April 13, 2014

Wendy and I escaped to the Ozarks on Saturday, enjoying a 4.5 mile hike on the Firetower Trail at Roaring River State Park and taking a drive along the nearby Sugar Camp Scenic Byway.

Firetower Trip (click image for slideshow)

Our visit to Roaring River began near the base of Seligman Hill with lunch at the Emory Melton Inn at Roaring River State Park, enjoying the beautiful redbuds out front. Our meal prepared us for a 4.5 mile loop hike on the Firetower Trail.

Firetower Trail Loop

Small CCC Firetower

We drove over to the Nature Center to start the hike, noting a large woodpecker hole in a tree at the start of the trail just behind the center. Soon we reached the trailhead near Camp Smokey. I had chosen to have us ascend the steepest section of trail first, climbing to the top of the ridge where we were grateful for the now-level trail.  Eventually we reached the old CCC firetower, which has been dwarfed by the surrounding trees for many decades. Wendy posed at the base and was willing to climb this diminutive tower before returning to the ground to shoot me leaning over from atop the tower.

Dogwoods were in bloom all along the trail, and Wendy picked various flowers, happily pressing them into a book as we made our way around the park. We enjoyed the peaceful walk alongside Roaring River to complete our loop back to the Nature Center.


Sugar Camp Firetower

Next we drove up Seligman Hill to enter the forest and turn off on the Sugar Camp Scenic Byway. We made the requisite stop along the old forest road at the Sugar Camp Firetower, a classic Aermotor tower. A bunch of pickups with trailers for 4-wheel all-terrain vehicles were parked at the base. I knew Wendy would not want to climb the big old tower and the last time I ventured to the top its cab was rather decrepit, so we stayed on the ground.

We then drove on to the unmarked Onyx Cave Overlook, which now offers a view of the Eagle Rock Christian Conference Center down below. Wendy sketched the view and then we made our way down the steep trail across the road to little Onyx Cave. The narrow passage off the entrance has been barred off for years, so instead of spelunking I bushwhacked my way downslope for panorama of the hillside.

Onyx Cave on the Sugar Camp Scenic Byway

Wendy was very glad we trekked down the cave trail, despite our failure to wear proper footwear, because she found a lovely stone with crystals along the trail. That was a far more impressive find than anything we managed to scrounge up at the crystal mine in Arkansas over Spring Break.

Wendy’s find

I thoroughly enjoyed the slow drive along the old gravel forest road, admiring the farms down below. We spent the night in Cassville, but the next time we visit Roaring River for hiking, we’ll try staying at the Emory Melton Inn in the park.

The next day we returned to Bartlesville, driving along US 75 to see very impressive clouds above Jarrett Farm. Little did we know that the same storm system was even then sweeping over Caney to the north, with powerful winds stripping off shingles from the roof of the home of our friends, the Hendersons. Nature was displaying both its beauty and its power on this spring afternoon.

Storm clouds over Jarrett Farm

Click here for a slideshow from this trip

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.
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