Athens, Ohio is home to Ohio University (not to be confused with Ohio State University) with 23,000 students. My plan was to swim laps at their pool, sleep at the hospital parking lot, and move on the next morning. My first stop was the University’s unique Visitors Center.
At the Visitors Center I asked the student employee if I could leave my van in their parking lot while I walk across the street to check out the Aquatic Center. She said no, I needed to put quarters in the meters located in front of the Aquatic Center. Aha, I recall now how all college towns seem to depend on parking permits and meters for revenue. I was momentarily annoyed because carrying coins seems archaic to me. But then I saw this sign . . .
The hospital parking lot rescues me again. Only one-fourth mile away, I park at the hospital, unload my bicycle and pedal back to the University on this scenic bike trail along the Hocking River.
This bike trail takes you to Athens' commercial strip with every imaginable retailer and grocery store, as well as the public library and community center.
Very nice amenity for a college town.
The Aquatic Center has a super-nice swimming pool. Visitors can swim laps for only $3.50 but unfortunately public swim hours closed for the day just before I arrived.
I continue on the pleasant dedicated bike trail. Had to stop and take a photo of this unique road sign.
The trail eventually connects with a scenic bikeway called the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway. I seem to have good luck finding dedicated bicycle trails without really looking for them.
After biking through shady woods along a former levee of the Hocking River for about 10 miles, I return to Athens. Nearing the hospital parking lot, I see about eight vultures standing on a roof of a house and about two dozen vultures walking around the yard!
Vultures don’t normally socialize mid-day like this on the ground. My first thought was a leak in the gas pipelines; each house had a gas meter and there were gas pipeline warning signs. Vultures can smell gas leaks. When I fiddled around with my camera to get a photo, I spooked them all. Half of the birds had already taken off and were in the sky.
By the time I knocked on the house owner’s front door, all the vultures were gone. No one answered; just two barking dogs. I knocked on the neighbor’s front door, and again two barking dogs came to the door. When the neighbor managed with difficulty to remove his dogs so he could open his door, I told him my concerns. He agreed it was a strange sighting, and promised me he’d call the lady who lived in that house. End of cliff-hanging story! I know nothing more.
Back at the hospital parking lot, I saw a uniformed security guard making the rounds of the employee, doctor, emergency, and visitors parking lots in a golf cart. Uh oh, maybe the hospital is on to the University's parking-meter evaders. Fearing I was stretching my hospital parking luck too much, I loaded my bike and left. A few miles north, luck struck again! On a busy Memorial Day Weekend, there was an available campsite at the US Forest Service’s Burr Oak Campground. That’s La Lair behind the trees in the photo. Not the best site, but I wasn’t complaining. The 17-year locusts were chirping away, too, endlessly.
The next morning while most campers were still waking up, I biked down the hill to the Burr Oak Lake and State Park, both owned and operated by the state of Ohio. It has a buoyed-section for swimmers called “The Beach”. But, I doubt if anyone swims there.
The power of suggestion! Yes, the water looked like all of the above! I saw green slime under the surface, plus other odd-looking stuff. I certainly wasn’t going to swim there nor paddle on my little ski. I sat at a picnic table nearby and on the grass, three butterflies and a bee caught my eye. Then I realized they were feasting on doggy turds.
In fact, the more I looked around, the more doggy turds I saw on the grass everywhere, and much more on the sandy beach. Would you want to play beach volleyball with turd-infested sand squishing through your toes?
An employee on a tractor had just finished plowing The Beach (see middle section above in photo) so I asked him if people swim here or play beach volleyball. He said no, they mostly go pontoon boating, camping, and picnicking. I asked him if I was the only person who’s bothered by all the doggy turds. He pointed to a large grassy area behind the bathrooms with several “Pet Area” signs, and sadly confessed that dog owners don’t use those areas. He was very friendly. We talked about my electric bike and he asked where I was from, mentioning that mostly locals visit The Beach. He promised he’d tell his supervisors about my complaint.
Back at my campsite, two protective dogs at a campsite next to me barked, and across from me, two more protective dogs barked. I mumbled to myself that this place has gone to the dogs. To cheer myself that afternoon, I took a one-mile hike on the Lakeview Trail which starts at the campground and winds through the US Wayne National Forest. It’s a worthy trail.
My definition of “worthy trail” is any walk in nature that makes me feel reverent. My hiking-buddy and new friend David from last week’s Buffalo National River adventures told me that “Church” in an ancient language means trees in a forest, or something to that effect. David is a perfect hiking buddy. Not only very communicative about life in general, David is a college-educated botanist, tri-lingual (Russian!) and a professional landscape designer who uses nature as his architect.
But my reverence was briefly interrupted. Skipping toward me with youthful exuberance were three young girls under the age of 10 and four large wet puppies about one-year old with muddy paws. They had just cooled-off in the lake. As if intuitively deciding this old lady’s ill-thoughts about dogs needed to be remedied with group hugs and kisses, all four happy large puppies jumped up on me. Eight very large muddy feet pawed on me, each trying hard to kiss me. I couldn’t dishearten those girls by being a crabby old lady, so I shared their enthusiasm. Y'all got to cool off, great! Y'all originally had 16 puppies? How wonderful!
We said our good-byes, made a brief connection with their friendly parents a few minutes later, and then I continued on the trail to the lake. I saw this excavated tree, perhaps a birch tree? See the arrow pointing to a small black hole?
Wood-boring ants were mining that tree from that little hole, magnified below.
Ant #5 is carrying a piece of sawdust out of the hole. Ant #1 already came out of the hole with a piece of sawdust and is on its way to the sawdust mound. Ant #2 is depositing a piece of sawdust at the sawdust mound. Ant #3 is returning back to the hole. Ant #4 is waiting for an opportune moment to re-enter the hole, perhaps yielding to anyone coming out? Their methodical endless work is amazing. Wonder if they rest at night?
I left Burr Oak Campground on Memorial Day, and arrived a few miles away at Logan, Ohio, where a parade was organizing. I quickly parked and waited for the parade to go by.
The high school band is very large for such a tiny town, especially the sax section.
See the red-headed girl with the tenor drum? Almost 50 years ago, that was me.
I had piano lessons for six years, so I could read music. That’s why they recruited me to be a bass drum player in Symphony Band. They taught me tenor drum in Marching Band. Excited about my very first parade after weeks of marching practice, feeling very official in a uniform and cap, I boarded the school bus with my drum sticks and we all drove about 15 miles south. For some stupid reason, I thought the boys had loaded all the drums, chivalry perhaps? So here I was at my first parade without a drum. Since there cannot be an empty space in a marching band formation, I had to march in place without my drum, just carrying my sticks. It was one of the worse days of my teenage life.
The little town of Logan, Ohio by the way touts itself as "Gateway to Ohio's Scenic Wonderland".