Tar Hollow sometimes seems like one of the stepchildren when it comes to the parks in southeastern Ohio. It has Great Seal (with its hills on the Great Seal of Ohio) on the west, and Hocking Hills (with its spectacular gorges and caves on the east).
It still makes a great hike, though.
In fact, it makes a pretty challenging hike when it comes to hiking barefoot.
That is because of the makeup of the soils in Tar Hollow. The rocks at Hocking Hills are mainly Blackhand sandstone. That of course erodes into . . . sand. So the soils are pretty sandy, and easy to walk on. Tar Hollow is mostly shale, which erodes into clay. Clay that bakes in the sun. You know, the stuff they make ceramics out of. So the trail surfaces are kind of a hard clay that still have a kind of scree scattered across the top. Like I said, a challenge.
Here’s a picture of one of the denizens of Tar Hollow I saw yesterday while hiking there:
You can also see what the trail surface looks like.
Tar Hollow is typical of the other parks in Ohio in that it has a state park surrounded by state forest. Most folks only visit the state park (which has a small lake, camping area, and picnic area). The state park really has only one trail, which is a very large loop. Most folks who hike it just do an out-and-back for however far they feel like going.
But the state forest has a lot of mostly unknown trails in it, laid out specifically as bridle trails. If you don’t mind a few horse deposits, and trails chewed up by hooves, there is a lot of exploring to do there. That’s where I was yesterday, in the southeast portion of the park, in the area between Lipscomb Run and Poe Run.
As I already mentioned, Tar Hollow doesn’t have the spectacular recess caves of Hocking Hills, or even the lesser ones of Zaleski. It is just a lot of pretty, hilly forest. It doesn’t even have particularly noticeable views—without a cliff any views in the summer are obscured by all the trees.
Here is a typical view looking uphill along the trail:
It sure seemed like it was National Toad Day yesterday. They were everywhere. Not just along the creeks, but even on the hillsides. Anywhere there was a bit of moisture I’d see a toad hopping away from me. I finally got out my camera for this particularly photogenic guy.
As is usual in the state forest, they also doing logging there, which is always rather distressing to me. Yes, they mostly hide it from view; yes, it provides jobs. But it does leave scars. (I also worry about nutrient depletion—it would take many years, but it would seem to me that trace nutrients and elements would be getting shipped out as wood, and eventually the trees ought to suffer.)
Anyways, I did spend a bit of time in a logged-over area. The one advantage was that it did give a pretty good view.
After I got back home I was able to pretty easily identify exactly what I was seeing in that photo. Here’s the Google satellite shot of where I was (click for a larger version):
You can see the pond off in the distance on the far right in the Google shot. And you can see the trail I was on, and the clear cut, in the middle left of the Google shot. For me, it’s always rather fun to be able to make this kind of identification.
Let me finish up by returning to talking about the challenge of barefoot hiking on this kind of scree-ish, clay-like surface.
It is always interesting to see how one’s feet respond.
It seems when I start out, I always seem to feel every little bump. For the first quarter mile or so, it’s like, how am I ever going to hike this? It takes that long (sometimes) for the feet to adjust, but then all of a sudden the trail feels just fine underfoot. That may be endorphins (or the more newly discovered endocannabinoids) kicking in.
And then it is easy to walk for miles and miles.
But eventually, one’s feet (along with the rest of one’s body) starts to get tired, and you start feeling things again. On this surface I started feeling it after about 5-6 miles. That’s just getting footsore. There’s not really much to do about it but keep going (though slowing down helps too).
I know that when I am hiking I have a tendency, particularly when going uphill, to use a marching step instead of the much more foot-friendly gliding step I ought to be using. So I have to keep reminding myself about “form”. Getting a bit footsore is a really good reminder of that.
Oh, there was another reason I got a bit footsore. Yesterday I was carrying a 45 pound pack, just trying to get in shape.
And the hike was perfect for that, for both my feet and my body in general.