Having recovered from a bout of sinusitis, two weeks of computer upgrades, and shopping on Black Friday, it was high time to head out for yet another day hike. I’ve gone nuts this fall, taking one day hike after another across the region:
September 5: Beavers Bend
September 6: Cedar Lake and Robbers Cave
September 19: Oxley Nature Center
September 26: Lake Oologah, Foyil, Claremore, & Turkey Mountain
October 3: Roaring River
October 10: Turkey Mountain
October 17: Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge
October 18: Walnut Creek & Skiatook Lake
October 24: White Rock Mountain
October 31: Oxley Nature Center & Red Bud Valley
November 1: Osage Hills
November 7: Big Sugar Creek & Tanyard Creek
November 28: Spy Rock
And that’s neglecting several walks of three to six miles along Bartlesville’s own Pathfinder Parkway. As you can see, the latest outing was to Spy Rock, a return to the Ozark National Forest in northwest Arkansas. Spy Rock is roughly 12 miles due east of White Rock Mountain, where I hiked about a month ago. This hike, the Redding Loop Trail with a side trip to Spy Rock, is not featured in my Hiking Arkansas book – I’d found it on Ouchitamaps.com instead.
I got up at 6 am and drove to the QuikTrip for a sausage-and-egg sandwich and to pick up a sandwich for lunch, since I knew today’s hike would take over four hours and I wouldn’t want to be hiking in the late afternoon, since the sun now sets well before 6 pm. Then I launched back down US 75, the Muskogee Turnpike, and I-40 to the Ozarks. No dirt roads this time – it was pavement all the way to the Redding Campground, parking next to the Mulberry River and starting my hike at 10:30 am.
After a pleasant stroll through the pine trees, the east side of the loop trail quickly ascended into a denuded deciduous forest to offer views of Bowden Hollow down below and the Spy Rock formation across the way. Peering across the hollow at the projecting rocky spine, I knew that would be the perfect place for lunch.
On a forest road I passed by a hunter and once again thought how I might want to put an orange band around my Tilley hat for this kind of day hike. Wildlife Management Areas attract hunters, of course, and I sometimes wonder if they think I’ll taste like chicken. It was only late in the hike that I myself spotted any game – two white-tailed deer who bobbed away down near the campground. I have no idea if they’re in season or not, but I did not try to shoot them with my Lumix camera. During my entire hike, I would only encounter one other fellow besides the hunter: another solitary hiker whom I presume was coming down from Spy Rock. I say that since he lacked the backpack one would associate with the nearby Ozark Highlands Trail, which wanders about 180 miles across northwest Arkansas. I’ve never felt tempted to go on a true backpacking trip, although I did enjoy Bill Bryson’s hilarious A Walk in the Woods about the famous, and far longer, Appalachian Trail. I’d much rather limit a hike to the daylight hours and follow it up with a nice restaurant meal and a cozy bed!
It was 3.8 miles from the campground out to the edge of Spy Rock, which afforded a nice panoramic view of the Bowden and Spy Rock hollows (shouldn’t it really be hollers?) down below. I was delighted by how my new camera made it easy to properly line up a sequence of shots to stitch together later. I was more than ready to sit down on the edge and enjoy my sandwich. I passed a somewhat unhappy looking dead tree on my way back to the Loop Trail, and began to wonder if there would be anything interesting to see on my return trip to the campground. There were some small rewards on the return: two tiny trickling waterfalls. The trail ran right across the top of one, taking you across the thin lip of rock over which the water tumbled.
My sinusitis had kept me from aerobics for over a week, and I could feel the effects today from too little exercise. From mile seven onward my feet truly ached in my boots and I was getting more clumsy, stumbling over the rocks hidden down amongst the leaves along the rocky trail. So I was truly grateful when the pine trees returned, covering the trail in soft needles. Back at the campground around 3 pm, I plopped down by the Mulberry River, briefly considering soaking my feet. But I quickly decided that the water’s cold sting was not what I needed. Instead, I zipped back to Tulsa for a delicious dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse.
The weather will turn much colder soon, and this will be my last long trip this year for a day hike. The greenery has retreated before winter’s approach, and after over thirty trails spread out over 14 days of hiking, I’m tired of long drives and will stay closer to home. But I’m sure I’ll still find some time for the Pathfinder and Osage Hills – a good long walk is something I won’t pass up for too long.