The first day of winter found me returning to southern Oklahoma to begin a series of day hikes away from home. But first my faithful Camry, Princess, needed some maintenance. My ongoing series of day hikes has not only had me walking far more than before, but doubling the miles I drive each week. So after only three months it was already time to have the tires rotated and the oil changed. I dropped Princess off with Tate Boys and walked about 2000 feet along Washington Boulevard on a cold foggy morning for breakfast at Eggbert’s. The car was ready when I returned, and just down the Boulevard I stopped in at Master Lube. Finally Princess and I were ready for our trip to Lake Wister in southeastern Oklahoma. By the time I reached Poteau I was ready for lunch, so I stopped in for the buffet at Mazzio’s and then drove over to the lake.
Lake Wister is located in the San Bois Mountains on the Poteau River — the only river that flows north in Oklahoma. The dam’s control house proclaimed it was built in 1948. The park has fallen on hard times, so while the Quarry Island area out in the lake is still maintained, on my 6.8 mile hike I would soon discover that the camping and picnic Area 2 on the lake’s north shore was locked off and abandoned, while nearby Wards Landing is closed until next March and showing clear signs of neglect.
I parked by the cabins just north of the dam and walked into the cabin office, asking the lady manning it how to find the trail I knew should run along the north shore from the dam all the way over to Wards Landing. She hesitated and said there was a trail of indeterminate length at the end of the cabin road, but due to funding problems they had not been maintaining it and thus did not call attention to it anymore. I told her I’d go try it out and thanked her.
I found a damaged trailhead and wound my way down to the lake shore below the dam. The faint trail quickly faded into a shoreline covered in debris and detritus. Struggling along the rugged shore, I made my way over to a pumping installation. Climbing up to it, I found the road leading to it was part of an old road bed that led on westward. This abandoned road bed was clearly the first section of the old trail. After clambering along the rocky rugged shore, even an overgrown faint trail was a welcome sight.
At a clearing I shot a panorama of the lake, and later I could see the west point of Quarry Island across the gleaming water. The road bed was making a straight shot westward along the lake’s north shore for over a mile, with a rugged bluff above me to one side, shot through from time to time by rocky stream beds. Soon I was passing Quarry Island, wondering if the trail would ever show any variety.
Finally it began leading away from the lake shore into the woods, my path marked by fading blue and white blazes on the trees. The trail reached the park road, which featured an old bridge of railroad ties across the stream which had formed the long inlet I’d been paralleling. I crossed its rough surface and then returned to the trail, discovering an old sign with a trail map.
The trail suddenly crashed into a rocky ridge mound and faded away. I ascended to discover Area 2 on the other side. My first site was a moss-covered picnic table. Clearly this site had been closed for some time, although the large shelter was in good repair. I found a surviving trail sign which pointed to an even more disused section of trail leading on westward to Wards Landing.
There I found a pretty inlet and some tiny shells. But the paved handicapped-accessible loop of the Lone Star Nature Trail was a sad story of neglect, with only a few legible signs. Fittingly, across from a weathered sign about wildlife shelters was a tree with a prominent hole.
By 3:30 pm the light was fading on this shortest day of the year, so I began the return journey. I liked how a stone in the trail bed had been transformed into a white trail blaze. My retracing of the path was uneventful, with the lowering sun cutting through the cloud deck. This time I followed the old road bed all the way past the cabins back to my car.
At this time of year and in its abandoned state, I was not surprised that I had not encountered any other hikers all afternoon. The trail is still quite passable, although at one spot the old road bed is washing away and a downed tree blocked the trail completely at one point, requiring a brief bushwhack around it. But a few more years of neglect will make this trail much more difficult to traverse. Unfortunately it is likely that our legislature will continue to allow state services and infrastructure to crumble due to budget shortfalls even as it allows a ridiculous growth law (our state’s income “grew” a bit this year, even though it is far below historical levels) to further cut revenue from income taxes.
I zipped westward to Krebs, where I had a cheap dinner at Sonic. What a contrast to the big Italian family-style dinner Carrie and I had enjoyed the night before a few blocks west at Pete’s Place! But I wasn’t very hungry and just wanted enough fuel to get me through a night of photo editing and blogging in my room at the Days Inn & Suites in McAlester.
For this trip I brought my MacBook Air instead of the Asus Eee PC netbook I’d used on past overnight trips. I decided to do everything with native Mac apps, so I downloaded a trial version of Photoshop Elements 9 for the Mac as well as the Mac versions of Google Earth and the Flickr Uploader. It all worked fine and was a superior editing experience over the netbook with the Mac’s improved screen, keyboard, and storage speed. I did notice that the Air’s inferior processor caused the Auto Smart Fix in Photoshop Elements to run slower than on my Windows 7 desktop machine at home, but the annoyance was minimal.
Tomorrow I head back eastward 40 miles to Robbers Cave State Park to spend the day on the Coon Ridge and Mountain Trails, having hiked the other trails there a few weeks back.