Hope & Coke

As we normally do two or three times a year, we stay in one of our cabins for a weekend getaway. During our most recent getaway, we took advantage of a sunny, albeit a little cold, February Saturday and visited a couple of the sites in Hocking Hills State Park before heading to Vinton County.

In Vinton County, we stopped at Lake Hope State Park for lunch at the brand new lodge. The original lodge sadly burned completely to the ground 7 years ago. After more than a year of construction, the beautiful new lodge was dedicated in January of this year. The dining room in the new lodge is much larger than the old and has a sunny southern exposure and fantastic vista of the lake and surrounding hills through a wall of floor to ceiling windows. A small balcony and lower patio are available for outside dining in warmer months.

The menu at the new lodge is also expanded. The menu offers made from scratch foods using Ohio products with an emphasis on real pit barbeque. Many Ohio made wines and beer are offered as well. The open truss architecture of the main dining room exposes large rough-cut beams constructed from timber cut from nearby Zaleski State Forest. The new lodge offers another much needed dining option for visitors to this part of southeast Ohio. Whether you visit for dinner or an after-hike snack or beverage, we’re sure you’ll enjoy it. Here is their web site for menus and more information: www.lakehopedininglodge.com.

After Lake Hope, we went in a search of the remains of two Iron Age relics: the century-and-half-old Vinton Furnace and Belgian coke ovens in the Vinton Furnace State Experimental Forest east of McArthur. The map we had only gave us a general location so it took a bit of searching–we love a challenge! After passing the site a couple times–it’s not visible from the road–we finally zeroed in on the most likely location, parked the car and headed off into the forest. With just a few minutes of walking we hit pay dirt.

Only part of the stack of the old furnace remains but surprisingly a good bit of the main structure of the bank of coke ovens remain intact. Coke produced in the ovens was used to fuel the furnace, which was used for smelting iron. This site is quite remote and interesting to visit. Amateur photographers will surely enjoy capturing the curves, symmetry and textures of the coke ovens and the bricks they are constructed of. If you are interested in the full history of this site, follow this link: http://www.oldeforester.com/Vinton.htm.

To visit this site, take US 50 east out of McArthur for 3 mile and turn right onto Stone Quarry Road. In exactly 2 miles you’ll see an old iron bridge on the right, near the road. Pull off and park here. Walk across the old bridge and in approx. 200 yards you’ll intersect a short loop trail marked by round metal trail markers. You can go either right or left; left to see the coke ovens first or right to the furnace first. A word of warning, Stone Quarry Road is a rough gravel road and muddy during wet weather.

Below are a few pics. Have fun!

vntn_lodge1   vntn_lodge2vntn_coke1vntn_coke2vntn_furnace

Hey from Haydenville

In early November, we spent a weekend in our Rocky Ridge Cabin. One of the benefits of owning cabins is being able to stay in them a few times a year. Even though our properties aren’t that far from home, it still feels like a mini-vacation every time we stay. As usual, we always spend our time in the Hocking Hills hiking and visiting some of our favorite sites. This time we, though, we visited a new place: Haydenville, and it turned out to be a good find. (I had driven through this town many years ago but never stopped.)

If you’ve ever driven down US 33 from the Hocking Hills to Nelsonville, then you’ve been within a ½ mile of Haydenville,haydenhouse most likely without realizing it. Haydenville is located on Haydenville Road (Co. Rd. 25), about 5 miles southeast of Logan. Exit US 33 at State Route 595 and go right. You’ll drive right through town, and then soon back onto US 33.

Haydenville was Ohio’s last company owned town. Company towns were owned by mining companies, which means the company owned all the homes and businesses in town. All town residents were employed by the company. Basically, workers were slave to the company. What makes Haydenville especially interesting is the unique architecture of the town’s structures. The buildings and houses incorporate a variety of different bricks, blocks and tiles manufactured at the company brick/tile plant. The fire clay used in the manufacturing was mined locally. Most of these structures still stand today and continue to serve as homes for village residents. The company no longer exists and the homes are now privately owned. Most of them are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Ohio historical Society provides a more detailed history of the town: click here

haydenwolfeTwo cemeteries in town are worthy of a visit. Wolfe Cemetery is beautifully situated on a wooded hilltop overlooking the Hocking Valley. You’ll find it on a gravel road off the left side of Haydenville Road approx. ¼ mile before intersecting with US 33 south of town. All of the people buried in the cemetery, except one, were members of the Wolfe family or had married into the family. Many grave markers here date back to the mid-1800s, some with interesting– almost lighthearted–inscriptions. Legends say the cemetery is haunted by a witch supposedly buried under one of the large, flat stone grave markers. The folks at forgottenohio.com provide good information about the cemetery: click here

Located at the end of Howard Road, Haydenville Cemetery is not quite as interesting as Wolfe Cemetery. This cemetery is believed to be the official town cemetery where workers of the company and their family members were buried. While it is interesting to walk through the cemetery grounds, it is what lies in a hollow just north of the cemetery that may be the most interesting site in town to visit.

In a hollow below the cemetery sits the remains of the Haydenville Tunnel. It’s a small tunnel size-wise in comparison to a car or train tunnel, but not any less interesting. The tunnel runs for nearly a mile under the wooded ridges and was once used to transport clay from a clay mine located along a tributary of the Hocking River to the company brick/tile plant. A pallet plant is now located where the brick plant used to stand. Clay was transported by hand in large carts on a narrow set of rails. A large outer arch at the tunnel entrance narrows to a smaller opening several yards inside. The arches are lined with glazed tile manufactured at the now extinct brick plant. It is possible to walk quite a distance into the tunnel with a flashlight. The land around tunnel is owned by the federal government so you should not have to worry about trespassing on private land. Again, forgottenohio.com provides more in-depth information: click here.


Visit the Moonville Tunnel–if you Dare

Posted by Ron Bell

I thought I’d share one of my favorite places to visit in the region. It’s a bit more of an adventure than hiking the well worn paths of the state park, but well worth it.

Tucked deep in Vinton County’s Zaleski State Forest hides the Moonville Tunnel–about a 45 minute scenic drive from our cabins. The tunnel was named for a nearby mining town that sprang up along the Marietta and Cincinnati (M&C) Railroad, which was routed through southeastern Ohio in the mid-1850s. Little evidence of the town can be found today. Ultimately, CSX Railroad took ownership of the railroad and tunnel. They operated the line until 1988, when it was abandoned and the rails pulled up and trestles dismantled.

If not for a grassroots effort, the tunnel would likely have been destroyed. In fact, an ongoing project is underway to open several miles of the old railroad grade as a rail trail. Currently, about 6 miles of the rail trail are complete, with another 9 or so planned. Work is currently in progress to replace bridges near the tunnel. Even without the bridges, the railroad grade and tunnel are accessible.

A visit to the tunnel is a fascinating experience. The tunnel sits in a quiet, remote location; the contrast to the heavily visited Hocking Hills State Park is quite stark. In fact, you may be in awe simply by the fact that you didn’t know such remote places like this even existed in Ohio. As you walk through the tunnel, you can’t help but reflect on its history or marvel at the brick construction. Stand at one end of the tunnel and whisper to others at the opposite end: they’ll be able to hear you. The tunnel is rumored to be haunted and this is what brings more people to the tunnel than anything else. Visiting the tunnel at night is an unforgettably spooky experience.

Many legends exist of whom or what haunts the tunnel. One of the more common stories tells of an intoxicated miner walking home along the tracks late one night. When a train approached he waved a lantern in a futile attempt to stop it. Some say you can see a light swinging near the tunnel on certain nights. Another story tells of a woman dressed in white. She is thought to be the spirit of a woman killed on a nearby trestle in 1905. Many tunnel visitors report strange white objects or streaks showing up on photos taken of the tunnel. I have personally had this happen to me using a perfectly good digital camera.

Want to visit? Here are directions from State Route 278 at the dam in Lake Hope State Park. Turn left (if headed south) onto Wheelabout Road. In approximately 0.25 mile, Wheelabout Road will curve right, stay straight and travel onto Shea Road. Approximately one mile down the road, Shea Road will turn to gravel and become Hope-Moonville Road. Back at the beginning of Shea Road, your distance to travel is 2.5 miles to a metal bridge crossing Raccoon Creek. Park just before the bridge and take the wide trail on the left (east) side of the road. This short unofficial trail–often muddy–is 0.2 mile in length and will drop you right in front of the tunnel. To view the tunnel from the road, drive across the metal bridge and look left after 0.1 mile. You can also park here and access the old railroad grade. Work is underway to replace a railroad bridge across Raccoon Creek here, which will provide easier access to the tunnel when complete. Optional directions: in Google Maps you can search “moonville ohio” and it will get you pretty close.

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.