Sunday, May 30, 2010

Twin Valley Metropark

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

-- Carl Bobert, 1886

This week I visited the Twin Valley Metropark which is the southern section of the Twin Creek Metropark district. The northern section is Germantown Metropark, which I have written about previously.

Twin Valley is just off Eby Road south of the village of Germantown in the extreme southwestern portion of Montgomery County, Ohio. On this sparkling but hot day with new growth in full force, the hiking proved a humid and somewhat exhausting experience.

This park has a little of everything for naturalist, hiker and backpacker. Twin Creek is considered a backpacker's park as it has not only overnight camping areas, but well over 40 miles of hiking trails. For hikers it runs the gamut of young successional woods, mature old growth forest, grassland prairies and wetlands.

The portion of the trail I hiked this day roughly 5 miles tasted a little of all of these land characteristics. From where I parked, the trail begins at the peak of a hill offering a wide view of the valley below.
It descends almost immediately first through grassy plains on the hillside then to the start of the forested area as I approach Twin Creek, one of Ohio's cleanest. The trail I chose first followed the creek. This is bottomland hiking and though it was a hot dry day, portions of the trail were still muddy. There is a portion of this trail that allows horseback riding and unfortunately, it tended to create clogs and pockets of dirt making walking that portion of the trail a little more difficult to navigate. I almost wish they would keep the horseback riding confined to its own trails.

For the most part the pathway is dirtpacked though narrow. It covers a vast amount of both flatland, winding narrow ridge climbing about 100 feet in a short distance, up and down the ridgeways, sometimes along precarious passageways with steep slopes back toward the bottomland where on wetter days, one would have to be extremely careful (a hiking stick comes in handy in these areas). Portions of the trail are difficult climbing though the trails are set up in such a way that one could select a more moderate leg if you wanted to enjoy the area without much difficult hiking.

When in the bottomlands along the flood plain, the trail breaks into grassy plains that have the trail moderately mowed so you can continue to follow it. There are the requisite posts alerting you to the trail, which soon moves back into the forested hills as you begin the trek upward toward the ridge peaks.

This time of the year affords a number of flora though with the shading of the trees, some of the flowering is limited. Still, there are wonderful odors of nature as one moves past the various plant growth. While in the prairie areas, there were numerous butterfly swirling about occasionally landing long enough to pose for a photograph. While in the bottomlands where things are much more humid and wet, I came across a number of toads.
The only downside of hiking at this time of the day - just before noon - in the humid areas of the forested pathway, I was plagued at times by flies and gnats, some rather aggressive. This seemed mostly when I was on the portion of the trail where horses are allowed to move. I am sure flies cannot distinguish from one large mammal to another!

One of the nice things about this park are hidden gems you can encounter. I did pass a historical area where the Hopewell Indians over 2000 years ago had built up walls to fortify one of their encampments. While the area is indicated on the map, it is not marked along the trail. I found, what I think were remnants of the wall, now a small area rising upwards along the ridge. It would have been nice to mark the trail with indications of what one might look for to better help imagine the area as it might have been when the Hopewell Indians walked the area. There is new evidence that the Hopewells were the ancestors of the Shawnee Indian tribes who lived in this area in the 17th and 18th centuries.

While walking up out of the bottomlands, I came across - hidden among the wooded area
- the Dogwood Pond, a cool clear fishing spot. While not a fisherman, it provided a perfect spot for relaxing for a while as it is partially shaded. There were a couple of people fishing, but it is remote enough that one has to do a little hiking to get to it. That seems to keep most fisherman out of the area.

Twin Valley Trails is fast becoming one of my favorite close-by places to hike. It affords enough difficulty, pleasant surprises, multiple examples of nature, and a
little history. There are other places with more of any one of those, but none with so complete a mix of all. The trails are designed that you can take a small walk, or an extended hike. It is a hiking area in which you have to be careful as you move along the trail, or one where it is a pleasant walk in the woods along a clear creek. The park is well maintained and the trails are kept up for the most part by a full time staff.

For more photos of this hike go to here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Shawnee Lookout

On a recent fantastic Spring Saturday, I drove down to the extreme southwest area of Ohio where Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky meet. I stayed on the Ohio side and visited the Hamilton County Parks area known as Shawnee Lookout.

There are three hiking trails, none of which are difficult and in fact except for a few up and down ridge hills, are pretty much clear and in places have gravel to make this a family-oriented walking experience.
What is amazing about the park and what attracted me were some of the views you can get of where the Great Miami River meets the mighty Ohio. There is a lot of history in this area. It was the hunting grounds of the Shawnee Indians in the 18th century before it was invaded by the European settlers. Before that it was the living and burial areas of the early Hopewell cultures. There are a number of burial mounds that are somewhat obscured by overgrowth. The longest single trail is about 2 miles.

The history of the area is most fascinating. The area has been the site of a number of digs by the University of Cincinnati archeology department. The Lookout area was the largest continuously occupied hilltop settlement established by any Native American group. According to the digs, the Hopewell who occupied the area over 2000 years ago are seen to be a direct
link to the Shawnee who inhabited the area in the 18th century. One of the trails in the lookout take you to the ancient Miami Fort, thought to have been built by the Adena Hopewell possibly as a ceremonial site rather than a military one. As you walk around the lands of the fort, you can see remnants of the ancient walls. The location sits atop a hill over the area where the Great Miami and Ohio Rivers meet.

Just down the hillside on land that is now where the Duke Energy power plant exists was the location of Fort Finney. This Fort's importance was the location of a meeting between the Shawnee and the new American government in 1786. A treaty was reluctantly agreed to by the Shawnee over their homelands after they indicated they were going to war against the Americans over the land which had been promised previously was Shawnee territory. However, under threat of superior military power, the Shawnee were forced to agree to be subverted within the American land. The tribe found it had no authority over its own lands.

The vistas from the various trails are spectacular. Off one trail, you can see the floodplain formed by the Great Miami where it meets the Ohio.
The area is home to over 80 species of fish, 500 species of moths and butterflies as well as multiple birds.

The three trails are all easily accomplished within a day. The park also has other features for families including the log cabin of Micajah Duncan built out of split Oak logs for his home in Elizabethtown, Ohio nearby. The cabin was moved here for preservation.

The Shawnee Lookout Park is worth a look especially if you want to walk the trails among history.