Falling Bodies at Robbers Cave

November 21, 2012

Falling body site (click image for slideshow)

The five-day Thanksgiving Break afforded me the opportunity to go on a couple of day hikes, including one too far for a single-day trip from Bartlesville. The break began on Wednesday, November 21 and I opted to drive three hours south to Robbers Cave State Park for a day hike, knowing that from there I could drive three hours northwest to Oklahoma City to spend Thanksgiving with my folks.

I awoke early so the sun was still rising in the east as I approached Tulsa, and I stopped in at a McDonald’s in Broken Arrow for a sausage and egg McMuffin with some Cinnamelts – it’s a good thing I would be hiking almost nine miles this day to help work off those treats.

I pulled into the state park and parked by the Lake Carlton dam around 10:30 a.m. I walked south to get a shot of the reflections of the surrounding forest, which a bench invited me to sit and enjoy. The water-level long curve of the dam’s top always reminds me of an infinity-edge pool.

A family drove up and a young boy immediately scrambled down the steep slope below the dam, with the other family members lagging behind. I opted to walk along the roadside downstream to find a less steep spot for my own descent. Then I bushwhacked back up the creek to where I could intersect the Mountain Trail near the dam, walking westward along the south shore of Lake Carlton.

I shot a panorama from there of the still water and then followed the leafy trail around to where it began its steep ascent up the bluff to the top for an eastward view across the lake. I sat for a self-portrait on the cliff edge and then followed the trail over to Lake Wayne Wallace, taking a shot of its far shallow end as I passed by.

On the edge

The stream fords towards Rough Canyon were completely dry from the drought, but there were pools of water in Rough Canyon itself. This was where I performed my first falling body experiment of the day. I’d left my trekking poles behind on this long warm walk and paid the price when bushwhacking in the aptly named canyon. I tripped on a large stone covered by leaves and fell headfirst. I escaped with a small scrape on my left forearm and a tiny bleeding wound on my left thumb; my dignity remained intact, since the only fellow I’d seen on the trail was far to the south, heading the other way.

Rough Canyon

Hours had passed, with me enjoying my usual QuikTrip turkey sandwich along the way. I didn’t want to walk all of the way over to the cave area, so I turned off on the Yellow Bridle Trail, following it to the stable. I followed the road along the other side of Lake Wayne Wallace, admiring the remains of autumn gracing the hillside. I found bright berries at the lakeshore campsites and shot the view from the Glenn Bridge before heading across the long high earthen dam toward the high bluff lookout.

I’ve clambered up the slope many times for the great views up top, but this time I accidentally conducted another falling body experiment up there. I used my GorillaPod flexible tripod to secure my Canon SX260 HS superzoom camera to a tree so I could shoot a timed self-portrait. But as I walked toward the cliff edge to strike my pose, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned and no doubt my eyes widened and mouth dropped open as I saw the tripod break in two, sending my camera tumbling to the ground. There it bounced in a perfect parabolic arc (naturally, said the physics teacher) and was projected right off the edge of the cliff!

I can tell I’m growing mellower with age, since instead of cursing, I only muttered, “Oh, dear.” I blinked and edged over to the cliff edge to see if I could spot the camera on any ledges below me. It was gone, and I envisioned a shattered camera body awaited me below. I figured I would have to extract the memory card as part of the unit’s final rites.

My camera tumbled off this cliff

I decided to document the experience and share it on Facebook, posting a shot of the cliff edge I took with my iPhone 5, a caption noting how my camera had taken a tumble. I then sat on the cliff and enjoyed the view for a bit before venturing down to hunt for the Canon camera.

I didn’t find it on the scree below the cliff, so I widened my search and spotted the camera, lying face up with its lens retracted, dozens of feet from the cliff base. I was surprised to find it intact and working just fine. Recently I’d shown my students a video clip on how a fellow survived falling from a smokestack because he had struck rubble, which absorbed some of the kinetic energy and distributed the forces more evenly across his body; here was an example of the same beneficial effects.

The damage consisted of minor scuffs on the edges of the body and nicks and dings on the retracting barrel. Those dings are a reminder of why I carry a pocket superzoom rather than a fancy digital SLR camera; I doubt I would have been as calm, and the results as painless, if I’d sent a fancier camera off the cliff.

I trudged back to Lake Carlton along the park road, completing a 8.22 mile loop with a burst of autumn leaves by the lake shore. With a couple of hours of daylight left, I decided to drive over to the cave area for some shots, adding another 0.63 miles of walking and climbing to my day.

The familiar huge rock at the front of the formation greeted me and I slithered between the rocks on the old CCC trail, climbing and shimmying up to a lovely scene near the Stone Corral, where the late afternoon sun was backlighting one of the trees. Up top the scene was equally lovely, with the trees framing a vista of the Sans Bois Mountains. Two black vultures alighted on a tree, surveying the area.

I followed the wide slope of tilted rock to Robbers Cave itself, the sun silhouetting me at the entrance. Back out on the rock slopes, the panoramic view was a rewarding end to my hiking day.

Robbers Cave

As usual after a visit to Robbers Cave, I had dinner at Patron Mexican Grill in McAlester, enjoying the thick handmade tortillas, before driving to my childhood home for Thanksgiving. I’d spend Thanksgiving Day feasting on Mother’s cooking and catching up with the folks before heading out on Black Friday…not to shop, but to hike.

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, photos, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Falling Bodies at Robbers Cave

  1. Thanks for sharing! I love Robbers Cave… used to go there every summer when I was a sprout. (sapling?) Just about ready to plan another trip out there… now am doubly excited for it.

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