Hiking in The Hills: Part I

IMG_1725After entertaining a few dinner guests over the course of the weekend, after exhausting the possibilities for exploration in the nearby towns, and especially after sitting in the cabin for an entire day while severe thunderstorms drenched the nearly drought-stricken area, we were ready to get out and do some hiking.

Rather than stay near the cabin for our first day of hiking, we chose to travel about 45 minutes southeast into Athens County for a hike through Strouds Run State Park.

Finding our way to the actual park entrance proved to be a challenge (it was later determined that this park has no “official” entrance). Though the park appeared on every map of the area we had in our possession, specifics about where the entrances were located and which roads would take you there were sketchy. There was no 3G phone service in the area, so we had to rely on my stellar map-reading and navigational abilities to guide us.

At first it was sheer will that kept us determined to find the entrance to the park. In fact, once we exited the main highway guided by a sign that promised we were on our way to the park, it became clear that we were on our own; there were no more signs to be seen. After several u-turns and wide-eyed excursions down unlikely, unlabeled, and uninhabited roads, it became nothing short of a quest guided by rage! Eventually, we made our way to the park via “roads” that were scarcely larger than sidewalks which traversed very steep terrain. IMG_1692The fact that we’d just watched “Deliverance” the night before did nothing to allay our fears of being hopelessly lost in no-man’s land.

Once inside the park, however, we were able to put aside our frustrations. At just over 2700 acres, the park is quite an undertaking for the senses — especially in the midst of fall color!

After scrambling around with the only full map of the park that we were able to find, we decided to head into the woods on the Broken Rock Trail which conveniently started where we’d parked the car. The trails themselves were fairly clearly signposted, but our map did not name the trails very clearly. So, it was with some trepidation that we set off. I did have a fear that we’d find ourselves deep in the heart of the woods, exhausted after having meandered from one trail to another without realizing it. Fortunately, we did not fall into that trap.

The trail began with a very steep climb up a ridge. The climb was steady and unrelenting — a bit like climbing a very tall staircase with no actual stairs, only the ground with moistened, fallen leaves beneath you. As we reached the top, I could see that we were in for some spectacular views.

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The land within Strouds Run State Park was not affected by the vast ice sheets of the ice age some 12,000 years ago (thus the ruggedness of the terrain), but it was shaped and given very unique character by very powerful streams of glacial meltwater. Over time, these streams cut giant gorges and cliffs into the landscape — all of which makes for very interesting hiking!

IMG_1690Though we’d already missed Ohio’s peak fall color, the leaves were no less stunning. I narrowly missed crushing a very interesting specimen: an pumpkin-orange, marbled orb weaver spider. Here I must confess to being an arachnophobe. Though I saw movement on the ground ahead of me in time to stop, and was glad not to have crushed it, it took every fiber of my being to hold still long enough to bring myself close enough to snap this picture! I don’t think I breathed until I’d taken the picture and stepped away! For the rest of the trail, I found my eyes constantly being drawn downward, wary of seeing a spider crawling up my pants leg or — worse — seeing a final glimpse of it as it completely entered the INTERIOR of my pants leg. Oh the terrific dancing that would’ve ensued.

I was delighted to see the forest — even in the midst of its autumnal decline — still full of life and activity. Though I’d cleverly forgotten my binoculars at the cabin, we spotted a songbird or two along the trail. I was especially excited to see the small tree seedlings (primarily maple, oak, and beech) who’d managed to maintain their colorful leaves while their larger parents and siblings had lost most of theirs.

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Taking a detour mid-trail, we ended our hike at Dow Lake — an artificial lake within the park. It’s a very handsome lake and not immediately recognizable as “artificial”, but I was shocked to learn it is annually stocked with several varieties of fish — some of which cannot survive the winter. This seems more than a little wasteful (if not cruel to the fish themselves).

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Satisfied with our little, three-mile hike, we headed back for the car, eager to get to our second hiking destination for the day which promised a much more interesting back-story. More on that to come!

Because there’s more to be seen on a hike than can be told, please enjoy this slide show which contains the rest of our snapshots from Strouds Run’s Broken Rock Trail (if you click on the slideshow you will be brought to a website to view it in a larger size):

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~ by Jason on November 9, 2010.

11 Responses to “Hiking in The Hills: Part I”

  1. Lovely, lovely! I was looking around my office just now for spiders. I feel the same. They can be so beautiful and creepy at the same time!

    • I get the creepy-crawlies just by looking at PICTURES of spiders — get that tingly feeling in my leg hairs and I have to make sure nothing’s crawling around! Ach!

      But they are beautiful, I have to admit… I don’t know how I just instinctively had a fear of them even as a child.

  2. Looks like you had a great time! My mom grew up in Hocking County. It is a beautiful area.

    • We did have a great time — lots of quiet and beautiful scenery. James, of course, grew up in Ohio, so he’s fairly familiar with the landscape. I’m enjoying exploring Ohio while teaching him about Louisiana!

  3. I love the pictures. They are beautiful. It is nice to see real beauty in Ohio. However, I totally would have been happy minus the spider picture. *shudders*

  4. Oh Jason..you are not alone when it comes to the fear of the arachnoids!!!They terrify me..and although I was a country-born and bred girl, raised on a farm in the boonies, and like you and James, appreciated natural beauty,I enjoyed the beauty of the farm, woods, pond, and home-made lanes..and we had many many species of spiders, snakes, bugs, toads,frogs, and ect…My poor mother(God rest her soul) never knew what to expect me to bring in the house when I came carrying my little “purse” which had just about anything you could imagine in it except the normal things a little girl SHOULD put in a purse!!The one thing that stands out in my memory was a day my dad took me to a little farm pond where we fished for some fish, and of course at age 6 I tired easily of not catching anything..so I wandered down a stream that fed into the little pond a ways, and thought wading was much more fun, so in I went to my knees…in the clear spring water..when I noticed something swimming around my feet!! Well I had my little sand pail in my hand as I kept nightcrawlers in it to fish, but decided to spare a few lives and turn them loose..Glad tho that I Did cause those salamanders that I found, accumulated..as I bet there was about 20-30 in my bucket when I finished “collecting” them. My dad nearly had heart failure when he saw them…but his reaction to them was mild compared to moms when I took all of them in the bucket in the house!!! I thought they were just frogs with legs, and a tail that swam ….thought that they would do well in the tub!!! NOT..mom freaked out and ordered me out of the house , and then she started in on poor dad( God rest his soul too) for “letting” me catch them. HE muttered under his breath, something to the effect, “Its a wonder I don;t get blamed for the weather”..lol. Those were the days of simpler things, when kids did not have to rely on video games, texting, tv, or ect…they had everything at their fingertips..that was a quality of life we don;t have much anymore..But I remember it well, and cherish those thoughts. I love Hocking county too, and we try to get there about 3 times a year but did not make it this year..will have to work extra hard to get there in 2011..Keep up the great pics, and stories..and last but not least…recipes!!!

    • Hi Valerie, thanks for the lovely tale. My mom never had to worry about me bringing critters into the house. Her biggest worry was keeping me out of mud puddles (me and my two brothers, actually). I remember that our yard had three significant mud puddles — one for each of us. After a rainstorm, we’d get out there and literally wallow in the mud… like pigs. I don’t even know why! I think kids have a natural affinity for exploring the outdoors that we lose later when we’re forced to grow up. 🙂

  5. Great fall photos! They look like they should be in a professional magazine.

    • Thanks, Pam! I’d like to claim that I had some skill as a photographer, but the scenery was so beautiful, it was really just a matter of pointing and shooting! 😀 I had to fight the urge to take pictures of everything, too!

  6. Hey sweety,
    So glad you and James had a great trip.The pictures were great. I love this time of year my favorite.
    Can’t wait to see ya’ll .
    Love MOM

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