June 2, 2012
The second Saturday of my summer break sustained cooler weather which attracted me back to Osage Hills State Park for a long walk. I turned in at the bike trails area, surprised to see ribbons and signs for “Tour de Dirt” but no vehicles. Evidently some sort of biking event had occurred or was forthcoming, but was not yet in full swing.
I set off down the red loop and a snake, which had been sunning itself in the creek, darted away as I approached. I found that the event organizers had put up tape to direct bikers around the red loop. Recent rains had left a few tiny pools on the creek beds I needed to ford and I passed the large conglomeration I call Turtle Rock. Higher up the hill the creek bed had more pools.
Suddenly several mountain bikers looped past me. I’d see far more bikers on this day in the park than ever before, each of them unfailingly polite in letting me know they were coming and thanking me for clearing out of their way. It turns out the actual racing portion of Tour de Dirt would be the next day, Sunday, so I suppose they were familiarizing themselves with the course.
The few flowers I saw were mostly wild petunias. I reached the Osage Trail and decided to head south a ways towards Camp McClintock, wondering if the park boundary was still unmarked. A few hundred feet from the trail intersection I spied a new sign demarcating the boundary and forbidding any but Boy Scouts from proceeding. I like the Scout slogan of Do a good turn daily, but I’m certainly no Boy Scout. So I dutifully turned around and returned to the red loop, discovering that the race organizers had installed a new ramp on the most treacherous portion of the trail.
Not surprisingly there were more pools near The Grotto, although the falls were not running. The trail led onward and I found that the race course diverted to follow part of the blue loop. I trekked onward to the creek and crossed the prairie, noting that the “social trail” shortcut to the tower trail was part of the racecourse. It was beginning to dawn on me that several of the odd trails I’ve noted at the park, sometimes providing shortcuts and other times paralleling the hiking trails, are all part of a mountain bike racecourse used for this event. Just when you think you know everything about a park’s trail system, you learn something new.
I walked to the park office area and bought a Coke by the restroom, then followed the trails to the picnic area which was filled with vehicles of the mountain bikers. I paused to swing for a bit in the unoccupied playground and then walked by the pool, which was helping cool off some of the more portly park guests. I walked down to the Sand Creek waterfalls, where an odd splash caught my eye. My waterproof boots allowed me to walk out into the stream to find the rocks responsible for it. The rope swing over Sand Creek awaited users.
I walked over to the cliffs, finding people jumping off from there for the first time in my many visits. Mountain bikers are risk takers, after all. I left them alone and walked up and over the hill to Lookout Lake, where a family was struggling with the oars in one boat while behind them Three Men in a Boat fared little better. I tried not to laugh out loud at their struggles, glad to see one fellow give up on rowing and opt to fish.
I wrapped up my walk, having hiked 7.8 miles in about four hours. By the time I was finished, it had warmed up considerably and I was more than ready to head home and shower off the layers of sunscreen, insect repellent, and sweat which I’d built up.
Here’s a video from my afternoon walk: