It’s a Friday night and my Mr. and I are adventuring in Sand Springs, OK. Hiking is one of the activities our family enjoyed on vacations, and my husband and I still love to go on our own. The Keystone Ancient Forest is open for a rare night hike, and we want to take advantage of the opportunity. It’s only a 20-minute (or so) drive from our house; a short drive to experience a drastic change in landscape, from bustling Tulsa, to a dense forest with 300-year-old trees. It’s a pleasant, though cloudy, evening. It’s been threatening to rain today, but I feel sure it’s going to hold off. The playlist for our drive is jazz standards (I love you NPR) and, combined with the overcast conditions and the prospect of an easy evening hike, it sets a mellow mood for our excursion.
The Keystone Ancient Forest is a crosstimbers forest with ancient cedars and post-oaks. We also see many Hickory trees on our
hike. The forest is protected as a nature preserve and according to the website, is listed by the Nature Conservancy as “one of the last great places on Earth.” Much of the trail is paved and is wheelchair and stroller accessible. There are also frequent switchbacks to minimize a steep climb. Normally, the trails are open one Saturday a month, from 8AM-2PM. Admission is free. There are port-a-potties on site, though I feel as strongly about those disgusting plastic huts as I do about seeing cows daily. Thank you very much, but I’ll pass (or more precisely, I won’t).
When we arrive, a volunteer directs us to a parking place, and then another volunteer greets us at the trailhead. He’s very friendly and answers our questions about the trail, the kinds of trees growing in the forest, and what rock formations we can expect to see. The primary trail he recommends we follow is a loop of a little more than 2 miles, and he says it will take about an hour. We, however, are having an adventure, so we diverge from that trail and explore others, while making jokes about the road less taken (I have a soft-spot for literary humor). We spend a tranquil 2 hours on the trail, looking constantly for wild-life, though the only wild-life we find are ticks. We put on bug spray before we entered the forest, but we’re careful to do thorough tick checks when we get home.
One thing that pique’s my interest is a sign for the Ghost of Washington Irving Lookout, overlooking Lake Keystone. I don’t know that Washington Irving, the author of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, stood on the exact spot, but I do know that he traveled in Tulsa County and near Keystone during his expedition to Indian Territory in 1832. He later wrote a book about his experience, A Tour of the Prairies, that has become a great resource for understanding what Oklahoma was like before the Land Run. If you’re interested in learning more about Washington Irving’s excursion, I found a great resource from the Oklahoma Historical Society at this link.
We enjoyed this adventure, and we worked in a little exercise as well. Now, it’s time to go home and check for ticks! The Keystone Ancient Forest has upcoming 2017 hikes from 8AM-2PM on June 10, July 8, August 12, and September 9.