Trail Report: Caesar Creek Perimeter Trail

When you ask most backpackers how they enjoy their hobby in southwestern Ohio, the answer probably begins with the words, “First I drive X hours….” There are a couple options without leaving this part of the state however. Twin Valley Backpack Trail near Dayton connects Germantown MetroPark and Twin Creek Metropark along with a loop in each park to create the trail. The connection does include about 1 ½ miles of walking along public streets along with the same distance on a “recreational” trail.

Another option that few people think about is the Caesar Creek Perimeter Trail. This 13 mile loop can be started as a day hike at several locations including the US Corps of Engineers Visitor Center near the lake’s Dam. Because camping is permitted on the trail, it seemed like another opportunity for me to hike with a full backpack without being stared at like you can be while “backpacking” up to Kroger’s.

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Starting from the Visitor Center, the trail heads mostly north and east through a mature forest. The ups and downs can get fairly steep, but don’t last very long. While the trail doesn’t cling to the lake shore, there is an occasional nice view of the lake. At about five miles in, there’s even a short side trail to a picnic table set along the bank. Throughout the hike, I kept hoping to meet other hikers coming the other way, but since it was a weekday, no such luck. It wasn’t so much that I was lonely, I was just wanting someone else to clear the trail for me. I ended up spending the entire day breaking spider webs with my arms and face.

At mile six, the trail breaks into the open, skirting close to the Furnas Shores boat ramp on the way to Route 73; another mile further along. Once there, it’s time for a little road walking, though there is a wide berm to keep you out of the traffic. Immediately, a bridge crosses Caesar Creek Lake with extensive views of the 3,000 acre impoundment. Once across the bridge though, the “trail” stays out in the open along Rt 73 for another half mile or so. With the sun out and temperatures in the high 80s, I immediately missed the shade of the forest.

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Eventually, the time comes to turn off Rt 73 towards the Fifty Springs Picnic Area. Behind the first shelter, the trail drops back into the woods. This is also one of three locations where backpackers can legally camp. The spot consists of a flat area mowed into the edge of the woods, but there is a restroom nearby. Camping is by permit only, available on line; no fee mentioned.

At this point, the trail is heading back towards the Visitor Center, but on the opposite side of the lake. Though the trail seems less used and more overgrown on this side of the lake, it actually contained some of the more interesting features of the hike. It soon drops down to Jonah’s Run, a pretty little creek featuring a small waterfall right near the crossing bridge.

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Shortly after, the trail passes through the Pioneer Village, an interesting collection of homes and outbuildings from the early settlement of the area. The Village occasionally hosts special events with an ($5) entry fee, but those can be avoided with advance planning.

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Another creek crossing is via a rather snazzy new swinging bridge. After some hiking through open woods, the path crosses the emergency spillway that was dug out as part of construction of the lake. The work exposed bedrock which was laid down hundreds of millions of years ago when this area was a shallow sea. The rocks contain numerous fossils from the Ordovician Period. In fact, the largest Trilobite fossil ever found in the western hemisphere came from right there.

A very highly maintained stretch of trail winds along the lake to the Flat Fork Picnic Area, but then it is back out onto the road; specifically Clarksville Road. The road crosses the dam then leads, a bit farther down the way, to the Visitor Center where this stroll began. On a warm, sunny day carrying a 25 pound pack, the 13 mile march took an even five hours of walking.

Trail Report: Twin Creek Metropark

Well, it’s been over 6 months since I had my foot operated on and it’s still not right. (Thanks, Beacon Orthopaedics!) Regardless, with a big backpacking trip (or two) coming up, I needed to start taking practice hikes to insure my equipment and I would be up to the challenge. As I’d be wearing my backpack, the thought was to hike at Twin Creek, a Five Rivers Metropark that’s about a half hour drive up I-75 from I-275 in Cincinnati.

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Why Twin Creek? There’s a number of reasons. The most basic is that the trails there are part of the Twin Valley Backpacking Trail. If you’ve ever gotten strange looks when carrying a backpack at your local park, up the street, or God forbid, the treadmill at LA Fitness, you’ll understand the benefit of hiking where you could actually be backpacking. If you get strange looks at Twin Creek, it’s for some reason other than your backpack.

In addition, the trails there have some elevation changes, are well maintained, traverse a variety of habitats and are actually pretty scenic. There are a number of options with loops of various lengths from a couple miles all the way up to over 30 by taking a connector trail to Germantown Metropark. With the temperature expected to reach the 90s, I figured an 8 mile Sweatfest would be plenty to begin with.

The trails don’t have the most imaginative names (I walked the purple and orange trails) but they are well marked with color coded blazes near every intersection. Starting near Lake George at the southernmost part of the park, I hopped on the Purple Trail walking the loop clockwise towards the Orange Trail. Early on, the trail is mostly in the woods. It was obvious I was the first hiker of the day as I hit enough spider webs to feel like I was starting to create a cocoon for myself. The morning forest contained a supply of gnats and mosquitos as well. They weren’t overly troublesome as a bit of Deet sprayed on my hat was enough to keep them at bay.

Slightly larger wildlife was spotted on occasion. Squirrels, rabbits and an assortment of birds kept things interesting. The wooded sections also contained a healthy population of toads, no doubt there to reduce the insect population for me.

"I'm King of the World!"

“I’m King of the World!”

Once I started clockwise on the Orange Trail, a six mile loop, the path meandered between grassland and an open cedar/pine forest before heading back into the woods. Benches by a very scenic Dogwood Pond were a great place to take a quick break.

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About a mile further, the trail broke out of the woods and headed up a large open hill, a bit reminiscent of one of the “balds” of the southern Appalachian Mountains. At the top of the grass covered hill was High View Picnic Shelter. I was a bit over halfway through the trek and it was lunch time. Things were working out perfectly.

There is a commanding view from the shelter in all directions. Between the shade of the structure and the breeze, the oppressive heat was kept at bay while I ate and enjoyed the sights.

High View Shelter

High View Shelter

Of course, the longer I sat, the closer the temperature got to 90. Soon it was time to drop off the “bald,” and head back into a low forest alongside Twin Creek.

The park’s namesake stream was running clear and cool. I wished I had brought a fishing rod. The next couple miles featured some very scenic overlooks of the water before a pretty significant climb out of the creek’s valley. A few switchbacks kept the trail from becoming too steep.

Before too long I was back at the Purple Trail. After a short detour to check out the Pine Ridge Backcountry Campsite (I did have a backpack on) it was just a short walk back to where I was parked.

According to my GPS, the trip was 8.4 miles with elevation varying from 650 to just under 900 feet above sea level. The hike took me 3 ½ hours with about 30 minutes of that spent taking breaks and eating lunch. All in all, not a bad way to start prepping for a bigger backpacking trip.

More detailed information is available at the park’s website.

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It’s Award Season

With all the other Award shows going on, I wouldn’t be surprised if you missed the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2015 Awards. Well, despite the lack of TV coverage, I’m happy to report that the organization saw fit to present me with two awards. A selection of photos taken on the Colorado Trail received “Best Series of Photos.” The specific winning shots are shown here.

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Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes

 

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In addition, my book on the journey, The Achievable Epic: Thru-Hiking the Colorado Trail received “Outstanding Media Achievement.” Feel free to check it out at Amazon.

Now I’m fired up for a new adventure! Hmmm, where should I go?