Over the Memorial Day weekend fellow barefooter Lee Parker was again in town for a Knap-In. As we’ve done before, after the Knap-In was over we headed out for a nice barefoot hike.
This time we met at Blackhand Gorge and did a 5.9 mile hike.
I’ve done 3 other hikes here with Lee: Walking on Flint (at Flint Ridge), Jaded (at Old Man’s Cave and Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills), and Labor Day Barefoot Hike (at Cantwell Cliffs). At the last of those, we were also joined by barefoot hikers Josh and Jen. They had hopes of making this Memorial Day hike but had to cancel at the last moment, so it was just Lee and me.
We started out on the north side of the Licking River, where the old Ohio & Erie Canal towpath used to be. After that was discontinued and removed in the early 1900s, an interurban railway was put in nearby. Since Blackhand Gorge is, well, a gorge, they had to do some blasting to fit a railroad through it. Here’s the old railroad tunnel, being modeled by Lee.
Fortunately, the old railroad ballast was removed long ago, so the walking surface inside the tunnel is just right (though you do have to look out for the occasional rock).
[Photo credit: Lee Parker]
The ceiling had this odd pockmarked look about it. I have no idea what caused that.
[Photo by Lee]
After emerging from the tunnel one shortly comes across Blackhand Rock, which rises a good sixty feet above the river valley. There used to be a twice-size hand drawn there by Native Americans. Speculation is that it marked the place to leave the river to head south to Flint Ridge. When the Ohio & Erie Canal was constructed, they unconcernedly blasted away the black hand, and it is no more.
According to Native American friend Mark Welsh, it was actually called Council Rock.
Here are Lee and me on top.
You can just barely see the Licking river below.
Here’s a better picture of the view, taken by Lee.
After descending from the top, we went around to the front (the river side) and walked along where the towpath was. This is about where the Black Hand used to be.
From there we headed to check out the Marie Hickey trail, which is on the “highlands” above the river. There’s a small recess cave on the way up.
If you look very carefully (and know just where to look), you can see two people at the top.
And here I am after climbing up there.
[Photo by Lee]
One thing about the Marie Hickey Trail is that there are a lot of oil wells along the route. These long predate the time that the area became a nature preserve, and those mineral rights are still owned by the oil producers.
As we walked along we heard three separate wells operating.
We also diverted our path slightly to go take a look at one.
These are old pieces of equipment. They also make quite a bit of racket. Here’s a short video Lee took of one of them operating.
Fortunately, they were only loud when you were near them. As you got farther away, all the forestry dampened out the noise.
And finally, there were some interesting “machinery” of a more natural variety. Lee always likes mushrooms, so I had to point out this one for him.
[Photo by Lee]
And I seem to take lots of photos of wildflowers, so here’s a photo I took on the trail, of a
There’s a good chance that Lee will be coming back over the Labor Day weekend, so anybody local enough looking for a nice barefoot hike might consider putting that on their calendar.