A valuable, universal gift for all to enjoy

onthetrailbybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Smack in the center of our bucolic county is a gift that can be enjoyed by all. The Holmes County Trail is a golden thread that symbolically intertwines the east and the west as one.

lovelyscenerybybrucestambaughNow December may seem like a strange time to be writing about hiking and biking. When we have a gem of a trail in our midst it isn’t. Despite living in northeast Ohio where the weather is as fickle as its politicians, township trustees excluded, the trail is a year-round treasure for hikers, bikers and birders alike.

The trail ties Holmes County’s two cultural and geographic regions together through more than its central location. This multipurpose ribbon of assimilation serves as outdoor gym, nature center, photographic paradise and transportation route all in one. Many people, local residents and visitors alike, utilize those undeniable attributes.

Though the trail has been open for awhile, it has only been in the last couple of years that I have begun to fully appreciate its value. I bike and hike the trail for the obvious reasons. I need and enjoy the exercise. The trail, however, provides so much more than physical workouts. For 15 miles from Fredericksburg to Killbuck, enigmatic landscapes of steep wooded hills and low marshlands with grasses, reeds, wildflowers, wildlife, ponds and estuaries abound.

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The Holmes Co. Trail runs through the Killbuck Marsh, an important wildlife area and fly way for migrating birds

Whether cycling or walking, memories flood my old brain much like the murky waters of the streams overwhelm the old-age valley after a summer deluge. Traversing where locomotives once chugged and whistled through the heart of the county invigorates the body, mind and soul. Truly its worth spans far beyond any personal physical or mental gains.

telegraphpolebybrucestambaughHistoric and aesthetic reminders of railroad days appear occasionally along the way. The weathered, wooden arms of long-abandoned telegraph poles still stand. Girders of old iron bridges that once ferried locomotives pulling passenger and freight cars continue as supports for the trail to cross the many tributaries that feed the mother stream.

The old railroad bed that once conveyed products between Ohio cities has a renewed and appreciated purpose. Families leisurely stroll the paved path on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Casual and serious bikers alike zoom along the trail’s smooth, gentle gradient at preferred paces. Horses and buggies pass safely from home to store with no motorized hindrance.

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Horses keep to one lane and bikers and hikers the other on the Holmes Co. Trail.

I am never surprised but always pleased by what I discover on my encounters along the trail. In the spring, pleasing pastels of plants, flowers and trees unfurl, and lyrical sounds of migrating songbirds, shorebirds, waterfowl and birds of prey fill the precious marshy flyway. In the shaded tree tunnels along the route, summer’s highlights include meeting fellow bikers from near and far who have come to enjoy the beauty of this special pearl.

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A young Red-tailed Hawk took flight along the Holmes Co. Trail near Fredericksburg.
Besides its rich, changing colors, the fall brings the joy of discovering a clamorous gang of crows spooking a bald eagle from its comfortable roost. Just down the way, gnawing beaver have encircled a cottonwood to the point of marveling that the tree still stands.

I have yet to experience winter on the trail. With the first fluffy snowfall, that will likely change.

As seasons come and seasons go, old friends meet and new friendships form along the blissful trail. Of all its intrinsic qualities, perhaps this virtue is the trail’s greatest gift to those who choose to unwrap it.

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A Canada Goose gosling follows its mother through the marshy water along the Holmes Co. Trail.
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Families enjoy all the Holmes Co. Trail has to offer.
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North of Holmesville, a road parallels the trail.
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The views from the Holmes Co. Trail are beautiful and ever-changing.
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Fall is especially nice along the Holmes Co. Trail.
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In the fall, the Holmes Co. Trial really is a golden thread.
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The Holmes Co. Home is visible from the trail.
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Crops like field corn and soybeans also add to the variety along the trail.
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The trail follows the Killbuck Creek most of the way from Holmesville to Killbuck.
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The old depot in Killbuck marks the southern-most part of the Holmes Co. Trail.
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Horses are required to stay on one side of the trail for obvious reasons.
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The old railroad bridges still serve their purposes along the trail.
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The trail cuts through a variety of topography while maintaining a level ride.
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Though not in its original location, the Millersburg depot serves as the hub for the trail.
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The Killbuck Marsh is both a valuable wildlife habitat and a photographer’s haven.

The Holmes Co. Trail has several access points. They include from north to south Fredericksburg, Holmesville, Millersburg and Killbuck.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Viewing the leaves in Ohio’s Amish country

Fall from my backyard by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Ohio’s Amish Country, particularly Holmes County, is a great place to be when the autumn leaves are at their finest. With its many stands of mixed hardwoods throughout the area, the colors can be spectacular if all the conditions are right.

The leaves are usually at their colorful peak by mid-October. Though the summer’s drought may have caused some trees to already change, they seem to be on a normal timetable for coloration. Now through the next two weeks will provide marvelous viewing.

Several great routes can be driven to see the rainbow of leaves. Just consider the rolling hills, rows of corn shocks, grazing cows, romping horses, Amish buggies and silvery streams as backdrops to the main event.

Fall farm by Bruce Stambaugh

Simply traveling the main highways that lead into the Holmes County area and crisscross the county will guarantee beautiful scenery. That’s especially true in the fall.

Trees and shocks by Bruce StambaughState Route 39 cuts Holmes County in half east to west. In many places, the road roughly follows the terminal moraine of the Wisconsin Glacier. To the south, hillsides loaded with maple, oak, walnut, beech and hickory trees are steeper than their counterparts on the opposite side of the road. The glacier filled in the valleys on the north side 10,000 years ago, leaving a gently undulating geography, with rich soil that farmers pamper for excellent crops and lush pasturelands. Stands of woodlots and tree-studded fence lines create magnificent leaf viewing.

Yellow and red by Bruce StambaughState Route 83 bisects Holmes County in half north to south. You will be dazzled by the vistas that change seemingly at every curve. Both north and south of Millersburg, the county seat, the route hugs the eastern edge of the Killbuck Valley. Impressive slopes with ample forests east and west nestle golden marshlands teeming with wildlife in between.

U.S. 62 runs diagonally across the county. From the northeast, pastoral views are aplenty, meandering through Amish farmland on each side. Because the wood industry surpassed agriculture as the number one employer in Holmes County a few years ago, trees are treasured and properly cared for.

Fall scene by Bruce Stambaugh

Follow U.S. 62 from Millersburg southwest toward Killbuck and on to Danville in Knox County and you might think you are in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. In truth, you are. The road follows the area’s main waterway, Killbuck Creek, and then climbs the hills into the Mohican River watershed.

Woods and hills by Bruce Stambaugh

The lesser traveled state, county and township roads provide equal opportunity viewing when it comes to autumn leaves. State Route 520 from Killbuck through Glenmont’s seven hills and on to State Route 514 especially provides a pretty show if the timing is right.

In the east, State Routes 241, 515, 557 and 643 all are winding, hilly and gorgeous in the fall. Farmsteads with white houses and coffin red barns are the norm in any direction on these roads.

Red barn red tree by Bruce Stamaugh

For those who desire more than just riding and looking, the area has plenty to offer. At the Wilderness Center off of U.S. 250 west of Wilmot, you can hike through prairie grass and virgin forests, and explore an education center, where there is fun for all ages.

Mohican State Park near Loudonville affords numerous trails with incredible overlooks to the steep Mohican River gorge. The greens of the thousands of white pines nicely compliment the colorful mixed hardwood forest.

For bicyclists, the Holmes County Trail offers 16 miles of lovely trials from Fredericksburg to Killbuck. Hikers are welcome, too. The trail runs along the Killbuck through the center of the county until it turns southwest toward Killbuck. The wildlife, birding and leaf viewing can all be consumed simultaneously. A note of caution, however. Horse and buggies also use the trail on one side while bikers and hikers are on the other.

Everyone has their favorite spot to view the changing leaves. You’ll enjoy finding yours.

Fall in Amish country by Bruce Stambaugh

This article appeared in Ohio’s Amish Country magazine.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012