Look Out for the Lookout

Did you know there is a captivating icon to Ohio’s forest conservation past standing in the trees between Ash Cave and Cedar Falls? There is, and thanks to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry, visitors can once again climb it and enjoy one of the areas best vantage points for observing the upcoming change of seasons about to sweep over the beautiful Hocking Hills. What I’m referring to is the Ash Cave Lookout Tower, a recently renewed forest fire lookout tower on Chapel Ridge.

I visited the tower recently while hiking a pleasant portion of the Buckeye Trail between Ash Cave and Cedar Falls. In fact, the trail has been recently rerouted to pass directly below the tower. A less adventurous way to visit the tower is by vehicle. The tower is located near the intersection of State Route 374 and Chapel Ridge Road. An access road forks to the south almost immediately after turning onto Chapel Ridge Road. The access road is usually chained off, so you’ll have a short walk to the tower.

For you history buffs: Between 1924 and 1978, Ohio constructed and operated 45 forest fire lookout towers to watch over forest lands that were newly planted with trees. Each day during the peak fall and spring wildfire seasons, hardy spotters climbed the steps to the cabins of these towers to survey the surrounding landscape for the smoky telltale signs of a wildfire. If a blaze was spotted, spotters would telephone from tower to tower in order to triangulate the fire’s precise location.

Over time, improved telephone communication throughout these rural areas, as well as the use of airplanes in wildfire detection, made lookout towers obsolete. Time, weather and vandals took their toll on the wood and metal structures, in most instances rendering them unsafe for public access. Today, only seven of these historic structures remain standing in Ohio’s 20 state forests. Gracious efforts undertaken by the ODNR Div. of Forestry are restoring these remaining forest icons to their former glory and opening them to the public.

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Dapper Little Birds

Posted by Ron Bell

Recently, while enjoying an unusually warm and sunny March day from the deck of our Greenbriar Cabin, I was entertained by a couple of “tree walking” birds feasting on seed I had just put in the bird feeder. These nifty birds are called nuthatches. They are gray, black and white sparrow-like birds with the unusual characteristic of easily walking, or hopping, up and down and pretty much all around the trunks of trees.

I see them on our property regularly but never stopped to watch them closely. During my viewing, one would fly to the tree the bird feeder is hanging on, walk up the trunk to the feeder and then, with its beak, carelessly sift through the seed until it found a sunflower seed, which it would then grab and fly to a nearby tree┬áto eat. After one would leave the feeder the other would fly in. This feeding exchange went on as long as I was there and I’m sure lasted until all of the seed was either eaten or knocked to the ground. I’m sure raccoons and other birds enjoyed the seed lying on the ground below the feeder.

Nuthatches are found throughout Ohio, so if you’re ever in the woods and see a small bird hopping up and down the trees you can be pretty certain it is one type of nuthatch or another.