January 26, 2013
A sunny Saturday afternoon in January, with the temperature climbing into the upper 50s, was irresistible for a day hike, even if on familiar trails. Last weekend was mostly consumed by preparation for a community talk about the history of the school district, so I only managed to walk on the Pathfinder Parkway. Today my schedule only permitted a short drive west to Osage Hills State Park for a 6.6 mile hike. One would think I’ve thoroughly exhausted its trails, but today I managed to finally find a nearby cave and even mapped two extensions of the standard mountain bike trails. I was only carrying my iPhone on this hike, so the photography is therefore limited.
I started with on the red trail, the longest of the mountain bike trails. At one point two deer bounded away, their fluffy white tails erect, but then they stopped to watch me, hoping I would stick to the trail and leave them alone. At one point along the trail someone had stacked rocks as a marker. A much larger and more elaborate stack has recently been erected where the red trail turns to follow the Osage Trail back to the pump house trail head.
I couldn’t resist the temptation of finally following up on the bushwhack Andrew Geibel and I made off the Osage Trail at the start of December. We had been unsuccessful in finding the cave promised on a hand-drawn map, and later I’d deduced we were just shy of it. I made it over to the dry side draw and followed it up to where we’d been before. Sure enough, only a few yards farther along the draw ended in a large long overhanging shelf you could stand under.
I backtracked, clambering down from the red trail to shoot the bluff where the trail runs along its top edge. I followed the trail past the Grotto and then located a side trail I’d noticed previously but never mapped. I tracked it, finding it to be a single winding loop that climbed the hillside and then descended to join with the blue bike trail.
So I took the blue trail to where it almost collides with itself and bushwhacked across. Earlier I’d spotted another unofficial trail which led off the red trail toward the blue trail. Sure enough, I found the end of it and followed it back, partially along the pipeline right of way, to the red trail. From there I returned to the pump house trail head.
I was thoroughly satisfied, having finally located the cave and being able to add two side trails to the mountain bike section of my park trail map, an earlier version of which is now featured on the state tourism website’s entry on the park’s trail system.