I last walked the Bugle Trail at Osage Hills State Park about three months ago and decided to spend a warm overcast Sunday afternoon blowing it up. By that I mean that I repeatedly strayed off the trail, taking roads and bushwhacks and unofficial trails to expand it, visiting a few places I’d never been before and finding a few recently cut alternate trails.
I parked near the park office and took the Tower Trail up the hill to the observation tower where I surveyed the empty picnic grounds, closed for the winter. I then deviated onto the old road along the park boundary heading straight north to the remains of the CCC camp, passing the husk of a tree and enjoying the fall colors before the rest of the leaves let go. At the CCC camp chimney I turned west rather than east and followed a gravel road around to the oil well and then bushwhacking from there past a small dry feeder fall over to the shore of Lookout Lake. As I bushwhacked along the western shore I passed a tree which had grown so it looked like its base had melted over the rocks and at another small feeder fall a tree looked like it was propping up the rock beds.
I bushwhacked my way along the southern shore over to the dam and followed the Lookout Lake road until I reached the pipeline right-of-way and followed it southwest and then bushwhacked up the ridge until I could see the various park buildings hidden on the private drive. I then bushwhacked down to the dry creek leading south from Lookout Lake through the big CCC stone culvert. I made my way over to the big culvert, walking through it and then posing to provide scale.
I then walked along the creek bed, winding past both ends of the bike trails and following the dryer-than-normal bed almost all of the way to Sand Creek itself. I then had to scramble my way up the steep muddy bank, fighting a nasty thorny vine which left several souvenir cuts on my right hand. I was very glad to finally make it up to the flat field near the bike trails and found a new dirt trail which led from behind the metal building over to the previously known “wrong way” trail leading down the east bank of a side creek toward Sand Creek itself. It was clear some bikes had been taking this new cutoff.
I followed the dry creek bed down to the park’s “other bluffs”, lying along the north shore of Sand Creek where it makes its sharp bend. Then I returned to the regular Lake Trail and followed it south onto the Cabin Trail. As I passed the lagoon I was surprised to see another new dirt trail to the west, paralleling the regular trail southward. This trail would eventually cross the real one and I followed it, recognizing this portion as a bushwhacking trail I’d discovered previously that led into the picnic area north of the pool. I’m not sure why these trails have been cleared for easy passage, but I welcomed the variation.
Nature called as I walked through the picnic area. Since the new restrooms were closed for the season, I crossed the road to the big old CCC restroom with its huge rock overhangs, now sadly stripped and abandoned. After marking my territory I took the Falls Trail down to the dried-out main falls area and then climbed up the Cabin Trail, passing the lovely stone stairs leading upward to the cabins. I crossed over to the Creek Trail and was glad the overcast briefly parted for a sliver of blue sky as I made my way to the main bluffs on Sand Creek.
I stretched out, doffed my Tilley hat, and enjoyed my snacks, assessing the minor damage from my earlier bushwhack and admiring the creek. Then I bushwhacked across a side creek over to the Creek Trail Loop, following it clockwise and enjoying the peaceful solitude of the trees sprouting from the yellowed groundcover. When the trail began to head east, I bushwhacked my way north up the side of the ridge to the big boulders I recalled along the upper edge from an earlier struggle through this undeveloped portion of the park. From the top I could look out westward across the valley carved by Sand Creek and see a neighboring cattle operation.
I struggled eastward along the park’s fence line, looking mournfully across the barbed wire at the easy going on the neighboring property’s fenceline path. But I resisted the temptation to cross for most of the way, even negotiating a steep dropoff, but took a brief excursion across the wire for a bit when the going got too tough. Back on the proper side I finally reached a large fire ring and knew I must be approaching the camping area. I was finally rewarded for my bushwhacks by spotting some deer across the line, with one pausing to stare me down.
I returned to the car, having hiked 6.7 miles and satisfied that I’d blown out the Bugle Trail far enough. This bushwhacker was more than ready for a hot shower!