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.

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