Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fort Hill - in the Arc of Appalchia

Today I spent a day hiking in the Arc of Appalachia, in Southern Ohio where the foothils of the Appalachians begin.
This is an area that has been preserved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Historical Society among others to maintain the native temperate forest of Ohio in a state prior to the migration of the white man into the region. The area offers hiking trails in highly protected areas, one of which is Fort Hill.

Fort Hill is a 1200 acre park and includes the Earthworks constructed 2000 years ago by what is now believed to be members of the Hopewell culture. While it is now believed not to have been a Fort at all, but rather a ceremonial gathering space, there are still remnants of a wall along the rim of the ridge. On one side, the ridge falls off substantially downward, but on the other side is a large ditch remnant as it rises again on the inside to the flatter area even though it is all now covered with forestation. Fort Hill preserves one of the largest and oldest examples of native forest to be found in southern Ohio.

Hopewell is a European name that was given to these people and there is no archeological evidence of what they called themselves. It is believed now that some American Indian tribes, formerly of the area including the Shawnee are ancestors of these people.

There are in effect 3 trails one could take through this area. One is called the Deer Trail, which is not always open during hunting season. It is the longest at 6.5 miles. The second one is the Gorge Trail which is 4.2 miles and follows the rockscapes of Bakers Fork.
The last is the Fort Trail, which is 2.2 miles. This was the trail I primarily followed. One note is that the trails are not well marked. It had been my intention to follow the Gorge Trail, but apparently I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on the Fort Trail. This and the Gorge Trail begins from the parking area with an immediate 400 foot climb gradually but sometimes at angles of 45 degrees up the side of the hill. There are a few switchbacks, but much of it is nearly straight up.

One near the top, you begin to follow a slightly up and down trail that is for the most part primitive enough that I lost my way in terms of which trail I was on. I headed off on what I thought was the Gorge Trail and it came to an abrupt end, so I had to back track to the other trail I saw. This apparently was the Fort Trail. As I indicated, things are not well marked.

One problem that made this hike decision as to which trail was that I drove 90 minutes to get to the location. Knowing I had 90 minutes to drive back, my time on the trail was limited since I could not spend as much time as I hoped. I want to get back to this area sometime in the future. The location is about 70 miles east of Cincinnati and about 80 miles from the Eastern edge of Dayton. Most of the drive is on smaller state and township roads, so the driving is a little slower going.

As this was late August, there was little in the way of floribunda and the area was quite dry. A little bug spray kept the little critters who like to land and bite at bay.
Things were moderate enough that the humidity levels were low making the hiking a little easier than some of the more recent trips I have been on. I didn't meet anyone else on the trail, so for the most part, it is a solitary trip unless you are with a group of your own. As usual I felt as if I had the place to myself. I did hear a few distant voices but down the ridge, so I suspect they might have been people in the creek area, which I didn't see at all.

If you don't mind the drive, it is a pleasant area and I suspect a delight in the Spring. If you are lucky enough to live in the area, the Serpent Mounds, another ancient Earthwork is nearby.

1 comment:

  1. Are the trails 'blue-blazed'? If you had your cell phone with you I suppose you could have called out the Coast guard or someone to get you back to your starting point! Are you ever going to go to the serpent mound?