Squeezing In And Looking Down

Sometimes you have to squeeze in what you need around the stuff you have to do. Whether it’s rest or adventure, odds are other people in your life aren’t going to make sure you get what you need. It’s up to you to find time.

Yesterday didn’t go as planned so, when my commitments were finally done, it was time for some badly needed exercise and fresh air.

I detoured to Lake Hope State Park where I hiked in my dress pants. You see, I had hiking shoes but no change of clothes. That didn’t matter at all since I was there for my sanity rather than a fashion show.

My focus this time was on the ground and all the fascinating things Mother Nature leaves lying around.

Red and orange scream fall to me.

This acorn caught my eye.

Oh, and the fungi were fabulous!

Incidentally, fungi always remind me of British writer Beatrix Potter. You probably know her for children’s storybook characters like Peter Rabbit. Did you know that her fascination with nature and drawings of outdoor subjects actually began with mushrooms?

She was a prolific and talented painter of mushrooms, mosses and spores before ever imagining the incredible world of the delightful Peter Rabbit.

Stick around, friends. I’m the keeper of all kinds of useless information!

If you’re out and about today – whether it be on the trail or wandering around your hometown, be sure to look down occasionally and study the ground for interesting things. You may be surprised at the beauty you find!

Journey From Moonville To King’s Hollow

Twenty years ago, a group of folks in my community joined together with a shared vision to create a rail trail. But it’s not just any trail. It’s a muscle powered trail open to folks who walk, ride bicycles or ride horses. It stretches for sixteen miles through the Zaleski State Forest, Lake Hope State Park wetlands and some small villages.

It’s called the Moonville Rail Trail, named for one of Vinton County’s most famous landmarks, the Moonville Tunnel. The trail follows an old Baltimore and Ohio rail line through sheer wilderness. The tunnel is famous primarily for legends and stories about ghosts and hauntings. It’s also a super cool old railroad tunnel.

In fact, many people come just to see the tunnel. They park, walk the short distance to the tunnel, nose around a bit and leave.

Sadly, they’re missing the best part. I was there with a friend after work last night. We parked at Moonville and then walked the approximate two miles to another tunnel. This one is called King’s Hollow Tunnel or sometimes King’s Switch.

First of all, I want to say how amazed I am at the work the Moonville Rail Trail Association has accomplished. When the railroad pulled out of this stretch years ago, they took out everything including the bridges which cross ravines as well as the incredibly twisty Raccoon Creek.

Having new bridges placed was imperative to making this rail trail usable. This is not a wealthy community so they have relied on grants, fundraisers and donations of blood, sweat and tears from a very small core group of people. You cross several of their bridges in that two mile stretch between Moonville and Kings Hollow and I couldn’t help but smile every time we approached a new one. This is what can be accomplished when people unite for a common good.

This is a densely forested area with gorgeous views of the changing foliage, wetlands and stream. Plus, there are the tunnels.

The Moonville Tunnel was built in 1856 and repaired at the turn of the next century. It’s brick and very cool. It’s named for the small town that was once located here. No more than a hundred people ever lived in Moonville at one time and they were mostly miners and rail workers. There’s not much left except a cemetery, the tunnel and some tall tales. Even the foundation stones once left from old buildings have been mostly swept away by flooding or souvenir seekers. However, if you go off trail in your exploration you might stumble into an old cellar or two so be careful.

Today the tunnel is largely covered in graffiti. Visiting here has long been a rite of passage for young people, including Ohio University students, to visit at night. They commonly leave their mark.

Walk a couple of miles east of Moonville to find the King’s Hollow Tunnel. What makes it special is that it’s wood. It’s a 120 foot long wooden tunnel carved through rock. I love the way the rock juts out overhead so you can truly see what the builders were up against all those years ago.

This tunnel has a distinct smell. It smells musty and old like old wood and oil. You can actually smell the tunnel before you can see it. Also, the temperature drops at least ten degrees as you approach. Sadly, graffiti artists have found this one too.

You can drive to this tunnel but then you would miss out on the glorious views along the walk and the true peace and quiet that you don’t find many places. Speaking of quiet, don’t expect much cell service.

Click here to see some more pictures from another King’s Hollow visit. Read more about the Rail Trail and get directions to Moonville at the Vinton County CVB site. You can also take a trail ride to Moonville at Uncle Buck’s Riding Stable. I did that last year and wrote about it here! Finally, I want to mention they typically have a fun event at Moonville in October. It’s cancelled this year because of Covid spikes in Ohio but they’ve already announced the 2022 date. Read about that event here.

Check back. I’ll tell you what I know about Moonville’s ghosts soon.

Looking Down

I hiked at Lake Hope yesterday morning before running some errands. It was about 61 degrees and sunny, perfect for a quick hike.

My eye is normally drawn up toward the birds and little creatures in the trees and the sky above. Yesterday was different as my attention was focused almost entirely on the ground.

I was especially taken with all sorts of mushrooms. I know nothing about them but appreciate the various shapes and colors and the character they contribute to the forest floor.

More than that, I was taken with the feel of dirt and pine needles beneath my feet. I noticed more how solid the earth felt and appreciated the contours of tree roots and stones in a way I never have before.

This one resembles a seashell.

Check out the black with the crazy texture!

And the moss!!

Life has been busier than normal for the last couple of months and this week has been ridiculous. I have had zero free time since coming home from vacation. Standing in the forest, taking deep breaths, and feeling the wind on my cheek made me feel alive. It made me want to stand there a while longer.

I only hiked a few miles but it felt like such a treat to find myself in a place where the only manmade noise was a small plane overhead and where my phone did not work.

At one point, I came down from a small ridge into a little cove where golden leaves were falling from the trees. They swirled in a light breeze before gently wafting to the ground. It was a near magical moment in the dappled morning light and the silence of the forest.

Everyone should have such an experience.

Do yourself a favor and go walk outdoors. Get off the sidewalk and walk through dirt and leaves and feel the connection to the earth that humans were meant to have. Look for the small things – tiny flowers, mushrooms and insects. Close your eyes and feel the sun on your face. Breathe deeply and enjoy your life.

Tomorrow we will continue our tour of Washington D.C.

Starting The Weekend On The Right Foot

This weekend began last night with a quick hike at the lake. A parade of distractions, bad weather and all sorts of problems kept me off the trail this week so it felt particularly good to go out and play.

It was not quite sixty degrees and I delighted in the crunch of leaves beneath my feet as well as the sounds of a few stray Canada Geese soaring over the lake.

Fall has arrived.

Soon it will be too dark to hike after work so we must make hay while we can. After months of summer heat, it’s a relief to layer up and breath crisp, autumn air.

Aren’t these mushrooms unusual?

The beautiful thing about living in a place with four distinct seasons is that there are constant changes to your surroundings and always something new to see. So even when you’re hiking the same trail, you’ll still see new things!

In The Company Of Angels

You’ve likely seen dragonflies but did you know they symbolize transformation and self realization? They are said to help us on the path of discovery and enlightenment.

I have also read that when you’re among dragonflies you’re in the company of angels. If that’s the case, a chorus of angels surrounded me for much of my hike Sunday.

Dozens, if not hundreds of dragonflies flitted in and out of my path, amongst the wildflowers and weeds along the lake shore.

In this world, there are about 5,000 species of dragonflies. In Ohio, we have documented 165. On Sunday, I saw several although I cannot name them for you. I can tell you that I very much enjoyed standing on the trail watching these mysterious creatures dance in the sunlight.

With some patience, I was able to capture a handful of pictures and am grateful for each one.

It’s a comforting idea that these colorful insects with their oddly shaped bodies and translucent wings represent more than we can see and that we are among angels.

If nothing else, they give me the feeling and even the hope that I’m on the right path.