Tag Archives: Camping

Trail Report: Logan Trail at Tar Hollow State Forest, South Loop

Bill, a former co-worker and fellow backpacker and I were trying to plan a short November trip, but the weather doesn’t always want to cooperate at that time of year in Ohio. However, since I wanted to test a new winter tent (Sierra Designs Convert 2), the forecast of rain turning to snow, high wind and a low in the mid-20s wasn’t a deterrent.

We would be hiking the backpack trail at Tar Hollow State Forest. It was pouring rain on the drive out, so a second breakfast at McDonalds was in order. The delay ended up giving us a bit under six hours of light to hike the 10 or so miles we had planned.

Despite the touristy name, Tar Hollow’s trails are fairly rugged for the Midwest. They meander through both 600 acre Tar Hollow State Park and the larger, surrounding Tar Hollow State Forest (16,000+acres). Located in Ross, Vinton and Hocking Counties, east of Chillicothe, Tar Hollow is a rugged landscape originally named after the pine tar pulled from the native pines growing there. The park is not as developed as your typical State Park but does offer a 15 acre lake, trails and a few camping options.

The Logan Trail is a backpack trail which is laid out in a pattern resembling a figure eight. The only trailside camping permitted is within the state park near the center of the eight and a large fire tower. The area consists of five small campsites that share a latrine. There is no potable water at the camp area.

Stopping at the park office we paid the $4/person/night fee for the “backcountry” camping. There are two trailheads typically used by hikers. In an effort to keep things simple and easy, we began from the fire tower as a light rain continued to fall.

Of the two loops, the southern spent more time in the forest and less in the park, so south it would be. Trail intel gleaned from the Interweb stated the trail was marked significantly better if hiking in a counter-clockwise direction, so that’s the way we went. This trail was originally constructed by the Boy Scouts. It is generally maintained well and marked well, but don’t expect to see a switchback. Several sections have been maintained through the use of a small bulldozer however, and were not quite the immersion in nature a singletrack trail provides.

The two loops run together for a bit less than ½ mile, then the South loop splits off. A drop and a few subsequent climbs made me wish that the word switchback had been in the builder’s vocabulary. With the ongoing rain, the slopes were slick. It’s not often a trail is steep enough that I feel I’m hiking face to face with it, but that was the case in a few spots.

Creek crossings were numerous, but even with the rain, were not typically tough to cross. The late fall color was still pretty good and although wet, the scenery was ruggedly beautiful.

Bill trying out Umbrella Hiking

There was one spot where the trail marking failed us. Nearly five miles in, we were walking on a ridgetop on what appeared to be an old service road. An obvious trail, blazed in red, dropped off the ridge. There were no blazes or signs in sight continuing straight, so we followed the blazes. It was one of the steepest drops of the trail and the maintenance level dropped as well, but it continued to be well blazed. After a half hour the forest opened into a meadow that was obviously the Camp Dulen Boy Scout Camp. We were a mile off the main trail. A posted map showed the camp at the end of a loop, so rather than backtrack, we continued onward.

This was quite possibly a mistake as the trail degraded significantly. It seemed as if this portion of the trail had been abandoned. Where the trail “disappeared,” we navigated from one faded blaze to the next until we reached a better maintenance level in time to reclimb the steep slope.

On the plus side, the rain had quit by the time we were back on the main trail. We walked right by our mistaken turn and were reassured that it was poor marking, and not our poor navigation that resulted in our detour. However, the side trip cost us an extra two miles, conditions had slowed us a bit, and with the late start, we ended up hiking in the dark. Despite having to deal with the remains of some timbercutting in the dark, we arrived at the designated camp area without any other issues.

As no one else was enjoying the Tar Hollow camp experience, we had our choice of spots on the ridge and found a nice flat area (area 124) without any standing water or apparent widow makers.

The rain had quit, replaced by occasional showers of ice pellets while we set up our tents by headlamp. The “test” tent went up quickly and my sleeping bag, pack and all my gear fit in with room to spare. The large doorway was waterproof when closed, so my decision to leave the removable vestibule at home was a good one.  I christened the tent, The Palace. For a full review of the tent, check here.

The Palace

There was plenty of firewood in the area, but it was all wet. One plus to having a vehicle nearby was we had brought a little dry wood. This starter supply was enough to get a warm blaze going well enough that careful feeding of the damp wood continued to keep the flames strong. The vehicle also served as a cache for extra water (and other liquids).

We kept a fire going for a while after dinner, but eventually the increasing wind, dropping temperature and ice pellet showers drove us to our respective tents. Since I’d be needing every bit of my 23 degree bag’s warming power, I kept The Palace zipped up tight with the foot area venting closed. It would be a good test of the material’s winter weather breathability.

Night’s are long in November, but I slept through the night, warm and dry. Despite the wind, the Convert’s fly remained taut and quiet. The temperature was in the mid 20s by morning. In Bill’s tent, his water froze. Mine did not. In addition, I had no issues with condensation whatsoever. For cold weather camping, the Convert was an impressive tent.

In the morning, the sky was clear but the cold front had done it’s job. Bill’s socks, which had gotten wet on a creek crossing, were frozen solid. He was able to send of photo of them to his son for his enjoyment. We hiked a few more miles in the park, just to explore a bit then headed back in time to watch a little football.

Trail Info

Logan Trail is located in Tar Hollow State Park and Forest, near Chillicothe. Head east from town on US 50 for less than ten miles to State Rt 327 North. Ten more miles will bring you to the Entrance to Tar Hollow State Park. Camp permits are available at the camp office and signs can direct you to the fire tower.

The South Loop is approximately 9 miles long if you don’t visit Camp Dulen. Per my Garmin, the elevation varied between 680 feet to 1,270 feet. The South Loop is generally rolling with two major drops and climbs of 400+ ft (three if you make the wrong turn). There were several creek crossings, but, even with recent rain, none were overly difficult.

Overall, the South Loop of Logan Trail provides a relatively challenging hike with some beautiful forested scenery. Unlike the nearby trails of Hocking Hills though, there is no need to worry about crowds.

 

Ohio to Erie Trail: Biking across Ohio, Part 2

To get to Part One, Click here.

Once I finished a big breakfast at home, it was back on the bike. While my second day on the trail would be a clear and cool morning, the long term forecast was a bit more iffy. What was left of Hurricane Irma was slowly churning north from the Gulf of Mexico and I had decided that I might be able to outrun it. However, riding would be a bit slower as the bike was loaded with panniers full of clothes, a tent, sleeping bag and pad, plus snacks. With two water bottles full, I was still carrying less than a twenty pound load.

After a four mile ride into the Little Miami River valley, I once again joined the Little Miami Scenic Trail, right where I had left off in Morrow. The valley is fairly deep as the trail parallels the Little Miami River. After a few miles I rode past Morgan’s Canoe Livery Campground. Nearby, Ziplines crossed 200 feet overhead. A steep side trail led to Ft Ancient, a massive set of earthworks constructed by prehistoric Hopewell People. Another, more modern landmark was the new, twin bridges that carry I-71 over the bike trail and the river. At 239 feet over the river, they are the highest bridges in Ohio. A few miles further on, another of “the bridges of Warren County” did not look quite as modern. The Corwin Nixon Covered Bridge on Middletown Road is worth the short side trip. Other points of interest on the beautiful morning included a couple deer crossing the path and several herons fishing on the river. All too soon though, the trail left the by now, really little, Little Miami River and turned a bit east towards Spring Valley. Slim’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill is about a block off the trail and they open at 7 AM for breakfast. After 27 miles, I had missed that, but was getting pretty hungry for lunch. Pulling in, There was already a group of eight other cyclists settled in with menus. Turns out, it was a group of preachers that annually make the ride up to Cleveland. These “holy rollers” sounded like they were on the same basic schedule as me, though they’d be using hotels each night. That was a plus as my planned camp spot in London wouldn’t accommodate more than a few tents.

Lunch was still fresh in my stomach when I rolled into Xenia, a major trail junction for southwest Ohio. Here I left the LMST and picked up the Prairie Grass Trail, heading east. This trail was also a former rail line, but with no river valley to follow, was straight and often exposed as it travelled along large farm fields and signs of agribusiness. Normally, a westerly wind would help push you along on this stretch, but the edge of the monstrous low pressure system that was Irma had already reached me and created a significant headwind.

With the wind against me and the trail on a seemingly endless slight incline, I was starting to wear down. At Cedarville, a pharmacy is right by the trail and I stopped in for a Gatorade. Standing at the register still wearing bike shoes and a helmet, I resisted the urge for a smart ass reply when asked if I was riding the trail. A candy bar and sugary drink were just the prescription I needed and was soon back out, against the wind.

Eleven tough miles later I hit South Charleston. Like many towns, the old railroad station had been rehabbed into a trail rest stop. Often these stops also have a railroad car on display, typically a caboose. There were two cabooses here. I assume the railroads got a nice tax deduction for donating these no longer needed cars, but it makes for a nice atmosphere. I’d planned to stop at a grocery to pick up dinner, but saw nothing along the trail and pushed on.

Reaching the Madison County line, the trail surface was fresh and smooth. Additionally, the incline finally appeared to be over for the time being. I got my second wind and pushed a good pace in toward the town of London, my destination for the night. 

At a park right on the trail and at the edge of town, an extremely nice camping area had been set up for those traveling the OTET. I’d made 58 miles (62 counting the distance to my house). There was room for a few tents, and I had my choice. A picnic shelter, water and a restroom were all on site. A map of town showed where various restaurants, stores and services were located. After setting up camp, a half mile ride got me to Subway for a sandwich and Speedway for a cold drink and I was set for the night. As I sat in the shelter with dinner, Dave, from Madison County Parks stopped by for some pleasant dinner conversation. He also confirmed my route through town in the morning.

Other than a few trains on a nearby, still active line waking me, I had a restful night with the area to myself. By the way, this great spot is provided without charge, donations accepted. Make a donation.

In the cool, cloudy morning, I rolled through town, stopping at McDonalds for a high calorie breakfast. While in line, I ran into Dave again for a short chat. On the east side of town, it was back onto former rail line. Roberts Pass Trail, then the Camp Chase Trail headed due east through some major farms to Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park nearing Columbus.

The trail changed dramatically at that point. No longer straight and flat, the route wound down to Darby Creek and was even a gravel path for a bit before a stretch on a park road. Soon however, it was back onto a rail line. As the line was still active though, the path ran beside it with noticeable undulation.

The area was becoming more industrial as I passed under I-270, Columbus’s circle freeway. That was confirmed as I then spent a mile on Industrial Mile Road before returning to Camp Case Trail for a bit. Side trails in this area can be a bit confusing. After another mile on road I reached the Lower Scioto Greenway which followed its namesake river all the way to downtown.

Near downtown Columbus, the route travels through a nice, well maintained greenway park until turning north through town on city streets. Keep an eye out for the turn. I never saw it and continued on the wrong trail for at least a mile before realizing my mistake. Not sure exactly where I made my error I turned to my phone for directions to Nationwide Arena, where I knew I could meet back up with the OTET. After my detour of several blocks, I was back on the now well marked route heading northeast. Less than two miles of road got me to the I-670 Bikeway and the safety of separation from traffic. Despite another missed turn, I soon reached the Alum Creek Trail and conditions changed significantly.

In park like surroundings, the trail meandered along and often over Alum Creek. There were boardwalks and several really cool bridges. There were numerous places to stop and rest, but each time I did, rain caught up to me. I spent the afternoon on the leading edge of some showers, but managed to make it out of the I-275 loop relatively dry. Just outside the loop, I entered Westerville and made it an early day at the Red Roof Inn; perhaps ½ mile from the trail. Forty five miles of riding took me nearly five hours with my detours. Several restaurants and a Kroger were within walking distance and I was warm, clean and dry as some heavy showers later rolled through.

Part 3 continues here.