On a foggy morning last week, my friend and I found ourselves forcing her poor Prius up a narrow, muddy, rocky country road in pursuit of a hiking trail. As the road became increasingly steeper, muddier, and twistier, and we became increasingly convinced that at the top of the hill we would find a seemingly-abandoned log cabin with an axe stuck in a tree stump in front of it, we finally realize that this was not, in fact, the way to the nature preserve.
We had committed the cardinal sin of plugging a name into Google Maps and then simply following the directions wherever they may lead. I don’t know why we did this, but I’m glad we lived to tell others not to make the same mistake. We eventually found a safe spot to turn the car around, returned to the nearest paved road and cell phone signal, and found our way to Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve, for real this time.
We were there with the LGBT Hiking Club, but I got so engaged in taking photos and talking to my friend that I didn’t actually like, meet anyone from the hiking club. Good job, Miri, A+ queering. But whatever. We had a great time.
The signature feature of this preserve is, obviously, the sandstone gorge, which was formed by the impressively-named Licking River.
According to the state’s website, the preserve is named for a super-cool Native artifact that white people of course destroyed: “The name Blackhand, for which the preserve is named, originated from a dark, hand-shaped Indian petroglyph which was engraved on the face of a massive sandstone cliff along the north side of the river. The engraving was destroyed in 1828 when canal builders dynamited the cliff face, during construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal, which runs through the gorge.” Thanks guys!
Although the preserve apparently had some really cool unpaved trails, we pretty much had to stick to the paved one because it had stormed like heck the night before (as evidenced by our potentially-fateful trip up the hill in the Prius) and nobody wanted a surprise mudslide. But there were still some cool things to see from the paved trail.
Since the preserve is laid out along the river (heh Licking), the trail isn’t a loop; it’s basically a straight line that you can reach the end of and then turn around and go back. As we were nearing the end, we saw a tantalizing patch of yellow through the woods, which I could only assume was a massive field of yellow wildflowers. But just as we were about to turn a corner and get nearer to it…
The water was literally flowing over the trail, so, yeah, that wasn’t happening.
So we turned around, which was a bummer, but it was still a good 5.5 miles by the end. Plus, on our way back we saw a group of hikers with three itty bitty doggos, only one of which I managed to get a non-blurry photo of:
In short, I definitely want to come back when shit’s less muddy and flooded, especially because I really want to check out those unpaved trails.