July 2009 Issue
Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties offer some of the state’s most exciting outdoor activities.
Staying close to home and within a budget seems to be at the top of everyone’s vacation criteria this year. As the economy slows down, people have taken the opportunity to slow down with it, replacing trips to distant amusement parks and posh resorts with back-to-basics destinations like local campgrounds and state parks.
Personally, we’re glad to hear it. Not to say we told you so, but this state is full of free and inexpensive things to do, and nowhere will you find more of these simple pleasures than in Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties. With the addition of Ashtabula, Mahoning and Trumbull counties last year, Ohio’s Appalachian region now stretches from Lake Erie to the Ohio River along the scenic eastern and southern parts of the state. Here, you’ll find outdoor adventures — from a stress-relieving day of fishing or golfing to a thrilling ride along the state’s only above-canopy zipline — for everyone in the family.
Think golfing and adventure don’t mix? Think again. Because unless you have a Tiger-like knack for hitting that little white ball down the straight and narrow (and carefully around those doglegs), chances are your round of 18 could include climbing rocks, hiking into the woods and slashing your way through the brush.
But while your golf game may not be a thing of beauty, several courses in Ohio’s Appalachia region provide scenic views with every shot, no matter where your ball lies.
For a challenging round that puts you right in the midst of southeast Ohio’s rolling terrain, steer your golf cart in the direction of Salt Fork State Park, just east of Cambridge in Guernsey County. The park’s golf course gives players a level shot off the tee, but from there anything goes as the undulating fairways provide plenty of uphill approach shots that will test even the more experienced golfers. While the 6,056-yard (from the blue tees), par 71 layout will draw you there, the panoramic views and roaming wildlife will bring you back.
Less than an hour west of Salt Fork, in Muskingum County, is the course that Golf Digest calls one of the 100 best public courses in the country. Eagle-Sticks Golf Club sits on a former horse farm near Zanesville and is surrounded by mature trees and scenic waterfalls. The course, designed by renowned architect Michael Hurdzan, favors finesse over power, with bentgrass fairways leading to greens well guarded by sand traps. EagleSticks features more than 100 feet of elevation change, and on most holes, golfers tee off from the highest elevation and can enjoy breathtaking views before heading to the fairways below. EagleSticks isn’t a long course, but given its rolling greens and thick bluegrass rough, hitting to the wrong spots can make for a long day. But with the scenery, you won’t care.
Another Appalachian gem that made Golf Digest’s list of best public places to play is found in Coshocton County. River Greens is divided into three, nine-hole courses, each with its own distinct personality and challenges. The original nine holes opened in 1966; one year later, the second nine opened. The “River Course” and the “Greens Course” are the original 18 and measure 6,600 total yards from the blue tees. In 1994, the 3,300-yard “Pines Course” was finished. With three different nine-hole layouts from which to choose, why play only 18? Die-hard golfers will want to set aside time for all 27 holes — and on Tuesdays, you can play the three layouts for a special price.
Hitting the open road is one of summer’s simple pleasures. Doing it on two wheels? Well, that’s even better. The rural highways and scenic byways of the state practically beg to be experienced from the seat of a bicycle, and in some cases, you’ll get more than a good workout. Its location along the Ohio River made Brown County an important stop along the Underground Railroad, and cyclists can uncover this history while they pedal the Freedom’s Landing bicycle route. Part of the
Underground Railroad Bicycle Route, a 2,028-mile adventure that begins in Mobile, Alabama, and ends in Owen Sound, Canada, this educational path was created in 2007 to honor the history of those who risked everything to seek freedom in the north and the brave individuals who helped them along the way. The route recently earned the number two spot for bicycle trails in a book filled with favorite trips taken by National Geographic’s travel writers called Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips.
Ohio’s portion of this historic trail crosses into the Buckeye State from Kentucky at Aberdeen, then winds east to Ripley, where riders can opt for three different routes (ranging between 8.9 and 26 miles) composed of easy to moderate terrain to accommodate all levels. Along the way, cyclists will stop at the Rankin House, the home of Presbyterian minister and leading abolitionist John Rankin, whose tales of helping a fleeing slave from Kentucky inspired the character of Eliza in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. You’ll also pass the Parker House — home of former slave John Parker, who became a successful businessman and aided hundreds of slaves traveling north — before continuing on into neighboring Clermont County.
There’s something about the words “saddle up and ride” that seems synonymous with adventure. That said, Appalachia is home to many horseback-riding venues; it just depends on what kind of adventure you’re seeking.
Seeing the Hocking Hills on horseback is a “must add” to your “must do” list, and Happy Trails Horseback Rides in Hocking County is an aptly named destination that will put smiles on the faces of riders of all ages. With packages for every level of experience, and trail rides ranging from 30 minutes to three hours and up, Happy Trails offers an up-close look at some of Ohio’s natural beauty.
If the dude ranch experience is more your thing, it doesn’t get any more authentic than the Smoke Rise Ranch, not far from the Hocking Hills in Athens County. Even city folk are encouraged to take part in cattle drives, penning, roping and cutting. And while you won’t leave southeast Ohio, you’ll swear you’re in the Old West.
A one- or two-hour trail ride at Little Sky Riding Trails in Harrison County could bring you face-to-face with white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, red-tailed hawks and coyotes, among other wildlife. Gentle horses and experienced trail hands will guide you on what promises to be a relaxing journey through the Appalachian foothills.
You don’t meet too many stressed-out fishermen. So if you’re feeling pulled in too many directions, it might be time to take a hint from Ohio’s anglers and pull on some waders. Ohio has no shortage of prime fishing holes — not to mention one great big lake — where you can cast a line.
The Wolf Creek Wildlife Area in Morgan County is ideal if you want to surround yourself with the serenity of the woods. Part of a state-owned 3,700-acre site set aside for outdoor sporting, here you can fish for large- and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill and rock bass along the waters of Wolf Creek, its tributaries and ponds that range in size from one-half to seven acres.
Up north, the yellow perch are biting, and what better way to take some home for dinner than to climb aboard a charter boat? DB Sport Fishing Charters and A-Lure Fishing Charters are just two options for full-service charters in Ashtabula County. Perfect for first-timers and experienced anglers alike, they offer instruction and supply tackle, rods and reels, saving you time and money.
If you’re the type to put the sport in sportsman, consider that the largest Kentucky spotted bass ever recorded in Ohio was caught at Lake White State Park in Pike County 30 years ago. While we can’t promise you a trophy fish, you can expect a memorable day of fishing for bluegill, largemouth bass, crappie, saugeye and catfish in peaceful surroundings.
Ziplining and Tree Climbing
Sometimes being grounded is overrated. So if you’re looking to change your perspective, there is just one place in Appalachia to unleash your inner Tarzan: Hocking Hills Canopy Tours. Surrounded by the unmatched beauty of Hocking County’s Hocking Hills region, thrill seekers can clip in and zip along a total of 10 ziplines, traverse five skybridges and pause on treehouse-like landings to take in stunning views of natural caves, cliffs and the Hocking River along the way. You’ll reach heights of 70 feet and speeds of nearly 40 mph before ending your high-flying adventure with a short rappel back to solid ground.
But you won’t stay there for long. At least not if you sign up for a session of recreational tree climbing with EarthJoy, the property’s newest adrenaline-spiking attraction. Professional instructors will guide you along as you scale to the top of 80- to 100-foot trees (one is affectionately known as Majestical Hercules). Take a break along the way in a hammock hung from high branches or dangle from a tree chair. Instructors are careful to keep you in your comfort zone, and easier climbs are available for kids, making this a physical challenge you can take on as a family.
With hundreds of lakes and waterways offering boating, kayaking, canoeing, swimming and more, why stay on dry land?
At Atwood Lake in Carroll and Tuscarawas counties, take in 28 miles of shoreline as you boat, sail or paddle along this popular lake. Rent a sport, pontoon or fishing boat or kayak at nearby Atwood Lake Boats, or let someone else do the driving and take a peaceful ride aboard the Atwood Queen cruise boat. Swimmers can launch from the lake’s large, sandy beach.
For a slightly slower sojourn, head to Paint Creek in Ross County, part of the Mississippi River Watershed. Here you can rent canoes or kayaks (Waters Edge Canoe Livery and Paint Creek Rental have them) and take in tree-lined views and rocky bluffs along the way.
For more kayaking adventure, experience the lakes and waterways of Vinton, Athens and Hocking counties with paddling packages from three of the area’s best outfitters: Touch the Earth Adventures, Hocking Hills Canoe Livery and Earth-Water-Rock: Outdoor Adventures Ltd. See the beaver dams along Lake Hope, take a moonlight tour down the winding Hocking River, catch a glimpse of turtles sunning themselves at Burr Oak Lake or (if you’re lucky) see a bald eagle soar overhead at Lake Logan. Experiencing wildlife from the water offers a different perspective on these gentle creatures (paddle up quietly and they might stay put long enough for you to get a good look), not to mention their habitats, which are particularly spectacular when the foliage blazes in the fall.
For more information about Ohio’s Appalachian region, visit www.firstohio.com.