January 5, 2013
My first hike of the new year was the familiar 2.25 easternmost miles of the Elk River Trail an hour’s drive north from Bartlesville along the north shore of Elk City Reservoir. The weather was in the 40s, but the forecast claimed the sun would come out in the afternoon, and that was good enough for me.
After lunch I drove north to the reservoir west of Independence, KS and parked at the trailhead just west of the dam. I crossed the field and clambered up the slope to the bluff, finding the slope particularly treacherous and muddy with melting frost. I reached the stone corridor, where you walk along a huge deep crack in the bluff top where a portion sheared off and ended up several feet downslope.
Two Lycra-clad fellows were running out of the corridor as I entered. I posed for distance and nearer shots in the corridor using my new Joby Gorillapod, interrupted by another Lycra man jogging past from the end of the corridor. This pattern would continue for my entire hike out to the turnaround point: I would spot Lycra-clad joggers headed my way and stand off trail, greeting them as they ran by. They came in dribs and drabbles of 1 to 3 joggers, the total approaching two dozen it seemed. I’ve never worn Lycra myself, preferring jeans and a knit shirt. At my slower pace I had to keep warm with a knit cap, earpops, and cotton gloves.
I reached the first overlook, gazing upon two large holes in the lake’s icy coating. I continued along the bluff top and then the sun broke through, making the trail far more pleasant. There was a sudden rush of noise, audible above my audiobook, and I saw that the large flock of lake birds was in flight. Soon they settled down, avoiding flight for the rest of my trek.
The trail led along the base of the high bluff, one of my favorite sections of this trail. I reached the Dolores Baker bench and sat to enjoy my Fanta and a bit of PayDay along with the welcome blue sky.
I walked along until the trail opened up with a sweeping view of the hillside where an intermittent side stream enters the lake. The last of the Lycra lads and lasses had passed, and I would have the trail to myself along the return.
I shot the afternoon sunlight pouring against a tree with low spreading branches and across the crackled ice against the lake shore. The birds were still huddled out on the water, and I could see the eroding cliffs along the far shore. Soon I was passing the high bluff again, the winter sun warming my path.
I was glad to be out on a trail again. I expect my hiking mileage to continue to drop this year, but I certainly won’t give up the rejuvenating pastime.