I'm now home from vacation. I had a wonderful time, but I kind of failed in the "resting and relaxing" plan to come home refreshed instead of tired. But I think I'm mentally refreshed and it's a good kind of physical tiredness. I did a lot of hiking, probably too much, and not necessarily by plan.
There are marked trails throughout this state park, but the trails aren't necessarily improved, with an obvious path. In places, there are just marks on trees, and how you get from one to the other is up to you. So you reach one marker and look for the next marker before setting off. They haven't really updated the markers that much in a while, and in a few places the markers are wrong and haven't been corrected. That's what happened to me on Friday's hike. There was a spot where I really should have turned left, but there were markers for that trail going right and I guess I looked to my right first, where there was what looked like an obvious path. But after a while the markers changed color, indicating that it was an equestrian trail rather than a hiking trail. I tried retracing my steps, but apparently there were multiple equestrian trails and I must have got onto a different one. The equestrian trails weren't on the hiking trail map. Thanks to GPS and the compass in my phone, I found a trail heading in the direction I needed to go, so I walked about three miles more than I planned. I then bought a map of the equestrian trails, just in case. It was actually a rather pleasant hike. It was just hard to enjoy during the time when I wasn't entirely sure where I was or where I was going. And there was some fun in crossing the various creeks because that's not an issue for horses, but the water would have been ankle deep on me. Fortunately, there were stepping stones and I have very good balance.
That afternoon, I took a guided tour of some of the caves in the park, and the naturalist leading the tour said that he and one of the other guys are about to do an overhaul of the trails. Just before talking to me, the other naturalist had sent him some photos of the bad markers on the trail I'd just been on, saying someone was likely to make the same mistake I did.
I got in a little reading on the porch that evening and did some relaxing. Which was good because the next hike was very strenuous -- up a mountain. I'd planned to take one of the cut-offs to not do the whole trail because the trail isn't a loop. Except the cut-off wasn't marked and wasn't an obvious trail, so I walked a bit longer than I planned and still had to walk back to where I'd parked (and I was so glad I'd driven to the trailhead instead of walking. It was only about a mile, but that mile would have killed me at that point). So I ended up doing about 8 miles that day. I really enjoyed the first four or so. The last two miles of the hike were okay. The two miles back to my car were on flat surface, so they were easy, but they weren't pleasant. When I passed the camp for people who brought their horses, I was tempted to ask for a lift.
But overall, I still had fun. It was the rare case of the reality being even better and more fun than what I'd imagined. This state park isn't that far away -- about a 4-hour drive -- so I'll have to do this more often. It's a quick trip to be in the mountains. People in Colorado would pat them on the head and say how adorable to call these mountains, and I'm not sure where you draw the line between "hill" and "mountain," but these are technically mountains, and they're the kind I like, where you can walk to the top without special gear, and there's no timber line, so there are trees all the way to the top. They're gentle, friendly mountains. So while "Ski Oklahoma" isn't going to happen, they're what I want in mountains, and they're conveniently close.
On my next trip, I may have to do a trail ride and let the horses do the walking. I'll also allow myself a lot more time to just enjoy sitting at the lodge. Saturday evening, I was sitting on the porch, looking at the colorful leaves, feeling the slight chill in the fall air, eating snickerdoodles, smelling the wood smoke from nearby campfires, and listening to the geese flying overhead, and it was all stuff that said "fall" to me for every sense.