An Afternoon at Okmulgee Lake

Okmulgee Lake (click image for slideshow)

I was awakened by a small earthquake early this morning, with it rattling the chest of drawers beside my bed. I did not feel anything more until I was writing this post late that night, with an aftershock making my computer desk wiggle about. But those weren’t the highlights of my day.

It was another autumn weekend, so another day hike was in store for me. But first came lunch in Broken Arrow with old friends. After we parted I drove an hour south from there on US 75 to the Oak Leaf Trail at Okmulgee Lake, built by the city in 1926 for a water supply. Okmulgee has been the capital of the Muscogee (Creek) Indian Nation since the Civil War after the tribe was forced from its homelands east of the Mississippi River. My drive home through downtown Okmulgee showed it was once a thriving city, but is suffering greatly with a high poverty rate and many closed buildings. I see that its population dwindled five percent in the past decade.

But the lake is nice and while my entire trek today only amounted to 3.5 miles, the trail had some nice big steps here and there carved and placed by CCC boys. I parked at the trailhead and descended a long curving flight of steps to the lake shore. It hardly seemed like a real hike since I did not carry my pack nor poles and was wearing tennis shoes. But the trail did not disappoint, winding through huge boulders amidst fall colors alongside the lake shore. I found a side trail which led up the slope and across the road, taking me through the woods to a glimpse of the lake from higher up.

The trail descended and I followed a road over to the Blackjack Area, crossing a stream and then finding another trail segment leading up to the top of a long bluff. I clambered down for a self-portrait against the rocks and could see the scenic overlook ahead. The view was good and I took a couple of semi-neglected high trails over to the Red Oak Area, climbing up to a shelter where a fat squirrel kept an eye on me as I admired the setting with its colorful trees.

Returning on the main trail I found steps and a steep trail leading up to the overlook, where a father and his children were exploring. I reached the overhang and spotted him stepping over to the edge above me, scanning about. He told the children he heard an animal rustling about below, but could not see it. Well, I was that animal and decided to stay out of sight. They moved on and I clambered on up. Soon I found a companion trail leading back down to the main trail and backtracked under a gloomy sky toward the trailhead with trees bending overhead.

I drove over to the adjacent Dripping Springs Lake, but it was not at all photogenic and I returned to the first lake, spying some fishermen out on the water. Back at the overlook I awaited the sunset, but then a teenage couple pulled up and, while they were polite and stayed at a distance, I knew they needed that sunset spot more than I did. So I abandoned my post and noticed that as soon as I was dropping out of sight along the trail they made a beeline for the overlook. I’m sure they were grateful that old guy in the hat was leaving them to their business.

Down by the shore I caught a tree enjoying the golden hour and the shore was bathed in the light. As I walked about looking for a view, I started a huge blue heron but of course didn’t have the camera ready. As the sun set over the lake, the fishermen hove into view and then buzzed away as the sun sank from sight.

Click here for a slideshow from this day hike

About Granger Meador

I enjoy day hikes, photography, podcasts, reading, web design, and technology. My wife Wendy and I work in the Bartlesville Public Schools in northeast Oklahoma, but this blog is outside the scope of our employment.
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