I spent the first Monday of Winter Break doing some Christmas shopping in Tulsa, but the warm and sunny weather also lured me onto the trails. I’ve walked the trails at Redbud Valley, Turkey Mountain, and the main area of the Oxley Nature Center many times. But I was far less familiar with the separate North Woods section of the Oxley Nature Center, leading me to take a 2.3 mile hike in the woods bordered by Bird Creek, Flat Rock Creek, and Lake Yahola.
I drove to north Tulsa’s Mohawk Park. The North Woods Unit trailhead is a short drive west from the Oxley Nature Center’s main entrance. It is on a dike northeast of Lake Yahola, the artificial lake for the Mohawk Water Treatment Plant which is fed water from the Spavinaw Water Project.
The Oxbow Lake Trail, which evidently was once called the Beaver Lodge Trail, led between Nelson’s Oxbow and Coot Pond, quickly reaching a turnoff for the Sierra Club Trail. I took that turnoff and followed the new trail north along the east side of Nelson’s Oxbow Lake. The North Woods are a mature oak and hickory forest, and the trails were often completely covered in acorns, along with other nuts. I would pay a price for all of those oak trees – the next day my neck was itching and I found I had received multiple bites from the dreaded oak mites that have been very active in 2015.
The trail wriggled through the woods and terminated at a long flowline cut through the woods. There I turned northwest and followed the flowline to the trailhead for the North Woods Loop Trail. I trekked counterclockwise along the trail, following the north shoreline of Nelson’s Oxbow, noting that a tree tilted over into the water would be great for turtles, although none were evident. Some fallen logs featured large, white, funnel-shaped fungi, while others sported colorful fungal fans.
The trail looped along the south shore of Bird Creek and then followed part of the east side of Flat Rock Creek before heading south back to the flowline. From there I took the Oxbow Lake Trail, which I had turned off earlier, and followed it past Mallard Lake back to Coot Pond. Mallard Lake lived up to its name, with ducks quacking at me and some taking flight when I passed. When I reached the dike, I took the opportunity to climb the side of Lake Yahola to shoot the sunset.
This was a short hike, frequently punctuated not only by bird calls but also by booms from the Tulsa Gun Club located at the opposite end of Mohawk Park and the occasional overhead roar of a small plane from the nearby airport. But I thoroughly enjoyed trading the crazy hustle and dangerous traffic of Christmastime in Tulsa for an isolated stroll through the woods. Wendy and I hope to share a final hike or two in 2015 when we head south to Texas between Christmas and New Years.