the built-in shelves at the rear of the closet to organize my casual socks and underclothes. I had some costumes and dress-up props in bags on one corner of the floor and jumbled on a long upper shelf. All of that got organized into the big blue bin. Wendy and I consolidated off-size pants and jeans from another closet into bins on the top shelf of this closet. We wrapped up by culling the clothes I no longer wear. Items that were too old or damaged were disposed of, while gently used items were bagged for donation to Goodwill. And lest some of you who click on the photos for a closer look be left wondering…no, that’s not Fluffy stowed on the top shelf of the closet; she’s in my classroom at BHS. That’s a different cat someone gave me years ago.

No Strut Tube Hangers!

When we were cleaning closets, Wendy professed her dislike for strut tube hangers, although she was infinitely more reasonable about it than Joan Crawford’s take on wire hangers as portrayed in Mommie Dearest. I’ve never been fond of them either, so we got rid of them. For decades I’ve been using open end hangers for my pants, along with some newer velvet hangers, but for far too long I have tolerated a bunch of open end hangers with little end caps that would fly off. It was time to fix that annoyance. So I ordered some new hangers that won’t shed parts and put the others into the donation pile.

Pants hangers, good and bad

Pants hangers, good and bad

The Hidden Hoard

The partners desk

The partners desk

The study has a 60″ x 50″ walnut partners desk my father gave me when I moved into Meador Manor. Over a quarter century later, it will actually become a partners desk, with Wendy and I each using one side of it. This big piece of furniture can hide many items, so for years I’ve had a hoard of bags, electronics, and file boxes of newspaper clippings hidden behind it and a big bin of electronics cables and parts stashed in the legwell. It was time to clean out that hidden hoard.

Wendy was amused by the electric typewriter behind the desk. I refused to part with it, although I did shed all of the other obsolete technology stowed back there. The newspaper clippings went as well, since I now rely on online sources. That freed up enough space that the big bin of electronics parts and cables could be shifted back there along with a few other items. Wendy plans to put a trash can back there for her side, since she does a lot of school paperwork at home. She also needs space for her printer and its supplies.

Other Stashes

Wendy and I also went through the foyer closet, piling unwanted coats into the donation pile and discarding a bunch of unused hats. Wendy has been gracious to spend days helping me clean up the house. We’ve cleaned four closets and a bank of cabinets and drawers and decluttered the study. The only spots left to deal with are the kitchen and a closet and a corner shelving unit in the garage; Wendy already organized another shelving unit out there. It looks like we’ll be ready for the April 23 hauling day, having sacrificed multiple weekends of good hiking days and foregoing visiting friends or watching movies. Hopefully we can hit the trails and visit friends in Tulsa during May before we have to move Wendy out of her apartment in June.

Wendy has already decluttered her apartment

Wendy has already decluttered her apartment

Wendy’s apartment is already decluttered; she is less of a hoarder than I am. Her philosophy on clothes is, “If I haven’t worn it in two years, it needs to go.” And I know she won’t have much trouble discarding her accumulated coffee creamer and coffee cans, even though she grew up in a family that never threw anything away. Wendy’s folks inherited their hoarding habits from their own parents, who had lived through the Great Depression. Although my mother was born during the Great Depression, she was too young to remember more than its aftermath, while my father was an impressionable young boy throughout those hard times. So the fact that I’m only one, rather than two, generations removed from that experience is my flimsy excuse for the mess we’ve had to clean up at the Manor. The Manor certainly isn’t yet Super-Deluxe, but we’re working on it.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2016 in photos, random

 

A Manor for Two Meadors

Meador Post
April 5, 2016

The Manor That Is Not

I’ve always referred to my abode in Bartlesville as Meador Manor, but the name is simply alliterative fun, since my property is hardly a manor. A typical English medieval manor estate was 1,500 acres or about two square miles; my quarter-acre lot in Arrowhead Acres is about six thousand times smaller. And my residence is about 1.4% the size of Highclere Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey on PBS. That’s why I’ve been able to manage it on my own for the past 21 years without the 42 servants that Highclere Castle had in its heyday. Mind you, while I run the vacuum cleaner now and then, I certainly don’t dust enough to meet the standards of an Edwardian manor house. The lack of a gardener is also evident in how I’ve only kept one bed of hardy shrubs, Nandinas, and striped grass alive out front, and my typical yardwork consists of little more than 40 minutes of pushing a mulching mower over the fescue and bermuda grass…and picking up after the big messy River Birch in the front yard.

That's Meador Manor, which would be a gatehouse at a real manor

That’s Meador Manor, which would be a gatehouse at a real manor

Yard Plantings

Tulips around the mailbox

Tulips around the mailbox

But in three months my bachelorhood will come to an end. Wendy has already started improving the back yard, which now has three rose bushes, including one in a raised bed we built. It is a certainty that she will be planting many more in the years to come. Last winter she planted tulips around the mailbox and by the porch, and they’ve been brightening things up around here. Recently she gave me a pot of marigolds to keep by the porch as well, knowing that while I love them, mosquitoes hate them.

New brushed nickel bathroom faucet

New brushed nickel bathroom faucet

Newfangled Faucets

But the yard is not the only part of the manor that is being improved. I’ve added some lights around the mirror and some additional cabinets in what will become her bathroom, and I’ve replaced the faucets for the bathroom and kitchen sinks with brushed nickel ones that don’t leak.

Clearing Closets

We've cleared out one closet thus far

We’ve cleared out one closet thus far

Lately we’ve been tackling the issue of clearing space for her clothes and other items. We’ve decluttered a wall of cabinets and drawers in the living room, which had already shed almost 400 CDs and DVDs a few years back in my digital downsizing project. This weekend we cleared out one of the two closets she will be using for her personal items.

Bequeathing Books

The biggest unloading has been the study, which was built as the master bedroom. We’ve decided to keep it as a study, since we both do a lot of work from home and she needs a place for her crafts. But my study was loaded, and I do mean loaded, with books. Years ago I mounted shelves on three of the four walls which held over 1,150 books with another 100 or so stored in a closet. A few years ago I sold off and donated almost 200 books in the digital downsizing project, but there were still far too many old books in there.

So we got a bunch of boxes and went to work. In the end, we packed up over 700 books into a couple dozen boxes that I dropped off today at the public library. I’m down to less than 350 books total, so I’ve culled almost 3/4 of the collection, and now most of it fits into the beautiful wood sectional bookcases my parents gave me a few years back. The shots below compare 2001 to today.

Since I prefer to read novels on a Kindle these days, I didn’t mind getting rid of almost all of them, including hundreds of science fiction tomes. A few dozen favorites survive, including all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels. I also rid myself of most of my histories on science, technology, and engineering, as I doubt I would ever feel the need to re-read them. But I kept everything by my heroes Stephen Jay Gould, Martin Gardner, and Carl Sagan, along with all of Bill Bryson‘s works, both hilarious and informative.

Computer desk with big books, Starfleet, and other toys

Computer desk with big books, Starfleet, and other toys

That Which Survives

My Star Trek book collection survives intact, and I used a couple of remaining shelves to house my fleet of U.S.S. Enterprises and other toys. If Wendy still had her Barbie collection, she says it would compete with my Enterprise fleet. All of the “picture books” with large plates of art and photography were kept, since the Kindle and its like don’t yet do such images justice. I also kept most of my books on music and movies as well as all the hiking and travel books. Some reference volumes, such as those on local history, were also retained.

Vanquished Valances

The color valances of the study when I moved in back in 1994

1981’s hideous valances in the study back in 1994 when I moved in

Years ago a visitor remarked that my home’s decor was “stuck in the 80s”. Meador Manor was built in 1981 at the tail end of an oil boom that went bust. The decor of the home still reflects its origins. It still has wall-to-wall carpet that looks like you blended an orange with some salmon. When I took over in the mid-1990s, every window had metal mini-blinds topped with valances. I like the blinds, and have steadily replaced them as they wore out with identical ones, except for substituting light-filtering cellular blinds in the study for consistent soft daylight. Most of the original valances were vivid floral patterns, which I thankfully replaced years ago with dark solids. But the bay window in the dining room has always sported a country blue balloon valance.

I had to work on that valance once while cleaning it, discovering that parts of it were stuffed with 1981 newspapers. The dining room decor had the most shortcomings of any room to Wendy. She doesn’t care for the wallpaper, hates balloon valances in general, and we agreed that the chandelier needed adjustment. This weekend we took down the old valance and disposed of it, and wired the chandelier up higher to provide more headroom. The narrow pub table will eventually be replaced by a larger round table. The new look is more severe, which the round table will relieve a bit, and there is a lot more north light coming in now.

We also took down a Spanish Revival wooden conquistador spoon decoration which gave Wendy the creeps.

The Creepy Conquistador

The Creepy Conquistador

Redecorating 

I don’t feel like I’ve changed the look of the Manor much over the years. When I repainted the exterior, I kept the color scheme the same, and on the interior I still have the original 1981 carpet, paint, and wallpaper. Many wall decorations have been in place for years. So is this place frozen in time? While scouring my computer for old photos for this post, I came across a set of 2001 inventory photos. I was surprised that more furnishings than I would have guessed had changed over the past 15 years; only a few major pieces are unchanged. Neither I nor my wallet were surprised to note that not a single piece of electronic technology is the same. The television, stereo, speakers, computer, monitor, printers, and scanner have all been replaced, and some are a few generations removed from what I used 15 years ago. So the Manor does evolve, and I’m looking forward to hanging on the walls some of Wendy’s art projects, which I admire, and I’m glad we’re clearing out the dust, cobwebs, and junk.

I’m clearly in the mood for change as I sneak up on my 50th birthday: I’ll be getting married and changing my job role in the coming years (more on the latter still to come). So cleaning up, clearing out, and updating the Manor, inside and out, is fine by me. Nothing lasts forever…and I’m very glad I’ll be sharing the Manor with Mrs. Meador in a few months.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2016 in books, gardening, home repair, photos, random

 

Return to Sparrow Hawk Mountain

Meador PostHike Date: February 21, 2016 | SLIDESHOW | PHOTO MOSAIC

On a sunny and warm Sunday afternoon in February 2016, Wendy and I decided to return to Sparrow Hawk Mountain near Tahlequah. We’d thoroughly enjoyed a five-mile hike there the previous April, and I was interested in exploring some of the side trail loops we had skipped on that initial outing, while Wendy was looking forward to a workout in the woods. The elevation changes on the trail certainly provided some exercise on what turned out to be a 3.8 mile hike.

Sparrow Hawk Mountain Trail Tracks

Before we had headed out to Tahlequah, Wendy and I checked that our state fishing licenses were in our packs, knowing that one can face a hefty fine for hiking at Sparrow Hawk Mountain without a fishing or hunting license or a wildlife conservation pass. In fact, a woman had run up to our car at the trailhead, having heard about the fines and asking for verification of the issue; she decided her group would forgo a hike since they lacked licenses. As it turned out, Wendy and I hiked on invalid licenses. I had presumed they were good for a year and would last until April 2016. But when I happened to pull out my license at a stop along the hike and actually read it, I was chagrined to discover that the licenses are for the calendar year only and had expired at the end of 2015. Thankfully no game wardens were present to fine us or the other hikers, many of whom may have similarly lacked valid licenses.

We drove 45 miles south to Tulsa for lunch at Spaghetti Warehouse before driving 47 miles east on US Route 412 and then 26 miles southeast on Oklahoma Highway 82 and through Steely Hollow over to Sparrow Hawk Mountain, which lies a few miles northeast of Tahlequah.

There were quite a few cars at the trailhead, and we climbed the initial steep ascent and regularly encountered fellow hikers throughout the hike, except on the side loops and on a bushwhack we made off one of those loops. Many were college students from Northeastern State University, including a very tall male basketball player escorting a rather short girl. I smiled, thinking how she would need to stand on her own shoulders to snatch a kiss from him. I’m grateful Wendy and I are not so mismatched in height.

Above the Illinois River

Binghams Trail

We reached the high spot above the Illinois where the trail heads north along the mountainside for great river views. Soon we reached the south entrance to Binghams Trail, a side loop constructed by Green Country Cyclists. It was a pleasant diversion and included an accurate mile marker sign.

Eventually it looped back to the main trail, not far south of the popular overlooks on the Illinois. Young lovers were out on the slopes down below the trail, enjoying the views and each other. Wendy and I had already descended down the bluffs back in April for the vistas, so we just stopped for a snack up on the main trail.

We headed on north, both of us suffering from strong allergies in the warm winter air. I even saw a fly and some gnats on the hike, unwelcome reminders that our mild winter means the insects will be out in force this spring. We eventually reached the entrance to the other major side trail, this one marked only by a couple of crossed limbs. So I’ve termed that loop the X Trail. Like Binghams Trail, it heads eastward along the top of the mountain before turning north and then returning west to the main trail.

X Trail

Wendy was enjoying hunting for pretty rocks with crystals throughout our hike, so when I spotted a large stony wash down below, we bushwhacked down to it in case some interesting rocks had washed down. While it wasn’t a lode of crystal rocks, the rocky bed of the dry hollow was interesting to traverse.

Down in the wash

Bushwhacking our way back up the hillside, we passed a violently ripped tree. Back on the trail, we came across a ROTC wayfinding marker, and I posed by a large tree trunk gall.

Such gall

The Illinois

It was warm enough and our allergies severe enough that I decided to not continue northward to Sparrow Hawk Village. We turned back along the main trail, I took a final shot of the Illinois, and we made a final diversion along a side route down to the trailhead. It had been great to be out and about, even with our drippy noses. It is a long haul at school between the winter and spring breaks, and Wendy and I are eagerly looking forward to getting away to Sugar Ridge Resort at Beaver Lake in Arkansas in the middle of March.

SLIDESHOW | PHOTO MOSAIC

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2016 in day hike, photos, travel

 

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.

Panorama

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

 

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.

SLIDESHOW | PHOTO MOSAIC

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

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

 
 
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