Thursday, March 19, 2009

In the Glen Helen Preserve

One of my favorite nearby hikes is the Glen Helen Preserve at Yellow Springs, Ohio in Greene County. Yellow Springs is a small village and formerly home to Antioch College, currently closed, though hopefully renewed in the near future as new fundings are found.

One of Antioch's premiere features is the Glen Helen Preserve which is a legacy of Hugh Taylor Birch, who donated the lands to Antioch College in 1929 in honor of his daughter, Helen. This is a working ecological institute with many events on the ecology of the area and nature preservation. The Glen is open to anyone for hiking. Some of the trails are so easy that villagers and former students often take morning runs along its easier paths. But buried within this 1000 acres is a 25 mile network of paths are some geologic treasures as well as wonder flora.

I've hiked its trails in Winter as well as in Spring and never grow tired of the wonders of its beauty. There are two creeks that run through the Glen. The area historically provided waters thought to be curative at a spring called the Yellow Springs based upon the discoloration from the iron content in the water. In the 19th century a spa was built on the site.

The area also affords more difficult trails up and over the weathering rock limestone. Some of the formations are amazing. One in particular is called Pompey's Pillar forming a large platform sitting upon a narrowing column of dolomite. As you can see in the photo, the rock formation is rather isolated. This is typical of some of the eroding rock in this area. It is these little surprises that make the area a fascinating hike.

Beginning at the parking lot area near the Trailside Museum and Visitor Center, one is faced with a 30 foot or so downward climb into the valley of the Glen itself. The beginning trail soon splits and can lead toward Pompey's Pillar or toward the creek that is forded by stepping stones that can be completely covered in early Spring when the waters rise. Crossing over leads to steep climbs up and slightly out of the ravine area. One follows one area of a gorge along one of the creeks. This is a moderate hike with views of the water below as well as steep eroding cliffs.

Like the Clifton Gorge, this Preserve touches John Bryan State Park. You could continue a straight hike right into the park if you choose. But with its many winding paths and places to explore right in the Glen, it is a day trip unto itself.

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