It Looked Like Spring, But It Felt Like Summer

Spent about an hour at Crabtree Nature Center at lunchtime. It was 83º and sunny and felt like summer. In other words, it was too hot.

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The birds hadn’t gotten the message yet. I saw a few early migrants mixed in with the usual suspects.

  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Tree Swallow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Sandhill Crane
  • American Robin
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Canada Goose
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • European Starling
  • Blue-winged Teal

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  • Great Egret
  • Wood Duck
  • Mallard
  • Common Grackle
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker (heard but not seen)
  • American Crow (heard but not seen)
  • Field Sparrow (heard but not seen)
  • Blue Jay

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  • Turkey Vulture
  • Mourning Dove
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Bufflehead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Eastern Phoebe (heard but not seen)

I also found this skull of what I’m guessing is a Woodchuck or a Muskrat.

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To Oklahoma City and the Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

On the second Monday of our stay, Nate, Karen and I drove three hours to Oklahoma City to visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. We stopped in Fort Smith for breakfast at Irish Maid Donuts.

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We spent about four hours at the museum. It was very well done, with exhibits on Indians, rodeo, cowboys, the Army and hunting in the west. There were several galleries of western art, one on western movies and TV shows and small displays of Navajo rugs, bolo ties, barbed wire, etc. I was hoping for more on the events that shaped the west rather than just an overview of the cultures. Much of the museum was filled with artifacts that, while authentic and interesting, weren’t placed in the context of history. There was a courtyard outside with statues of famous western characters, the flags of the western states and graves of famous rodeo animals.

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Tumbleweed, which isn’t native to the west. It’s Russian thistle brought over with flax seed in the 1870s.

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The chuck wagon from the cowboy exhibit.

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A few of the over 8,000 types of barbed wire on display

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The Army exhibit

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This marble sculpture is called Canyon Princess

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Osage women’s wedding outfit.

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The plants Indians use to get different dye colors

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The western movie and TV exhibit

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John Wayne’s hat and eye patch from True Grit

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Buffalo Bill

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A reconstructed western town. I like these kind of displays, but this one wasn’t as large or as detailed as many I’ve seen.

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As close as we got to downtown Oklahoma City.

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Leo’s Barbecue, which we found on Roadfood.com. A tired-looking place in a tired-looking neighborhood. It was definitely casual dining. I had the brisket, which wasn’t bad, but I’m not a huge fan of barbecue so I’m not one to judge. The “World-Famous Strawberry Banana Cake” was pretty good.

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We thought the first sentence here was pretty funny.

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This charming place was right across the street from Leo’s.

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We drove past Lake Eufaula on the way there and back. An exit by the lake led to this road, which I thought was also pretty funny.

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Fish and Poptarts and a Snake

On a warm, sunny, still afternoon we could see a couple small fish in the creek by our campsite. I grabbed some Wildberry Poptarts and began feeding them. Several bluegill gathered and ate greedily, joined occasionally by a larger bass.

Suddenly we spotted a snake just below us.

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It vanished beneath the rocks. We continued feeding the fish and watching a flock of Cedar Waxwings that were zipping back and forth inches from our heads. About 10 minutes later, I spotted the snake again. It was in the middle of the creek swimming toward us with a small catfish in its mouth.

 

It swam to a spot just beneath where we stood as it maneuvered to get the fish up out of the water. Shortly after I took this video, it disappeared under the rocks on shore.

 

I think it’s a Midlands Water Snake, but I’m not sure. Anyway, it was an interesting 15 minutes or so.

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Downstream

One afternoon I grabbed my binoculars and wandered about two miles downstream from the Bend of the River. At times I felt like I was getting from the park and people, but then I’d round a corner and find somebody hiking or camping or sunning on a rock in the creek. I happened upon another creek that empties into Lee Creek and explored up it a ways. I was gone for two or three hours.

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Here’s a list of the birds I saw during our entire stay. I also heard, but didn’t see, a Barred Owl on two occasions in the park.

  1. Turkey Vulture
  2. Black Vulture
  3. American Robin
  4. Belted Kingfisher
  5. Carolina Chickadee
  6. Common Grackle
  7. Northern Cardinal
  8. Eastern Phoebe
  9. Tufted Titmouse
  10. Red-tailed Hawk
  11. White-breasted Nuthatch
  12. Fish Crow
  13. Carolina Wren
  14. Eastern Bluebird
  15. Blue Jay
  16. Brown Creeper
  17. Downy Woodpecker
  18. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  19. American Crow
  20. Cedar Waxwing (a large flock of these hung around our campsite all week)
  21. Pileated Woodpecker
  22. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  23. Black-and-white Warbler
  24. American Goldfinch
  25. Canada Goose
  26. Eastern Towhee
  27. White-throated Sparrow
  28. Northern Flicker
  29. Louisiana Waterthrush
  30. Hermit Thrush
  31. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  32. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  33. Blue-winged Teal
  34. Bald Eagle (flying over Interstate 40 in Oklahoma)
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Around the Campfire

Our campfire circle at Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas, with Tim, Velvet, Angela, Luke, Joshua, Sarah and Keren Sperry, Josh Brixey, Nate and Karen Kauffman, Emily and Olive Swan, Sally and me

My grandniece Keren, the first person to sit in the little chair.

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Joshua Brixey, Sarah’s brother

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Sally and Daniel enjoying some quiet reading time

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Posted in Family, Red Chair | 2 Comments

Butterfly #48 — Falcate Orangetip

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Friday, March 25, 2016 — 3:07 p.m.

Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas

Two or three of them were flitting low at the edge of a clearing near Lee Creek, occasionally stopping on flowers. I only had my cell phone, so I couldn’t get a very good photo.

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The Bend of the River

We have a new favorite spot at Devil’s Den. We call it the Bend of the River, after the old Jimmy Stewart movie. It’s one of the prettiest places in the park and is away from the main trails, campgrounds and parking lots, so there aren’t a lot of people around.

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A bunch of us wandered over one afternoon and spent a couple hours throwing a Frisbee across the creek, skipping and stacking rocks, building bridges, exploring the bluffs and relaxing. It was totally relaxing and probably the highlight of the week. (The rocky beach where everyone is gathered in the photo below is the same one that sticks out just past the bluff on the right in the photo above.)

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Tim, Nate, Luke and I went back later in the week and spent another fun hour just goofing.

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Hiking to the Sign

Last year when we camped at Devil’s Den, I was looking for a place to walk my five miles. The part of the park that’s in the valley is only about a mile long and I’ve hiked it many times. I decided to try to walk up the road to the park sign. It turned out to be two-and-a-half miles, all uphill — challenging but doable. The round trip was the five miles I was looking for. I enjoyed it so much, I did it again the next day.

This year, on Tuesday, I decided to do it again. Nate came along. This photo was staged — he made it up in fine shape.

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The next morning, Katherine and I did it.

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On the way back down, we cut off on the Yellow Rock trail (where we met the rest of our group who had hiked in from the parking lot)  then hiked down to the trail head and back to the cabins.

At this point, I tried to create a club of those who had done the walk, but when I tried to give the club a name, I was told I was being smug. But we did make rules — you had to go all the way from creek level to the sign and back and take a selfie. Tim did it next.

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Nate and Karen threw down the gauntlet and did it by climbing up the Yellow Rock trail and then continued up the road to the sign and back down, basically following the path Katherine and I had taken, but in reverse.

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I decided to raise the stakes the next day and walked up the steeper road to the sign on the other side of the park. This route goes up a long series of switchbacks. But the most challenging aspect is that once you make the top of the ridge, you have to walk downhill for about half a mile to get to the sign. So, when you finally make your destination, you have to start back down by hiking uphill for half a mile.

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Tim wasn’t about to let me revel in my accomplishment for long, so the next morning he went up that side too.

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This is getting competitive. Next year I may have to walk sign to sign.

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Back to Devil’s Den

We spent nine nights at Devil’s Den State Park in Arkansas. Family members and friends were coming and going the whole time we were there — something like this:

  • Sally and me — 20th-29th
  • Nate and Karen — 20th-29th
  • Lindy — 20th-24th
  • Andrew — 20th-22nd
  • Katherine and Casey — 20th-25th
  • Tim, Velvet, Daniel and Luke — 21st-29th
  • Angela — 21st-26th
  • Joshua, Sarah and Keren — 21st-22nd, 24th-27th
  • Beverly and Peggy (with Peggy’s dog) — 21st-25th
  • Jonathan, Rae Lynn and Elizabeth — 22nd
  • Larry and Jacob — 23rd
  • Olive Swan — 23rd-26th
  • Emily Swan — 25th
  • Joshua Brixey — 24th-26th

Lindy and Andrew rented the two-bedroom cabin 4 for the first four nights. We took the other bedroom. We all moved out on Thursday morning. It just so happened that Tim had rented that same cabin for Joshua and Sarah beginning that afternoon. Since they had a spare bedroom, we moved back in the same afternoon. Sarah’s brother slept on the couch for two nights. We didn’t set up our tent until Sunday afternoon and spent two nights in it.

Here’s our cabin.

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Our cabin is on the right, with our car and Lindy’s Jeep. Beverly and Peggy’s cabin is on the left.

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Tim set up his camper on the spot we had last year, and Nate and Karen (and later, Olive) were in their tent(s) on the next spot over. I spent every night around the campfire there. Sally did too, except for one night she spent with Beverly and Peggy playing games in the cabin.

During the week, I hiked the Devil’s Den trail twice, once with a bunch of the gang and once with Sally. On the first trip, I climbed this cliff and followed Joshua to a place where I had no business being. I was on a narrow ledge, with just enough room for my toes, holding on to a narrow ledge above my head and sidling along. Joshua was feeling guilty for putting his uncle in peril and watched a bit nervously as I inched along. I got to a point where I couldn’t find a handhold, so he pulled me across the final stretch.

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Katherine and I hiked to the Yellow Rock overlook (see next post) where we took selfies of each other taking selfies. As you can see, I was a bit slow.

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A few other shots from the overlook.

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Joshua and me bringing firewood, and Luke, back to camp.

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Casey showing us the proper way to roast marshmallows so they get cooked all the way through with no burning. I began calling him the Marshmallowmeister.

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Swartz Covered Bridge

We were heading toward Marion, Ohio to eat at The Warehouse, but we had plenty of time to spare. South of Upper Sandusky, I saw a sign that read “Swartz Covered Bridge” with an arrow pointing to a side road through fields of mud. I made a quick decision and even quicker turn, to Sally’s surprise, and headed east toward I knew not what. A couple miles later, we came upon the bridge. I pulled over and we got out and walked around for maybe ten minutes.

It had been a gray, drizzly day, and not long after we left the bridge it began raining again. But for the few minutes we were there, the sun came out and it was a beautiful spring afternoon.

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The bridge across the Sandusky River was built in 1878. It’s 101 feet long and 12.8 feet wide.

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