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Oklahoma Ozark day-hike
by Darrel Drumm

Sunday night a cold front blew through here with the usual lightening storm. Hit close enough to ruin the answering machine. That's the 2nd in 6 months lost to lightening. I think I'll just not buy another one. Didn't bother the phone though.

Anyway, Monday morning dawned clear, crisp (48) and dry (as in lack of humidity). Now that is a rare condition here anytime of the year. It is usually humid even in the winter.

So, I had a few choices.
(a) School's out, but I need to finalize the textbook order.
(b) The lawn is in desperate need of mowing.
(c) I haven't been on the forums all weekend.
(d) Take a day-hike out the back door.

I'll bet the entire readership gets a 100 on that test. Yep, the correct answer is d.

I saddled up my day-pack, filled up by Camelbak and walked out my back-door into the game refuge. (Those new here may not know that my back yard is a Oklahoma State Game Refuge of about 23 square miles or 14,720 acres. It isn't open for camping, but that doesn't stop me from day hiking in it or shhhhh stealth camping on my 50th birthday.)

The first part of the hike is a climb up a gravelly flint rock, tree-covered hillside which is a part of the eastern flank of Beaver Mountain. It's a bushwack climb of 380 feet. The birds were singing cheerfully, wild flowers were in abundance, and I saw squirrels and deer through out the hike.

When I reached the refuge road, I turned in the direction of Buzzard Hollow. Yep, back down again to 880 feet. The wind in the trees was marvelous. I have always enjoyed the sounds of the outdoors and although this isn't a wilderness, I have met only one person in the 28 years I've been hiking up here. I have never seen a vehicle (which would be an official Refuge vehicle). There is a watershed lake at the bottom of the hollow which is a little jewel at the right time of the year.

From there, I started climbing again, this time to a 1,235 foot saddle between Bunch and Beaver Mountain. Still following the road (sometimes more like a trail), I spooked up some wild turkeys (no toms) and then entered a meadow. The flowers, vegetation, and even birds were more like the Kansas prairie than an Ozark mountain. Climbing back into the woods, I reached the saddle (which is called Burnt Bridge by the refuge people).

Now in this saddle is an formation of rock slabs. In these rock slabs I saw a familiar flower. I looked closer... Yucca?! Yes, yucca in the middle of the Ozarks. I don't know if it's an old houseplace or they are in a microclimatic area, but there were yucca along with prickly pear. Cedar trees grow here better than anywhere else too. I'd been here, before, but never had I seen the yucca in bloom, so I didn't recognize it as such.

It was here that I entered unexplored territory for me. I always hooked a left along the north approach to Beaver Mountain here and looped back to the house. This time, I went down into Bolin Hollow. Now this is going to be a long hike, especially since I didn't get started till after noon because I had to take care of a few things around the house first.

Down I went through the hardwood forest with scatterings of Southern pine trees. As I was descending, I noticed a sound from my right. It sounded as if something was following me through the road-trail side grasses. When I stopped, it stopped. I actually got a little spooked, thinking a rabid lizard? Then I realized what it was was grasshoppers. I was scaring them as I walked by, and they made a noise right behind me as they jumped for cover. (Boy was I embarrassed.)

I got close the bottom and there was a small creek with a great place for a foot soak. So, off came the gaiters, shoes, and socks, and into the water went my feet. The tadpoles didn't seem to mind, they gathered around and nibbled at my toes. It was cold water, so in a few minutes, I air-dryed my feet, and put things back together. (Think Jonathan Dorn would want a picture of naked toes for the magazine?)

On down to the creek which runs through Bolin Hollow I went. At this point, I'm only 1/2 mile south of some houses which are on one of our school bus routes, but it takes 15 miles to get there on the route. I turn south along the creek, note some nice swimming holes which the kids have told me about, and proceed to walk up the really good road here. I was going upstream and was beginning to get a little tired. I didn't realize at the time one of the reasons I was tired was it was a constant uphill at this point as I climbed from 771 to 877 feet in about 1 3/4 miles.

BUT, I sure noticed the uphill coming when I climbed out of Bolin Hollow to the top of the Beaver Mountain ridge. WHEW. 877 to 1400 feet in a hurry and that was the road with the least road characteristics of any. By then, I was ready to be back home, but I still had about an hour or more hike home. I was in the area of the waterfalls which I've mentioned in other posts here, but they're only active during really wet weather, plus I didn't feel like bushwacking my way to them. So, I just headed home along the familiar road toward home. This is an east ridge of Beaver Mountain that I like to call my 14eener. 1.4eener that is.

Down I headed toward the house, bushwacking the last 1/2 mile. Hot (even with the cool temps and low humidity, tired, with sore hips and calves.
Yes, it was a good hike. 9 miles, 3 climbs totalling 1,374 feet with descents to match, one great foot soaker, and a number of meadows. Plus, one turkey that decided not to flush until I was within a couple of feet of it toward the end of the hike. (Madcow, sorry, it was a hen.)

Menu was only gorp and water, by the way.