December 22, 2009I’m no mountain biker, but when I discovered the biking trails at Osage Hills State Park on Sunday I knew I’d be back to hike them on foot as soon as possible. The next Tuesday afternoon of winter break was overcast but in the 50s, so I scurried back to the park for my first day hike of the winter.
I’d done my research beforehand, downloading a helpful map of the trails from a blog post at Randall Cramer’s Adventure Bicycle of Bartlesville website. He had sketched out the trails he found there four years ago and I decided I’d shoot for a hike of about six miles by taking the outer red loop and then the inner blue loop. On this hike I knew I’d run my iPhone’s MotionX GPS application so I could track my hike, since the signage on the bike trails was said to be sparse.
I drove to the park’s old stone shop, peeking through one barred window to see some metal tables and a big concrete slab where some electrical machinery once resided. Then I set out on the red loop, shown as loop 1 on this map of my hike. It hugged a north boundary of the park, with the barbed wire fence and “no hunting” signs visible to my left most of the way. I’d traded the red circles of the Osage Trail for the smaller red squares occasionally marking this bike trail. After climbing across waterways it turned south at the park’s northeast corner and climbed to a high open meadow. There I saw trampled grass and a bare patch resembling a buffalo wallow. There were no biting flies this time of year, so I didn’t need to wallow there myself.
Soon the trail wound along a rocky ridge coated with moss and lichens, where I took a self-portrait. I heard faint shouts in the distance, so I figured some actual mountain bikers had hit the trail. They never got close enough for me to see them, although I would hear them again when I took the inner blue loop, and spotted their vehicle with its empty bike rack when I finally returned to the trailhead at the conclusion of my three-hour 6.15 mile hike.
The red trail drifted south to cross the head of a deep ravine, where I paused for a snack and a drink and clambered down below for a shot. Later I realized I was high up on the same ravine that down below held the small rock grotto pool I’d photographed two days earlier along the Osage Trail.
Not too much farther I ran into a trail intersection at the far southeast corner of the park, and realized I was back at the Osage Trail where I’d met the hiking family with the Great Dane two days earlier. Although tempted to dash south to Camp McClintock, to capture that unmapped route on my GPS, the overcast was deepening. Besides, my map showed I’d hit private land not much farther along the Osage Trail. So I turned north to follow the Osage Trail back to the lower grotto pool, where I struggled to locate the proposed branching bike trail shown on Cramer’s map. It did not exist – I guess it was never built.
So I went farther west on the Osage Trail until I knew I’d be somewhat close to the inner blue bike loop and tramped uphill overland until I ran across it. It eventually broke off northeast and I began what I’ve shown as loop 2 on my map. I soon encountered a small eroded rock bluff and followed the trail as it snaked along inside the unseen red loop. The blue loop reached the same high meadow I’d seen before, but ran much farther across it, winding nicely through the grass. Then it descended back to the Osage Trail and I took yet another route, shown as 3 on my map, back to the stone building and my vehicle.
I thoroughly enjoyed today’s hike, despite the overcast and the lack of significant scenery. Here’s a shot of my hike in Google Earth, and while I’ve exhausted the official trails at Osage Hills, that mapping service shows what might be a dim trail around the north edge of Lookout Lake which begs exploration. Maybe I can add some more to my own map of the park. Happy trails!
UPDATE: Over the years I’ve mapped all of the trails at Osage Hills.