OK state parks, for the second year, have invited Oklahomans and visitors to participate in their First Day Hikes, held the first day of January. Come along for the hike...

5 January Blog 2013

The New Year rolled in with quiet fanfare where I was sleeping…except for some fireworks that rat-a-tatted in the distance, interspersed with a few booms.  My stay in the southeastern part of the state was enhanced by a 5 inch snowfall that hung around for days.  I would clump around in snow covered shoes filling the birdfeeder or taking the dogs out for a run.  Coffee grounds and tea bags were relegated to the azaleas out in front.  First I moved away the pine needles and snow, then the beans and leaves were  carefully spread around the base of each plant.  Back the insulating cover went to assure the azaleas would survive the rest of the winter. This is a good place to remind you that your plants would like some tender loving care right now in the form of some ground cover mulch, water, or your own coffee or tea remains. 

Thirteen state parks invited Oklahomans to participate on First Day Hikes January first of 2013. Last year 6 state parks took part.  I love the way Keli Clark recommended the hikes as a sure cure for the aftereffects we suffer from our turkey-induced coma, eggnog fog and fruitcake overload (people actually eat fruitcake?).  The Oklahoma State Parks Director Kris Merek encouraged visitors to start a healthy New Year’s tradition and get outdoors. 

The hikes ranged from a half-mile at Lake Murray and Grand Lake-Bernice area, one mile at Beaver’s Bend, Lake Wister, Arrowhead, and Greenleaf, to assorted moderate hikes at Lake Thunderbird, Foss State Park, Roman Nose, Sequoyah, Osage Hills, Tenkiller and Robbers Cave.

Good shoes are a must, plus a walking stick might come in handy.  We hiked at Lake Wister with Harold, a good natured state park guide usually employed at Talimena State Park.  Did we know the Poteau River that flowed into Lake Wister was the only river in Oklahoma that goes north?  Or the Ouachita Mountains have the distinction of being the only mountain range east of the Rocky Mountains that go east-west? Wister is the entrance to the Ouachita Mountains.  Our path was the Lone Star Trail.  Carl and Mary Heflin have done some interesting research on the Lone Star area.  It was one of the places partially covered by Lake Wister.  Lone Star was within 2 miles of Lone Pine, another place long gone.

Lone Star School was built in 1909, a one room building with grades one through eight.  The multi-purpose school was used as a church on Sundays.  People would bring dinner and stay until the evening services.  Kids had to often walk miles to school, which accommodated the farming schedule of crops grown in the Poteau River Valley.

Mr. Polk Babb was the first teacher who started in 1909 working for $50 a month.  Bonnie Goodwin was the last teacher in 1947, as the school was annexed to Wister and the building moved to Wister Schools.  About this time Lake Wister was being created where Lone Star school stood. An Army Corps flood control project, construction of Lake Wister was begun 1946 and completed by 1949.  The water that filled it came from Poteau and Fourche Maline Rivers, as well as numerous creeks and runoff.  The lake is 7,300 acres of shallow water that now supplies drinking water to the Poteau Valley communities.  That in itself is interesting. 

The Fourche Maline Woodland culture, forerunner of the Caddo culture, lived in the Wister area about 2,000 years ago.  A WPA project in the 1930’s studied various sites of occupation.  Arrowheads and artifacts were discovered along several creek banks, all now flooded.  Apparently, Lone Star was not the only place to be affected by the new lake.  We met for our hike at Ward’s Landing, another area somewhat inundated by water.  An old hotel stood at the spot, but only foundations now remain, plus the story of a ghost that lurks around here and there.  Pocohontas school and vicinity to the west were also buried under water.

But I digress.  The Lone Star walk was well-marked (by Harold) and meandered along the side of one hill.  It was close to Buzzard’s Roost, a rocky outcropping inhabited by dozens of Turkey vultures that periodically spew out from behind the rocks in search of dead things. 

Short-needle pine and post oak tree canopies covered our heads as we threaded our way over and around thousands of lichen-covered rocks.  Because of all those rocks, walking was slow and careful.  A fire had burned through the area, evidenced by scorched tree trunks and some blackened debris. Eroded, exposed large sandstone and limestone rocks topped the hill.  I would like to talk about all the vibrant plant life, but in early January, many plants are gone or asleep.  Green brier vines stood proudly straight up, and some withered sumacs were in attendance.  I did notice some rabbit and bobcat scat along our trail, and we spotted one small deer, so wildlife is evidently there.   It was a cold raw day, but our little group had a good time. 

So mark your calendars next January the first.  Find your nearest state park and take a hike.  Better yet, begin your explorations early and visit one this spring.  You might be surprised what you find.  I found some facts are better researched than others.  While checking out Lake Wister, I stumbled across some realtor’s promotion claiming the Ponderosa pines and spruce at Lake Wister were beautiful?!  OK man.  Are you sure you weren’t dreaming about somewhere in Colorado, a place these trees actually do grow.

Check out the state parks:  http://www.stateparks.com/ok.html