A New Buckeye Trail Adventure

Recently I was elected to the board of trustees of the Buckeye Trail Association.  This was not something that I was actively seeking.

I feel that I owe something to the BTA.  When my doctor told me that exercise would help with my arthritis, I decided to hike, mostly because of my lifelong love of the woods.  So I joined the BTA mainly because I wanted to get the discounted prices for their trail maps.  When my arthritis specialist told me that hiking was okay, but that if I wanted to have any quality of life in my golden years, that I needed to exercise my arthritic spine.  He prescribed manual labor.  I can think of no better form of manual labor than building hiking trail.  Wielding fire rakes to clear the forest litter and hack through greenbrier (shudder); swinging mattocks and pulaskis to dig out saplings and to bench trails; and bending over to hand move rocks and logs and whatever else needs moving is manual labor in its basic form.  And it worked.  My back got into the best shape that it had been in for a very long time.

But more than the beauty one sees when hiking or the benefit one gets from strenuous exercise is the community of people that claim the BTA as their own.  The diversity of people is amazing.  And during my years associated with them, I have yet to meet anyone who did not embrace kindness.  Perhaps it is the nature of those who practice volunteerism.  Because that is what the BTA is, a volunteer organization.

And I get to help guide it.  This is an adventure I think I am really going to enjoy.

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I am a National Park Service Volunteer

This week, quite by surprise, I found out that I have been recognized by the National Park Service as a 100 hour volunteer. They sent me a certificate of appreciation (suitable for framing), an National Park Service Volunteer lapel pin (very high quality craftsmanship), and a North Country National Scenic Trail 100 Hours of Volunteer Service engraved name badge (with my name spelled correctly!!!).

You would have though that I would know that I was a National Park Service Volunteer, and that I would not have been surprised. After all, how would a person donate 100 hours of service and not know it?

The answer is quite simple. I am also a 100 hour volunteer with the Buckeye Trail Association. They gave me a nice embroidered blue flannel shirt early this spring as thanks for my service. All of my BTA volunteer work has been with the Trail Crew in southern Ohio and with the Buckeye Trail segment that my Dad and I maintain. All of this trail is actually three trails that share the same footpath: The Buckeye Trail, the American Discovery Trail, and the North Country National Scenic Trail. Every hour I volunteer is an hour volunteered for each. I knew that the North Country trail was sponsored by the National Park service, but I did not realize that it was actually recognized as part of the National Park Service. Now I know, and I have a very nice lapel pin to prove it. And if I can ever figure out when and where the Adams County chapter of the North Country Trail Association meets, I can wear my name badge and have instant credibility.

Now that I am the BTA Scioto Trail section supervisor, my National Park Service volunteer hours are going to climb very fast!

Buckeye Trail, Scioto Trail Section Supervisor

There is a new Buckeye Trail, Scioto Trail Section Supervisor.

Me.

I am exited about the opportunity. I figured that I would be closer to retirement before I stepped up my involvement with the BTA, but circumstances beyond anyone’s control changed my mind.

The previous section supervisor was injured and will be out of commission for an extended period of time, and even after recovery is leery of traipsing about the woods by himself. He said that I was really the only choice for replacing him; how could I say no to that?

Besides, hiking an building hiking trails have really helped me on both physical and emotional levels. It is a little daunting: I have increased my BTA responsibility fourteen times over. Dad and I maintain a 4.28 mile segment of the trail, the entire Scioto Trail section is 60.87 miles.

The Scioto Trail Section stretches from the eastern edge of Tar Hollow State Forest to the Pike Lake dam in the Pike Lake State Park. In between are the Tar Hollow State Park, Scioto Trail State Park and Forest, Pike Lake State Forest, many miles of privately owned land and public roads. The main responsibility will be to work with and encourage those people who have volunteered to maintain the trail, to actually do that. There are some segments that have open volunteer positions, and I will need to try and recruit people to fill them.

It is the public road segments that were the main reason I said yes to the supervisor position. Many of the roads that were safe to walk on just five years ago, are now dangerous. Here in Pike County the Trail starts a very long on-road segment near the intersection of Prussia and Pennington Rds. NW of Waverly. It follows nine different roads (Prussia to Pennington to Kaiser to Denver to Mt. Tabor to Clines Chapel to Nipgen to SR772 to Morgans Fork) before entering the Pike State Forest near the intersection of SR772 and Morgans Fork Road. That is over 14 miles of continuous on-road hiking. At some point I would like to get off-road trail built to replace it. Actually, it is longer than that because the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is doing selective logging of diseased and blighted trees in the Pike State Forrest, and will not permit hiking in the logging zone. The temporary re-route follows Morgan Fork to Pike Lake Road, and into the State Park that way; perhaps another six or seven miles on-road. I need to find out when that logging is going to be finished.

And then there is the issue of crossing US23 near Woodland Park Rd. (just south of Alma Omega Rd.) Not sure what can be done here unless there is major road construction done and we can get the North Country Trail to push for a tunnel similar to what was done where the BTA/NCT crosses (underneath) US35 NW of Richmond Dale.

I am exited about this promotion within the BTA. Yeah, it is all volunteer work, and it won’t be easy. But I will get to meet more people and have a built in reason to go hiking… er… do some trail inspecting.

Wild America in my backyard

There are days that make me glad I am once again living in rural southern Ohio. Singular events can put the weeks of moaning and complaining about rain and mud completely out of my mind.

For those that don’t know, my yard is considered a wetland. This spring has thankfully been a wet one, and it has taken until now for my lawn to finally dry enough that I could mow most of it. The grass was knee deep in the areas that stay the wettest during the spring. This morning I raised the deck of the mower and was mowing the grass at a level that would leave six or eight inches, but would take a foot or more off the top. Tomorrow I plan on dropping the mowing deck and re-mowing the entire yard to a more manicured level.

I was mowing in the back corner of my property when a young white-tailed deer buck came running straight at me from the corner of our house. His pace was swift, but it did not appear that he was in panic mode. I came to a dead stop on the lawn tractor. When he noticed me, he altered his path and passed in front of me. He was about thirty feet away. White-tailed deer are remarkably graceful animals. This one just seemed to glide. He was close enough for me to see the variation of colors in his tawny fur. His small antlers with two prongs each were still covered with the fuzz of new growth. There is no fence between my property and the farmer’s field to the rear of my place, and the deer continued on into what for the past five years has been a hay field. The hay is deep enough that at some spots all I could see was his head bobbing above the tall grass waving in the breeze. I expected to see him jump the fence and enter the cow pasture that butts up against the hay field, but I never did. He must have cut over to the small stand of trees that line the diversion ditch to the north.

Most of the time when I mow I only see the crayfish that live in my lawn. Crayfish live in wetlands, not just creeks and streams. Occasionally I will see a garter or other small snake. About the most exciting thing I see on a recurring basis are the barn-swallows that dip and sail around me catching the flying insects that my mowing stirs up.

It has been years since I was this close to a white-tailed deer in the open. I find I am just as thrilled and enthralled as I was when I was a kid. I love nature.

Bone tired and loving it

I spent the weekend building more hiking trail for the Buckeye Trail. It is now Tuesday morning and I can still feel a few aches in muscles that I did not use over the winter. Yesterday, I was bone tired. This is how I describe the feeling of being completely tired physically. It is similar to the tiredness I use to feel after running a cross-country race and giving absolutely every ounce of energy away to reach the finish line.

Working on the trail this weekend was very rewarding for me. The section of trail we worked on is in Pike Lake State Forest and leads directly to the Pike Lake dam at the Pike Lake State Park here in southern Ohio. This section of trail has been closed for about a year because a section of the woods were the trail runs was being logged. Falling trees do not make for enjoyable hiking. Beyond re-opening the trail, there was some new trail built that will add to the enjoyment of hikers.

There are some very beautiful vistas here in Southern Ohio, and that is what most people look for when hiking. But we also have some very interesting cave and rock outcropping formations. Pike Lake is not known for these. The Buckeye Trail has been the only way to get to the best outcropping in southwestern Pike County. The problem has been that if you are hiking east, you will likely not notice it, and if you are hiking west… well…

The old trail went straight up a hillside. I am not exaggerating when I say that the trail fluctuated between 15 to 25 percent grade on the climb. That is steep. It is also just under a quarter mile long. Needless to say when hiking up the hill, even the most fit hikers get winded. For me, when I’d get high enough to see the outcropping I’d use it as an excuse to stop. Hiking is all about enjoying the view, right? The problem is that when you do that kind of strenuous work, you end up looking at the ground at you feet because you are bent over catching your breath. And if you do look up, those interesting little sparkles dance before your eyes obscuring the view. (Never had that happen? You need to really get your heart rate up once and enjoy the light-show. :)

The hill is now switched-backed. A full half mile was added to the length of the trail, but the grade is a gentle 5 to 10 percent, with a spot of two that might get up to 15% for a dozen feet of less. One switchback is placed so that the outcropping is perfectly visible when hiking east or west. And the gentle climb allows folks to enjoy the view without huffing and puffing.

There has been an Autumn Hike at Pike Lake for several years now. I hope that this section of the trail is selected for the hike this coming October. It is a very beautiful area that most people don’t even know exists.

Adams Lake State Park

Doris has taken some amazing nature pictures, and wanted to take more. She suggested that we head out to a state park she had remembered seeing last year when we went to West Union. We were in different vehicles and I did not notice it at all.

I am so glad she did. It turned out that it was Adams Lake State Park and Adams Lake Prairie State Nature Preserve in Adams County, on SR41 near West Union, Ohio.

Like many Ohio State Parks, it is small. It has one paved trail that runs for 3/4’s of a mile along the lake front from the dam near SR41 to the turnaround at the dead end of the park’s access road. The park takes up 49 acres, 47 of which is the lake itself. That remaining two acres is pleasingly laid out with a playground, shelter and numerous picnicking tables and grills. A tiny stand of old forest trees resides between the access road and the hiking path, and this area is also interspersed with picnic tables, but no grills. The lake level was down a bit, likely due to the dry spring weather we had. There was a nice surprise for me. There were two prominate beaver lodges on the far side of the lake, and a third lumping of branches that could also have been a lodge. On the near side of the lake near the walking path a few trees were girdled and obvious beaver teeth marks were visible. Doris saw a small head bobbing in the lake, but I missed it.

Adjacent to the park is the 26 acre Adams Lake Prairie State Nature Preserve. By law in Ohio you need permits to access the state nature preserves or to hike in them. That is unless a state approved trail is provided, in which case you are allowed to use the trail. It is illegal to leave the trail unless you have a permit. I was happy to see that it appears the patrons of the park abide by this rule as there were no unauthorized side trails or worn areas that are common in most state parks. The gravel and dirt trails in the nature preserve total approximately 8/10’s of a mile. Part of it is a nature walk that includes signs describing plant and animal life in the area.

I am thinking of returning in the springtime to see the prairie in bloom, and the spillway of the lake in action. The dam has a double spillway, one of which is likely only for emergency overflow. Owen’s other grandparents live near this state park, so it is very likely that I will be visiting it again in the future. Next time, I’ll pack a picnic lunch.

(This is part of Thing 46)

Scratch Thing #60

60. Power wash back of house/return power washer

If there is a lesson to be learned by the readers of this blog, it is be cautious what you lend me. It may be a while before I return it.

I borrowed a power washer from a good friend over a year ago. This spring I finally got around to power washing the front and both sides of the house. It took until this fall to finish up the backside of the house and return the power washer. Good thing I have kind and patient friends! I bet if I asked to borrow it again, it would be on my front step ASAP.

The back of the house was in a word, dirty. Because of the direction the wind normally blows here at Swamp Acres, the wind whips and swirls at the back of the house like the wind off the back of a large truck. This results in an eddy of wind that tosses dirt back up against the house. Similar eddies are what cause the back of any car, truck or van to be dirtier than the rest of the vehicle. It is also has a mostly northern exposure. This results in moss growing on the slabs of concrete outside the two patio doors. Extra dirt, moss, procrastination inclinations; it adds up to a recipe that only needs a cold breezy autumn day and a deadline to return a power washer to be complete.

But it got done. We can laugh at it, and at me, now. Good thing that good friend likes cool weather, because it looks like he will be power washing his deck on a cool and breezy autumn day.