We were blessed with two warm weekends in late January 2016, and Wendy and I were determined to do some hiking. A sunny and windy Sunday afternoon found us undulating westward along hilly Highway 60 west of Bartlesville to Osage Hills State Park for a three-mile hike.
I’ve hiked at the park over 30 times since July 2009, with many of those treks documented on Flickr. I had fun creating a trail map over the years, which is still featured on the state’s tourism website. For this outing, I opted to park at the old stone pump house [2012 photo] built by the CCC. While the three mountain bike trails originate there and are a welcome alternate hiking system, I was hoping we might find the nearby off-trail bluffs interesting. So we headed southwest around the field to the big metal shed, where a side trail (a dotted line on my trail map) leads over to the Lake/Tower Loop.
Wendy and I were surprised at how muddy and wet the trail was; we hadn’t experienced this much moisture over in Bartlesville. Thankfully that meant that when we clambered down into a gully between this side trail and the main lake loop trail, we found a frozen side stream. There was a nice frozen puddle below some lovely icicles.
Farther upstream there were layers of icicles clinging to the bluff, and Wendy posed amidst this winter wonderland to provide scale. At the head of the gully I shot a panorama of the icy bluff, frozen waterfall, and its pool from beneath a large overhang.
Then we hiked past the park office to the campground for a pit stop at the bath house that is kept open through the winter. Ascending the hillside on the lake trail, we passed the CCC observation tower [2011 photo] and climbed past the old amphitheater [2009 photo] to the remains of the CCC camp. Recently I found some great photos of the camp online at Kyle Thoreson’s Crosstimber Naturalist website. That told me the old stone chimney at the camp [2011 photo] was once on the north wall of the officer’s quarters, as shown in a nice schematic and a historical photo. The display board at the camp site, which has been blank for years, ought to be refitted with blow-ups of these photos and diagrams and protective transparent covers.
Wendy got a nice shot of a fractured smoking mushroom along the trail. When we reached Lake Lookout, she spotted a frozen sheet of water flowing down a rock slab. She clambered down to search for more icicles and found them, snapping a photo of me atop the water feature.
We took the side trail down to the dam and visited the spillway, but there was too much flow from the lake for icicle formations. We walked along the Lake Lookout access road to complete our three mile hike at the old pump house. Wendy and I are both grateful to have the trails of Osage Hills only 30 minutes west of home, and the following weekend would find us journeying an hour north to revisit the trails at Elk City Lake up in Kansas.