Rough Canyon Reflections

Lake Carlton (click image for slideshow)

A year ago I first hiked Rough Canyon at Robbers Cave and opted to return after being confined to the Pathfinder Parkway by rain the previous two weekends. I reached the cave area by 10:45 a.m. and opted to reverse my prior route, heading toward the canyon alongside Wicked Fork Creek (Fourche Maline). Soon I was climbing the hillside, following the blue blazes until I reached the tiny canyon. I clambered down by a small waterfall for lunch on a moss-covered slab, enjoying the peaceful surroundings after a hectic week of meetings and much guided study at school.

Then I ventured on along the side of the canyon, pausing now and then to clamber down for a better view of the creek bed. Tumbled boulders earned the little canyon its name and I was even glad for the recent rains since they had nourished the pools. I stopped for a self-portrait and found a leaf bowl in the stream, passing more beauty spots and then reaching higher side walls which prompted me to shoot a panorama and note the reflections.

I soon reached the junction with the Cattail Pond Trail and took that loop. The pond was still and quiet. I found the trail turn just past the dam was still overgrown and hard to locate; one had to keep a sharp eye out for the double blue blazes. As I approached the canyon I bushwhacked a bit, as I did the last time I was on this part of the loop, finally returning to ford the creek atop a stone slab.

I looped myself on the Rough Canyon Trail for a bit and then followed the blue blazes past the Cattail Pond turnoff I’d taken previously to head onward to Lost Lake. As happened a year ago, a great blue heron flapped away as I approached, with me unable to capture it in my camera.

It wasn’t long before I was back at the cave area, which for once had few visitors milling about. I took a shot of a tree or two or three rising amidst the stones. As I passed the Devil’s Slide I saw a family negotiating the challenge. Better them than me!

I’d hiked 5.5 miles and still had a few hours of daylight left. So I drove to the other end of the park so I could hike up the mountain trail from the Deep Ford camping area northwards to Lake Carlton. After ascending the mountainside the mountain trail turns right but a road, marked with a blaze of a white ring and orange dots encircling a tree, led left. I decided to take the road less travelled and found it soon curved and made a beeline for the park boundary. When it reached the barbed wire fence it turned north and paralleled the boundary down into a ravine. On the other side the road was gone, but the blazes continued. So I struggled up the hillside, pausing repeatedly to locate the next blaze and head for it.

It was a steep climb to the crest of the mountain and there were stone formations which resembled little building foundations. I was now much higher than the other side of the Fourche Maline valley, but the trees only provided a filtered view. I came across what more resembled a walking club than a walking stick, propped up against one blazed tree. I could see Lake Carlton below and, glancing at my watch, decided it was time to head back. Rather than repeat my course I decided I’d bushwhack down the steep mountainside until I reached the park’s mountain trail somewhere below me. The next time I visit the park I need to stop in and get a bridle trail map so I can continue my explorations. I wish they’d post the darn things online…maybe I can find one someone has posted.

The descent was fun although made more difficult since I’d abandoned my trekking poles after carrying them, but not using them, on the first long hike. I hoped I would not encounter any bad bluffs and there was only one spot where the leaf-covered hillside was so steep I had to just plant my butt down and slide. Some briers caught my left hand a bit, but the slide was successful. When I got home I noticed my jeans gave evidence of my supine hiking method and required some extra scrubbing.

I finally found the mountain trail running along the lake shore and returned southward. The reflections on the lake were gorgeous, particularly with the curving invisible dam over which the water flows. Across the way a campsite was being flipped over and duplicated. I walked around the inlet for the southwest ravine I’d crossed earlier on the boundary trail, startling a murder of crows who complained loudly as I noted how the reflections of the trees were more beautiful than the trees themselves. I wanted to dive into that beautiful world below.

The park restaurant was doubled by the calm clear lake and the trail led down to the dam, which was creating a huge perfect mirror. The last time I saw such startling reflections was at Crater Lake in Oregon back in 2006, so I was very glad I had made this outing. I wrapped up the 2.7 mile loop and set course for dinner in McAlester.

Although it was tempting to stop at Pete’s Place in Krebs for an Italian meal, I knew the immense portions meant leftovers I could not take with me. So I dined at the Patrón Mexican Grill, seated by a disrobing woman who refused to look at me. The moon was low in the sky and deep orange as I left town but my attempt to zoom in only yielded a blurry image.

As I passed through Tulsa I saw huge columns of vapor rising from the refineries on both sides of the highway, prompting me to drive over to Southwest Boulevard and walk out on the 11th Street Bridge platform to view the vapors, which reminded me of the pits of Isengard. HollyFrontier now owns what were once the Sunoco and Sinclair refineries and I drove over to the Sinclair for a better view of its flare, for which my video cannot do justice.

Winter Break arrives in a week-and-a-half, and I’m hopeful the weather will allow me to hike at Tom Steed Reservoir in the Wichita Mountains. I’d like to get 16 miles in before New Year’s so I can again break the 300 mile mark in day hikes for this calendar year.

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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