Monday, January 30, 2012

Treasure hunting on Turkey

"If you look at a thing 999 times, you are perfectly safe; if you look at it for the 1000th time, you are in danger of seeing it for the first time."  G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Go Short, Go Long, Go Very Long

This morning I dragged myself out of bed and biked down to the Blue Rose Cafe for Fleet Feet Tulsa's inaugural Go Short, Go Long, Go Very Long event on the river trails. 5k, 10k, 25k, and 50k races provided runners with plenty of options. After a certain amount of unwise wishful thinking, I opted for the 10k, a safe bet considering how my knee is still on the mend.

At the beginning I managed to hold back, conserving energy as we headed North from the cafe. By the time I hit the turn around at I-44, I was firing on all cylinders. There I was, passing people left and right, feeling pretty good about myself, when this guy in vibram five fingers comes out of nowhere, with huge heel- striking strides, leaving me in the dust. For some reason that ticked me off. I refused to let this guy out of my sights. Irrational, I know, but the perfect impetus to finish strong. While I never was able to catch up, I probably ran faster than I would have otherwise. So thank you, Mr. barefoot heel- striker, for being the perfect hare.

I finished at 49:03. Nothing special in the grand scheme of things, but an effort I could live with.

The organizers are to be commended for serving real beer.

And you gotta love the Dr. Seuss themed shirt.

Friday, January 27, 2012

O'Ryely IPA

Portland Oregon's Widmer Brothers Brewing is onto something with their Rotator IPA series. The idea is to rotate through four different takes on the style every several months or so, ensuring that you'll get a fresh batch if you stick with the most current release. Although nothing outstanding, the first two releases were solid and affordable contributions to the slim Oklahoma IPA market.

I've never been a fan of rye bread, but as is often the case, beer has a way of making palatable that which in its more natural form I would have avoided. O'Ryely's definitely falls into the "hearty" IPA category. Just look at the dark amber color. You notice the rye malt right away, but the hops are right behind. Grapefruit mostly, with a bitter finish. Again, nothing to knock your socks off with, but a very drinkable IPA.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lake Bixhoma and Stone Bluff

It was Monday afternoon. The temp was in the mid- sixties, without the tumultuous winds of the previous day; perfect for a long bike ride in the country. I drove South to Bixby, parking my car at the Washigton Irving Memorial Park, with the goal of checking out Lake Bixhoma and the nearby town of Stone Bluff. I have been itching to explore the hills South and East of Bixby for some time now. They can be seen from far to the North, rising tall above the surrounding Arkansas plain. Together, these hills are called Conjada Mountain, the Creek word that translates as Marble Candy. Today, the locals call it Concharty Mountain, after a prominent Creek leader who settled nearby.

The ride began through the flat cornfields southeast of Bixby to route 64, a fairly busy road with a wide shoulder. I passed immaculately groomed cattle ranches to the tiny town of Leonard, and it was here that I picked up the Bixhoma Lake road for a long and gradual ascent to the top of Conjada. The road levels for a bit, passing by gated homes, only to descend quite dramatically to the hollow that holds the lake. Bixhoma sits surrounded by hills, reflecting perfectly the deep azure of the sky. I parked at the picnic shelter, took off my clunky cycling shoes and walked around barefoot by the shore for a bit. Even the ground was warm. Fish occasionally broke the placid surface, while fishermen waited patiently for them in drifting boats.

After a bit of meandering around, I hopped back on the saddle and began the incredibly steep ascent up the hill.  Halfway up the monster, for reasons that still remain a bit fuzzy to me, I stop pedaling to take a picture. In straps, it would have been easy to hope right off. But my new Bontrager shoes did not unclip in time and over I went, earning a bloody hand in the process. To add insult to injury, I got back on and clipped in without noticing that the chain had come loose of the gear. Back down to the pavement I went...ouch.

I rode back down into Leonard and picked up 64 as it turns skirts around Conjada to the South. Thankfully, the dry air helped to congeal the blood. On my left was the lazy Arkasas river. On my right, ranch land extended back to wooded hillsides topped with rocky bluffs. Beautiful. I tried to imagine the the Creek settlement that was once stood around here.

Another mile or two and I arrived at the "town" of Stone Bluff, which is really just a road crossing. I watched a family burn brush while their hens pecked around the front yard. I could live there and be content.

I turned around and crossed the Bixby bridge just as the sun went down.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Osage Hills

On Saturday I sat with my morning coffee, looking over maps, weighing the various possibilities. Would it be a trip to Talimena? Time was running out for that, and despite the allure of mountains, three hours on the trails did not seem worth the price of six hours in the car. There was Greenleaf. On some weekends, hunting is allowed there, so I called the office to find out that, no, there was no hunting, but various groups were out on the trails doing maintenance work. Hmm...probably better to stay out of their way. That left Osage Hills State Park, about an hour North of Tulsa.

The trails in Osage are beautiful, if not terribly difficult. There are a few hiking trails that each span from one to about three miles in length, as well as a few loops of mountain bike trails. Many of the hills, which are steeper than Turkey, are ascended by switchbacks. They traverse open prairie, rocky ridges with limestone outcroppings, and flat creekside lowlands. The first thing this city dweller noticed was the absense of background humming from cars, trains and all forms of industry. Just wind, the occasional, rustling of leaves and cry of the hawk. Except for one lone hiker, I had the trails to myself. The woods were far from empty however. It was a feeding frenzy: herds of deer foraged the lowlands, squirrels and birds rustled leaves searching for food, and predator birds watched for dinner from the upper branches. Do they know something we don't? There are many interesting structures throughout the park from bygone days, one looking suspiciously like a hobbit hole. Its occupant must have been out on an adventure for stolen treasure. The Lake trail is the prettiest; it takes you by Lake Look Out up through the old CCC camp and ends at the lookout tower. I took the wrong trail (one of my many talents) back down and landed in the RV area, noticing another trailhead in the field beyond: the Creek Loop Trail. "Its getting dark and I really should be getting home for dinner, but... ahh, just one more and then I'll call it a day." Its an addiction, really. Another two miles made about ten altogether. Arrived back at the car just as darkness descended on the land.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

The treasures of Turkey Mountain

Do you know what I love about Turkey Mountain?  Just when you think you've seen all there is too see, explored every trail and animal path, the "mountain" reveals something new. On Christmas Eve I took a wrong turn off the Snake Trail and found myself facing a beautiful desolate pond. How could I have missed this before, just yards away from the trail?

Turkey Mountain is bedecked with small ponds, but in my humble opinion this one is the crown jewel. Its hard to describe why, exactly. It feels different there, like you've traveled to someplace far away from West Tulsa and Route 75. Anyway, it is my new favorite place; a sanctuary of sorts that I always find time to visit when running the trails.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sundown at Keystone

70 degrees in January. Now I like snow and cold, but it was hard to complain as I put on shorts and a t- shirt for this evening's run. On a whim I decided to drive out to explore the singletrack trails by the Keystone Dam. There are at least three different trails, all loops, of varying levels of difficulty. I was surprised to see how well maintained they all are. None of the terrain is particularly steep, but the abundance of rocks keep your eyes glued to the ground. Even though the area is bordered by the railroad tracks and route 151, the cleaner air and distance from the city give it a more remote feel than Turkey Mountain. While the post oak and boulders were pretty enough, the big sky stole the show this evening.