February 22, 2014
I’ve now taken Wendy on several hikes to enjoy the trails at Elk City Lake, an hour’s drive north in Kansas. Together we have hiked both the north and south ends of the Table Mound Trail as well as the east and west ends of the Elk River Trail. So on a warm February afternoon we opted to hike the Timber Ridge Trail between Card Creek and the western shore of the lake.
I first hiked that trail four years ago, revisited it two years ago, and now the 2.5 mile route has become somewhat faded and overgrown. The fading blue tree blazes are crucial for locating the leaf-obscured path, so we were glad to hear from the Card Creek Recreation Area host that he will have some Boy Scouts working this spring to clear and re-blaze the trail. All of the trails at Elk City have rugged areas, and this trail is gentle up top but rugged on its lower sections.
Our first stop was a surveyor’s mark. Soon the trail dissolved into a shallow leaf-filled depression in the soil with only faded blazes to offer guidance. I enjoyed pointing out trees which had struggled to grow up out of cracks in the rocks, and from previous hikes here I recalled a section of bluff where a huge pie-wedged piece of rock has popped out.
Somewhere along here a crashing of brush made me whirl and cry out, and we laughed when we saw it was just another darn armadillo.
The lower trail eventually intersects and briefly follows part of an old road running diagonally up the ridge, and Wendy and I posed in silhouette form on the roadbed. We dawdled on a rock above Card Creek, enjoying the view west across flat fields. After ascending to the top of the ridge, we paused again at a big rock providing an overlook.
A scattering of what at first looked like ice-covered stones led us to investigate, discovering the remnants of what I suppose was a glazed terra cotta basin that was completely coated in glass. Later the camp host speculated it might be a remnant from an old glass factory in the region; before World War I the natural gas supplies in the area led to a number of glass factories, which eventually folded due to a shortage of suitable sand.
Our dawdling stretched out the hike enough so that Brothers Railroad Inn in downtown Independence would be open for a tasty Italian dinner. I enjoyed my baked meat ravioli, but Wendy’s chicken parmigiana was atypical and she’ll choose something different the next time we’re in town to hike more trails; there are still a few sections of trail at Elk City she has yet to experience.