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