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.

Hammond Hardware Store

Occasionally you find a place that feels as much like a time machine as it does a store. That’s the case with Hammond Hardware in Hamden, Ohio.

The building dates to 1902 and has the original tin ceiling, hardwood floors and antique fixtures to prove it. It even smells old. Not musty or bad but aged and like there’s some wisdom to be found here if you are willing to listen.

The store sells all manner of things in addition to the tools, seeds, paints, and animal feed you might expect to find at a hardware.

They try to stock local and regionally made items first. For example, you’ll find handmade candles by my friend Susan at Zaleski Candleworks, Silver Bridge Coffee and handmade soaps from West Virginia. They have Mosser Glass from Cambridge, Ohio, locally made crafts and lots of old fashioned candy.

They have preserved many old fixtures and added some additional ones like an antique nail bin from a store in nearby Oak Hill. It serves as the candy counter.

For sixty years, the building was home to Souders’ Hardware. It sat empty for some time before local residents Steve and Melissa Hammond bought it with dreams of giving it new life.

When I was there yesterday, Steve enthusiastically gave me the nickel tour while I browsed. Old pictures helped them find reproduction lighting as they are working hard to be true to the integrity of the building.

I didn’t think to take a picture but there are still holes in the floor where the previous owners once threaded rope through the floor from barrels in the basement. I had never noticed such a thing in other old hardwares and was impressed by the notion. Now I’ll be on the lookout!

It really is a wonderful store and a valuable gift to the community. Our county doesn’t have a lot of places to shop and it’s a service to folks who need a quick gift, livestock feed or some traditional hardware items. Honestly, they have a little bit of everything and I’m so excited to see them grow.

They sold Christmas trees and holiday home decor last year even before the store celebrated their grand opening this spring. It was so successful that Steve says they’re already planning to do that again. He plans to maybe sell some bulk candy and to organize a community event with horse drawn wagon rides this year too.

They are eagerly looking for merchandise and ideas and clearly are over the moon to be fulfilling this dream of owning an old fashioned hardware.

One more thing – check out this mid century Coca Cola cooler! Steve said that kids come in after school for cold drinks and old fashioned candy.

This place has terrific character and great variety. I hope you’ll go visit! Find them on Facebook for hours and updates on new products. Their selection changes seasonally and they’re constantly adding new things so pay attention for new products!

Big Sky

I braked for some pictures on the way home yesterday. The sky seemed enormous and the colors more vivid than a box of Crayola Crayons.

The top picture is the Ohio Bicentennial Barn in Vinton County and the photo below is a nearby octagon barn, my favorite barn anywhere.

Isn’t it the very vision of spring? Enjoy this day, friends. Here’s hoping for big skies, vibrant color and adventures wherever you may be.

Weaver’s Quilt Block

These pictures are eleven years old but still summon happy memories and much joy.

Once upon a time, I was responsible for wrangling volunteers and funding sources to create a trail of quilt barns in my community. We aimed to have ten but ended up creating 27 over time.

This one is at Weaver’s Christmas Tree Farm, owned and operated by the kindest husband and wife duo you could ever hope to meet. They treated me like I was their own family and were a joy to work with on this project.

Fred and Lois had an antique store as well as the tree farm and Lois was known for her homemade jams and jellies. Then, of course, there were the animals.

I don’t recall the cat’s name but he clearly didn’t know he was a cat.

He hung with the gang as though he was part of the flock!

Of course, this makes sense given the way Fred and Lois always behaved as though there was always time and always room for one more person or animal – all part of their flock.

Fred passed away a few years ago and I have lost track of Lois, two facts that make me sad. That job was hard and time consuming. I don’t miss that part but sure do miss some of the people and the adventures I had along the way.

Hamden Gas and Oil

Even the vacant old gas station in the neighborhood needs some attention once in a while. Those old gas pumps are the best!

This is one of many things I drive by frequently but never stop and really appreciate. The sky was brooding and beautiful that day so I just had to pull over for a quick shot.