Today I hiked my last new trail at Elk City Lake, the Timber Ridge trail west of the lake at the Card Creek area. The 2.3 mile trail loops along a north-south ridge and offers views westward over Card Creek, which feeds into the Elk River. You can see my previous route along the Elk River Trail in my Google Earth map of today’s hike.
The trees were still bare and this hike offered only a few short bluffs compared to the long chain of impressive bluffs along the Elk River Trail. I did spot one unusual rock shaped like a scoop, and posed in group of trees where the blue trail blaze was evident. Eventually the trail wound around to a high rocky observation point providing a panoramic view of Card Creek. Turkey vultures flew by from time to time across a cloudy sky punctuated with the occasional sunburst.
The trail was too short to satisfy my hiking urge for the day, so I drove around to the east side of the lake, hoping to hike part of the Table Mound Trail, but the Scenic Overlook was gated off and I didn’t feel like paying a day use fee to hike for an hour or so at the open campground. So I drove over to Independence, KS to revisit my childhood.
My family spent Thanksgiving in Independence most years and made regular visits to relatives there. So in the late 1960s and early 1970s I often visited the Ralph Mitchell Zoo at Riverside Park in Independence. My strongest memories were of the lion statues at the park entrances, how the adjoining cemetery had a stone fence that seemed to go on forever, and climbing up and down steep steps into a hollow where they had cages built into the sides of the hollow with big cats and other large mammals.
I’ve visited the zoo a couple of times since I moved to Bartlesville in 1989, and today I relocated most of the memorable childhood elements. It was a bit depressing, however, since the Zoo is not the thriving establishment it was back in my youth. Back in the day it had lions, leopards, pumas, and crocodiles when meat was a cheap food source and there few federal restrictions. Today it has mainly small animals, many of which are grazers. The park’s depression-era lion statues are still there and, like the buffalo statues around Bartlesville, have anatomically correct testicles if you view them from the wrong end. I was discreet and shot the mane end instead and drove over to the zoo.
There I found good old Santa Fe Engine Number 1050 and Monkey Island. The island was the birthplace in 1952 of Miss Able, a rhesus monkey who in 1959 was shot 300 miles into space on the nose of a Jupiter rocket at a speed of 10,000 miles per hour. But in my youth the island had spider monkeys and these days capuchins roam the 1932 castle and lounge in its windows. The moat featured a swan which eagerly swam after me hoping in vain for a treat.
A nearby pond had a fountain with swans and African geese. There were a few other animals on display, including a sad little donkey. But when I strode down the trail into the hollow I found its cages, heavily reworked years ago, sitting vacant. And at the end of the hollow I found those steep stone steps leading up into Kiddy Land. They were steep even for my adult legs – no wonder they stuck in my memory as a little boy.
Now that I’ve completed all of the hiking trails at Elk City I will be back on the prowl for new trails to traverse. In a couple of months school will be out and I expect I’ll be spending a week in Arkansas on that quest, although before then I may try for a day hike at Greenleaf State Park near Muskogee, which is only a two hour drive from home and has an Ankle Express Trail that sounds promising.