Wildflower meadow at the assembly point. Photo by Margaritte Arthrell-Knezek
IIf your kids are listening to the Frozen 2 soundtrack while you’re battling your way through a Zoom meeting, it may be time to go outside. Even a walk around the block can help anyone reset. But if you really want to take a break, get in the car, head to one of the area’s many nature trails, and go for a hike.
If you have a younger child, make sure your hike is a success by reading Margaritte Arthrell-Knezek’s article “Hiking With Young Children”. She recommends taking frequent snack breaks, going on scavenger hunts to keep the child interested, etc. Arthrell-Knezek, founder of Under the Canopy, a program that encourages children to explore nature and learn about the world around them, is familiar with most of the area’s nature trails and contributed to this article.
Hiking and social distancing
Wherever you hike, follow social distancing protocol: leave at least three feet of space between your family members and anyone else who shares the trail. For more tips on protecting yourself and your family from COVID-19, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov. Do not plan hiking or other outdoor activities with anyone other than those you live with while Shelter in Place orders are valid. For updates from the city of Tulsa, visit cityoftulsa.org/covid-19.
We recommend checking your travel destination’s website before you leave to make sure it is still open to the public. Certain popular hiking trails, such as the Redbud Valley Trail and the Keystone Ancient Forest, have been temporarily closed at the time of this writing.
Gilcrease Museum (1400 N. Gilcrease Museum Rd., Gilcrease.org)
Although the Gilcrease Museum may be closed, the surrounding grounds are open to visitors from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. A paved path winds around a lovely pond, and your kids will enjoy looking for unique sculptures on the grounds.
Oxley Nature Center (6700 Mohawk Blvd., oxleynaturecenter.org)
The trails at Oxley Nature Center allow visitors to experience a variety of Oklahoma ecosystems, including forests, fields, and wetlands. The trails are fairly flat and often linked together so you can customize your hike as you see fit. There is a large map in the parking lot. So, snap a photo to take with you if you are unfamiliar with the area.
“My favorite part of Oxley,” says Arthrell-Knezek, “runs through the blackbird swamp and sees all the twigs chewed by beavers. I also like to peek into the water and try to spot frogs and small fish that live there. “
Because the paths are so flat, many of them are accessible for wheelchair users or strollers. This also makes Oxley an ideal place for hiking with children. According to Arthrell-Knezek, Oxley can get very muddy in May. So be sure to bring your rain boots if it has rained recently.
Ray Harral Nature Center & Park (7101 p. 3rd St., broken arrow; breakarrowok.gov)
For residents of Broken Arrow, a visit to Ray Harral Park may be ideal. There are three miles of hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty, as well as sheltered picnic tables, an outdoor garden, and much more. However, some of these amenities, like the nature center itself and the outdoor toilets, may be closed due to COVID-19. Visit the website or Facebook page (facebook.com/rayharralnaturecenter) for updates.
Tulsa River Trails (riverparks.org)
If you want to get outside without leaving the sidewalk, head to the paths along Riverside Drive. These shared trails are perfect for biking, running, inline skating, skateboarding, or just taking a walk. As always, make sure you practice safe social distancing and keep at least three feet between yourself and those around you!
Turkey Mountain (6800 S. Elwood Ave., riverparks.org/experience/turkey-mountain)
Located on 71st Street and Riverside Drive, Turkey Mountain attracts hikers, mountain bikers, horse riders, and more. There are three main trail options to choose from: the 8-mile Red Trail, the 1.5-mile Blue Trail, and the 4.4-mile Yellow Trail. Whichever trail you choose, make sure you wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water.
Two Rivers Trail (Sand Springs, alltrails.com/trail/us/oklahoma/two-rivers-trail)
Arthrell-Knezek: “The Two Rivers Trail is a primitive, moderately difficult hike that is sometimes difficult to ride. It also leads to a breathtaking view of the lake, small sandy beaches and a beautiful eastern red cedar forest. “
Woodward Park (2435 S. Peoria Ave., tulsagardencenter.org)
Woodward Park is a popular travel destination, partly in the heart of Midtown, but also for its natural and cultivated beauty. However, the park is nearly 44 acres, so it should still be possible to explore without feeling too crowded. Kids will enjoy climbing over rocks that line wide, sandy paths or going down to the pond to look for ducks and other wildlife. There’s also plenty of space to spread out a picnic blanket and just relax.
What to bring
Bring plenty of water first. Although some trails may have public drinking fountains on the main trail, you probably don’t want to use them during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are hiking with children, it is a good idea to pack snacks as well. Below is a recipe for Trail Mix Bites.
Of course, you should wear comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen. Consider a hat for extra UV protection and long sleeves and pants to protect yourself from insect bites, tall grass, etc. Bring a bottle of hand sanitizer if possible and make sure you use the toilet before leaving as public toilets may be closed.
“Remember, May is also the start of the tick season,” warns Arthrell-Knezek. “So wear light, long-sleeved shirts, pants, bug spray and a hat – and look for ticks when you get home from your hikes.”
What to look out for and what to listen to
“May is a lovely month to be outside. Often the weather is not too hot and many plants are in bloom, ”says Arthrell-Knezek. “In the wild, there are plenty of flowers in the fields around Tulsa. One of my favorite places to see wildflowers is in the Osage Hills, which lead to the Tulsa Botanic Garden and the lawns around Gathering Place. I love the deep red wine color of the poppy mallow. It is especially beautiful when mixed with the light pink evening primrose and the almost fluorescent orange-red of the brush blossom. Listen to the varied songbird calls in May. Many migratory songbirds have returned from their southern roosts. If you listen carefully, you can hear their different and unique songs. “
Trail mix bites
This recipe by Natalie Mikles was originally published in the May 2015 issue of TulsaKids
- 1 cup of whole grain puffed rice muesli
- 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup pecans or sunflower seeds (without mussels)
- 1/2 cup chopped pretzels
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup raisins, dried cranberries, or dried chopped apricots (or a mixture of all three)
- 1/4 cup wheat germ
- Mix the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly until it is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Form mixture into 1-inch balls. Store in a closed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Note: If you don’t have puffed rice granola, you can substitute old-fashioned oats.