My colleague Betty Henderson wanted to go for a day hike while her husband was also enjoying the fall weather on his treasured mule – she, like me, is no rider. So we headed to Oologah Lake. Two years ago I tried to hike to what I thought was Kite Hill along the first part of the Will Rogers Centennial Trail, but was turned away by a morass of churned mud at the entrance to this equestrian trail. Recently the award-winning Bartlesville-area conservationist Phil Lorenz contacted me via email and shared that one could avoid the muddy start of the trail by parking off a nearby road. It seemed like a great time to try out his suggestion.
We parked in the spot Phil had pointed out on a map beside a car with an environmental tag and headed north along an old road straight toward Kight Hill. I had wondered why a fully forested hill would be called Kite Hill as it surely was a terrible place to go fly a kite. Well, I found out later it is actually Tom Kight Hill, named after the founder of Oklahoma Military Academy in nearby Claremore, which is now Rogers State University.
Soon we encountered a fellow I recognized from internet photos as Phil Lorenz himself, hiking along at age 91. We introduced ourselves and Phil kindly said he might show me some caves near Osage Hills in a few weeks. Then Betty and I headed on for about a mile, passing flowers and the goldenrod along the bedecked pathway toward Kight Hill, which projects out into Oologah Lake and in high water can become an island. It has been far too dry to worry about that problem.
We ascended the hill and took a side trail over to the east shore, then followed a trail marked “5” on around the south side. A side trail from it descended to the shore, where the dried mud had cracked into stonelike slabs. Back on the trail we heard voices and spied a couple out enjoying the lake with a powerboat and jet ski. The trail turned back around and we began to regret that both of us had completely forgotten to bring along any water. Our trail “5” later intersected a trail “3” and we took it since it was leading back to the entry, but then the evil trail turned back and made a big S shape leading up around the upper ridge of the hill.
Betty was becoming quite parched but still pointed out a small patch of fall color across the way. The lack of autumnal hues here was in sharp contrast to what I saw in Arkansas last week. Betty posed by a large tree up top which had decided to mostly branch out in one direction.
Increasingly dry and exasperated, we broke through dozens of large spider webs. Only once did I get one of the arachnids on me, and Betty was kind enough shoot a video of my surefire spider removal technique.
We passed a tree with a small pool of water in its open base but despite our thirst were not tempted to partake. We reached a large campsite on top of the bluff on the island’s southeast corner, but saw no way down to our vehicle. So we reluctantly tramped on westward. Up here there were nice views of the lake shore through the trees.
Betty correctly insisted we turn about, despite my petulant reluctance to backtrack, and I finally spotted a trail making a steep descent. Despite her dehydrated state she made good use of trekking poles on the way down the treacherous slope. Thank goodness we brought those even as we foolishly forgot our water – a lesson learned for future outings.
Our wandering about the hill over 5.5 miles made us a bit late for an evening engagement to meet Betty’s husband, who had spent the day astride his mule in far greater comfort. We all joined some friends for dinner and a movie, and the expedition to Kight Hill was great fodder for laughs as they pictured us panting about on a hill surrounded on three sides by untold millions of gallons of water.