Woke up in the Idabel Microtel to find a depressingly bland continental breakfast which sent me off to McDonald’s for their largest breakfast platter, most of which was edible. The large breakfast was to carry me through my morning hike at Cedar Lake up in the Ouachita National Forest. I drove north out of Idabel and up through the Kiamichi Mountains, winding my way down them to re-enter the forest and then drive a couple of miles west to Cedar Lake.
I remembered camping here over twenty years ago. Back then my friend Jeff Silver and I were visiting out of season and pretty much had the place to ourselves. It seemed quite lonely and isolated. Visiting over Labor Day weekend it had plenty of campers, swimmers, and fisherfolk both on the shore and puttering about in small fishing boats. I paid my day use fee and parked around 11 am on this Sunday morning by a shelter which had a congregation of Mennonites. As young ladies in long dresses strode by I changed into my hiking boots and annointed myself. Having no oil handy, I made do with Deep Woods Off.
Heading south to follow the three-mile CCC trail clockwise around the lake, I rapidly encountered the Old Pine Trail (or Old Piney Trail, as one sign put it). It meandered up around a feeder stream and featured interpretive signs I found quite boring and subsequently ignored. A tiny toad and I bounded along the stream and then I was back on the main trail, headed up one of the several arms of the lake. Each arm features a footbridge, and I enjoyed the picturesque views back toward the lake from the southern and northwestern arms. The trail eventually crosses along the top of the dam on the north end of the lake, and I snapped a shot of a boy fishing from a nearby dock.
After a brief clean-up and fresh shirt, I drove on north to Poteau. Today turned out to be a chain restaurant day, with me opting for the Mazzio’s, where the server was fascinated by my Kindle. He said it was much smaller than the one a local veterinarian brings in, so I suppose the vet has a Kindle DX.
I then drove west to the Sans Bois Mountains and good old Robbers Cave. I knew it would be hot work clambering around the rocks, but hoped to get some good shots. The view from the ground was quite familiar, and I enjoyed scrambling into the lower “cave” with its double entrance and back exit. Young folks were rock climbing at various spots, but I felt I did enough climbing taking on the old CCC trail which the signs said was now “nearly impassable.” The fault was a slide that nearly blocked one section, but I was able to crawl my way through. I revisited the “stone corral” where the outlaws kept their horses and found one strapping young fellow and his girlfriend rapelling down into the corral even though there were no horses to steal.
After visiting the real cave, which isn’t very large, I clambered on upward off the trail and couldn’t resist using the photo timer to get a shot of me with something big hanging over my head. Atop the formation I found a striking graffito and enjoyed the view. To gather all my shots, I actually clambered clear around the formation about three times so I could make sure I saw all the sights along the old CCC trail, the kinder and gentler rim trail, and off trail to boot. At one point I was atop the “Devil’s Slide” – which is truly steep from above, and was startled to see a young boy slowly inching his way down the slide. I kept waiting for him to tumble and crash, but he made it safely with nary a parent in sight. So he is still convinced that he is indestructible.
After clambering around the steep rocks for a couple of hours in 87 degree weather, I was tuckered out and happily wiped off and put on a fresh shirt for the drive home. I chose to cross Lake Eufala, which was the big flat boating zone I remembered it to be. I pulled off in Muskogee for a Weight Watchers meal at their Applebee’s, where the waitress was also fascinated by my Kindle. I’ve had servers across the country asking about my Kindle and saying they want to buy one. If I were a better salesman I’d sell them one from the table and earn a commission on my Amazon Associate’s account!
It was then a speedy run from Muskogee back home. Labor Day beckons.
There is a slideshow of the photos from this day hike.
Here is the route of this two-day trip.