I did a 10-mile hike in Hocking Hills on Sunday. It was a gorgeous day, and the temperature hit 91°. It was a four-sweatband hike. (When I sweat, it seems to do a good job of dripping into my eyes, so I wear a headband when I hike.)
On a separate-but-related note, a few weeks ago the Columbus Dispatch did a story on logging in the state forests, entitled Ohio might sell more trees. State forest officials want to double the amount of commercial logging in the state forests. According to the story, they want to go from cutting down 17% of new growth to 50% of new growth.
I find this abominable.
State forests are there for multiple uses, so I really cannot object too much that logging is one of those uses. But if logging is given that high of a priority, that crowds out the other uses, particularly since logging is so intrusive, has a widespread, and takes so long to look like it is restored.
A lot of my hiking is in areas outside the usual touristy locations, and a lot of it is on the bridle trails. It seems that just when I get used to a location, it gets logged over, and that is never pretty.
It used to be that they at least made an attempt to hide the devastation. A few years back the Zaleski Backpacking Trail was rerouted. It used to run along the top of a ridge (this is on the route to campground C, for those of you familiar with the area). They relocated in down the ridge about 500 feet. Why? They clear cut the other side of the ridge, and by moving the trail down the other side, the cutting was not evident. Something similar was done when they rerouted the Buckeye Trail in Hocking Hills between Cedar Falls and Ash Cave more recently.
On my Sunday hike, they hadn’t even bothered. Near where the Orange Trail meets the Purple Trail a bit west of Conkle’s Hollow, there were huge patches of missing trees. This was an older cut, so some of it was coming back, but the contrast with real forest was still huge. Here’s a panorama shot of that:
But the most recent devastation was up along Little Pine Creek and just to the northwest of the Horse Camp. (Surely the Horsemen cannot be happy with this cutting over of their trails?) The logging runs along the Red Trail for about half a mile. Here’s a shot showing all the debris left behind, and the logging roads:
Farther along, you can see more of what has been done:
They didn’t bother to take care of things very well, either. Here you can see one of the blaze trees for the trail. It’s that red blaze sitting in the debris on the ground:
What is really sad is what it does to the soil, except you cannot call it that any more. This is what the trail looks like right now:
That is sun-baked clay with scree embedded in it. By this point I had hiked, barefoot, for about 9 miles. This stuff was just hell to walk on. I think about the only thing that could possibly be worse to walk on barefoot would be a single layer of gravel on concrete, and this was pretty close.
You know, if an activity leaves a supposedly natural area in the condition that it no longer can be walked on barefoot, then that activity is totally antithetical to nature. And I don’t need to hear any whining about how I was barefoot, so what else should I expect? The article mentioned above talked about how this logging was a renewable resource, but sun-baked clay does not renew easily. The disturbed soil in other locations erodes away much faster. Sometimes I wonder just how many times an area can be logged over before it no longer renews, before all the essential nutrients have been taken from the soil and shipped away with the trees. Cropland requires fertilizer every year. Sure, logging is much slower, with much longer harvesting intervals, but there has to be a limit.
There was a short respite from the logging along Little Pine Creek, then I ascended the hill towards the Horse Camp. This was logged even more extensively, and the hill, with bridle trail running right through it, was now terraced with logging roads.
I don’t want to give the impression that it was a horrible hike. Much of it was in areas that had not been logged and were extremely pleasant to walk through. Under the (unlogged ) trees, the soil was nicely damp and very nice to walk on barefooted. There were muddy places (this time erosion caused mainly by horses’ hooves), pretty streams, and more of the recess caves that Hocking Hills is famous for.
Here is a panorama shot I took of Weinkoop cave, from above the top of the cave and while standing on an outcropping that nicely overlooked.
This next shot is of some of the rock formation to the left of the cave, just as it starts opening up.
Finally, here is Little Pine Creek, in the section between the two logged sections. It is actually a very soothing spot, with that small waterfall providing background music.
It is of course a very nice spot just to wade around a bit, and provide some cooling relief from having to walk over that sun-baked clay.