June 28-30, 2013
I’ve been hiking at Robbers Cave State Park about twice per year since 2009. My latest visit was prompted by my colleague and friend Betty Henderson. Her husband, John, would be riding his mule on some of the bridle trails at the park, joined by some fellow mule riders from Caney, KS. Betty wanted to hike some of the trails, while John prefers riding. So she invited Wendy and me to ride down to the park in her car for a couple of days of hot-weather hikes, with the three of us staying in McAlester. John and his riding friends arrived earlier in the week, staying at the equestrian camp in the park with their animals so they could start riding in the cool of early morning.
I avoid hiking in July or August, unless I’m at higher altitudes in Colorado or in the cool Pacific Northwest, because my enjoyment falls when the temperature rises above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This trip would be at the very end of June, and we wound up hiking in 90s temperatures one day and 80s the next. On our hikes we kept our pace slow, drank plenty of water, and the ladies paid particular attention to the rocks and plant life along the trails, while I quested for vistas.
Heading Down to Little Dixie
Betty, Wendy, and I drove down on Friday afternoon to enjoy an Italian dinner at Roseanna’s in Krebs. Then we drove east to the park and visited John and his fellow riders in the equestrian camp before returning to McAlester to rest overnight.
The next morning we arrived at the park around 9 a.m. and drove to the cave area at the north end of the park. We posed before heading out, walking through the narrow crevice between the rocks and making our way up to the top of the rock formation, pausing along the way to admire the trees amidst the immense slabs of rock. At one point Wendy climbed up into a crevice for a shot of Betty and me examining the rock walls below.
The girls triumphantly posed when we had reached the top, and then we clambered down to reach the vista of the San Bois Mountains from the huge tilted ledges below the summit. The large roots of a pine tree atop the ledge were oozing resin.
We made our way down to the cave itself and then returned to the trailhead, where I shot a large panorama with Wendy and Betty surrounded by the massive rock formation. We’d only walked about one-half mile, but the heat and elevation changes made it feel like more.
Lake Wayne Wallace
We drove away from the sheltering trees at the Robbers Cave trailhead to our next target: a walk to the cliff above Lake Wayne Wallace. We strode through a sunny field to the Lake Wayne Wallace Dam, and I led us across the high dam towards the cliff. I was eager to ascend for another vista while Wendy and Betty enjoyed the wildflowers, such as Passion Fruit blooms and the eponymous fruit itself, which Wendy sliced open for examination. She said, “Ooo! That really stinks!”
We climbed to the top of the cliffs, where we enjoyed the panoramic view of the lake and dam and saw horse riders fording the outlet stream far below.
We had a late lunch at the Robbers Cave 2nd Annual Antique Tractor and Implement Show. I consumed a huge corn dog and part of a brick of curly fries before gazing at the farm machinery. A pink Farmall tractor caught my eye, along with a tiny Pennsylvania and Floyd Allen’s 1911 Buick from Wilburton.
Wrapping Up the Day
Our next stop was a tour of the Nature Center by Lake Carlton, where Wendy snapped a photo of a lounging stuffed cat. We followed that up with live black vultures, spied from the Belle Star Lodge overlook. It had been a long, hot day and we were glad to head back to McAlester for showers and a rest break. We wrapped up the evening with games at the Great Balls of Fire Family Entertainment Center.
On Sunday we were back out at the state park in the late morning, crossing Deep Ford to take the Mountain Trail a bit less than a mile up and over to Lake Carlton. It was considerably cooler than the previous day, making the average 10% grade bearable, but we were glad to rest at the lake shore while other tourists paddled about the lake. It was a slow trek back to Deep Ford.
We cooled off by donning our swim suits and floating in life vests and on Funnoodles in the swimming area at Lake Carlton before packing up and heading back to Wilburton for dinner and then driving home. We’d had a good time enjoying the great outdoors, but with summer heat upon us I don’t expect to do much hiking for awhile except for a trip to New Mexico and Colorado in mid-July.