Thursday, February 25, 2016

Clifton Gorge in Winter

 A town is saved, not more by the righteous men in it, than by the woods and swamps that surround it. - Henry David Thoreau

 This has certainly been a strange winter here in the Miami Valley of Ohio. I had an opportunity to be by myself hiking six miles of Clifton Gorge and John Bryan State Park near Clifton Mill, Ohio. I've visited these two places often before but hadn't been there in the "winter" time - though it nearly rose to 70 degrees in the middle of February, normally a month of snow in this area.

The gorge as usual is lovely as the winter waters from previous rainfalls continued to storm down the narrow channel of the gorge expanding ultimately into the Little Miami River.
The day was bright and sunny and that Monday morning I was alone in the woods by myself enjoying the simple solitude it affords. The only sound was the rushing of the water as it tries to flow through the narrowed channel afforded by the trace carved into the limestone rocks.

The trail begins near the small town of Clifton Mill about 20 minutes from Xenia, Ohio and close to Yellow Springs, home to Antioch College. The trail splits soon into a rim view or you can climb down via some provided stairs to the river edge trail, which I find more interesting though more difficult with all of the rock pieces and roots from trees sticking out of the trail. This area historically was home to a number of mills all gone now except for the one at Clifton. It was also a trail used by the Miami Indians as well as an escape route by Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton after they had been captured by the Indians when this was only known as the Northwest Territory.

Eventually, the trail in part of the preserve ends at a footbridge and continues as John Bryan State Park. By this point the trail is wider and smoother as it was once a stagecoach trail from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh.  Though it is much narrower now with erosion, it is still fascinating to imagine traveling the area. The river also calms down at this point and even widens into a pond-like portion known as Blue Hole, once depicted in an 1851 painting by African-American artist Robert Duncanson.
Though my own photo does not do the painting justice since trees have grown now on the hill from which he painted, it looks something like this even to this day.

If ever you find yourself in this area, this is a hike worth taking, especially in the Spring, though any season is worth the solitude you feel when hiking alone. Despite life seeming to be asleep in anticipation of the coming of Spring, I was heralded by the selfish honking of geese holding court.

As the snows of winter recede, this is a park to which I will find myself visiting often, if nothing else, but to remind me of my small place in this universe called Earth.