October in the Osage Hills

October 8, 2012

Sand Creek (click image for slideshow)

With highs only in the 50s, I was bound to be lured out on the trails this past weekend. I had some advance work to do in preparation of an inservice day next week, since I’ll be starting that day with a presentation to most of the secondary school teachers across our district. But right after lunch one day I planned to make the quick drive west to Osage Hills State Park to get some hiking in on its very familiar terrain.

My hike was delayed by home improvements

My hike was delayed, however, when my 31-year-old house key broke off in a door lock. I moaned because I knew the only remaining keys were some lousy Wal-Mart copies which only worked in a few of the aged knob and deadbolt locks on the house. That and the fact that two of the doorknob locks had become inoperable over time forced me to finally take the plunge and change out the three door knob and three deadbolt locks scattered about four different doors of Meador Manor. (Yeah, I know, a real manor would have more doors with keys than that.)

So I trudged to the home improvement store and bought three matched sets of knobs and bolts and proceeded to swap out all of the house locks. That took some puttering about to get everything oriented just right so all of the locks would operate, but now I’m delighted to have a bunch of locks and knobs which all work perfectly. Well, except for the back door which has sagged and has to be yanked upward to make the deadbolt operable, and I’m not tackling shimming that door up anytime soon. Even better, I have six bright and shiny new keys which all work well. I can lose five keys and still get in the house – not bad!

Spillway Bluff

With that chore completed I drove out to Osage Hills and parked at Lake Lookout. A dock has been added so that boats can now be tied up instead of having to be beached, and they evidently added some paddleboats over the summer, but the summer heat kept me away and I never got to see them. I walked along the dam and climbed down to the spillway area to visit one of my favorite spots where the bluff has fallen away, creating a shallow archway in the side of the bluff. If I hadn’t lost time to the door locks I would have stretched out on the huge boulder there for some rest in the sun, but instead I gazed out over the calm waters of the lake and then headed out along the trail toward the ruins of the old CCC camp.

I was surprised to find the trail blocked off as I approached the camp, but the signs showed the part I was already on was closed. I’d noticed some fresh gravel strewn along part of the trail while earlier sections were a bit overgrown, so evidently trail maintenance was underway but not an active project this day.

Tiny Trail Flower

Near the tiny old CCC amphitheater hewn from the bluff rock I took a macro shot of a tiny flower and followed the trail to the old observation tower. I climbed up and saw a bird, probably a turkey vulture, gliding across the gently rolling hills in the distance. I hopped on a picnic table for a view of the blackjack oaks and other cross timber trees dotting the hills in the other direction.

Descending to the campground, I found the social trail leading off from one campsite to a fire ring out in the woods I’d discovered some time ago, and then backtracked to the campground and took another social trail shortcut over to the bluffs trail. A couple and their small child were heading toward the bluffs, so I opted to bushwhack down the dry streambed all the way south to Sand Creek itself. Several large trees along the streambed had exposed roots – with a bit more erosion they will tumble, as some of their neighbors have already done, forming temporary bridges across the channel. One fallen tree had a large gall which had rotted open.

Sand Creek Bluffs

I bushwhacked my way over to the bluffs and gazed over the still waters of the creek below. I then backtracked to the cabin trail, trailing behind the family I’d spied earlier. When we reached the group camp, I paused atop the high bluff to shoot the creek and give them time to move on down the trail. When I reached the falls, I found the drought had completely stopped their flow. That made it easy to cross the ledge to the other side of the creek and I bushwhacked my way uphill to find the park fence line. Then I returned to the trails, making my way back to Lake Lookout, with a stop for some high swinging in the playground along the way.

There was more trail maintenance going on with the lake trail closed where you can turn off toward the tower. I worked my way around the blockade and followed the lake trail until I could easily bushwhack to the Lake Lookout road and my car, having completed about five miles on all of the main hiking trails except the creek loop. On my next visit this fall I’ll probably hike the bike trails for a change of pace…literally.

Hot Hamburger

It was dinner time when I reached Bartlesville, and since I was on the western end of Frank Phillips I was lured into Murphy’s Steak House for their famous hot hamburger: a patty on bread with a mound of french fries on top and gravy over all. That no doubt gave my Lipitor a challenge. Then I indulged further with a tasty slice of lemon pie. Ribbons of cloud crossed the sky, illuminated by the setting sun, as I reached home.

It won’t be long until Fall Break, right after that inservice day when, as usual, I’ll be leading meetings instead of being led, which is a mixed blessing. Hopefully the weather will allow me to take an overnight trip to hike some trails more than a day trip away.

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.
This entry was posted in day hike, home repair, photos, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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