Tag Archives: Holmes County Trail

Summer weather in Ohio is as variable as life’s events

flower garden

Summer bouquet. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

After another wonderful summer day with partly sunny skies, pleasant temperatures, light breezes and little humidity, I’m watching the rain pour down.

It’s July. It’s Ohio. It’s the way weather happens here.

After the harsh winter and cool, damp spring, we were ready for an old-fashioned summertime. To be clear, that meant nothing but clear skies and warm sunny weather through September.

Of course, that never really has happened, never will. But we can dream can’t we?

The truth is we need to be honest with ourselves about summer weather in Ohio. We can have good days, better days, and then there’s the rest. Some of Ohio’s summer weather can be downright nasty, if not hazardous.

The consequential weather can be fearsome, and put a kink into your best-laid plans. A picture perfect day can morph into our worst nightmares. Tornadoes, hail storms, damaging thunderstorm winds are among the wicked weather menu options.

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The July 1969 flood comes to mind. I didn’t live in Holmes County then. Still, the storm was widespread, and I saw damage and destruction. I was an intern reporter for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. I headed to the Chautauqua Institution near Jamestown, New York for the holiday weekend.

I didn’t stay long. All the activities got rained out. On the way back to my apartment in a western Cleveland suburb, I passed several ConEdison power company trucks in New York heading west on the interstate.

I stopped at the newspaper on the way back and saw photos of boats being bashed against the rocky lakeshore. Power was out in much of the Cleveland area, including my neighborhood. In fact, one of those ConEdison trucks that I had passed was parked in front of my apartment.

Powerful winds drove the pouring rain right through the old, thick brick walls of our building. Huge trees snapped in a nearby park, and teenagers directed traffic at busy intersections.

Six weeks later I saw the damage done in Killbuck, my new home. Folks were still trying to recover from the devastating flood that touched nearly every building in the creekside town.

Weather is to be both appreciated and respected when it interrupts our human plans. When we hear thunder, we need to take cover. Avoid those treacherous floodwaters and find another way around.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

As a weather buff, I cringe when I hear of people being struck by lightning playing golf or baseball, and when I learn of youngsters being swept away playing in swollen streams. Those are sad stories that need not have happened.

Weather is a lot like life, isn’t it? A wise Amish farmer once told me, “We just have to take whatever weather comes our way.” I think that philosophy applies to other aspects of our lives as well.

How do we respond when one of life’s happenings strikes us like a lightning bolt?

A surprise medical diagnosis by the doctor, an unexpected budget-breaking bill, a broken relationship, the death of a loved one can all wash over our emotions like a flash flood.

It’s summer in Ohio. Not every day will be sunny, nor will everything that happens to us be fair. We can’t change the weather, and sometimes can’t even alter our personal circumstances.

What we can do is keep on hoping for sunny summer days. It won’t be all cloudy and miserable forever.

It’s July. It’s Ohio. It’s the way weather and life happen here.

Summer sunset

Summer sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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The good and the bad of being noted

Colorful leaves Holmes County Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

The red barn. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014

By Bruce Stambaugh

When I learned that Holmes County, Ohio ranked third in the world on National Geographic’s list of best places to view fall leaves, I smiled broader than a white oak leaf. I was overjoyed for the national notoriety of our picturesque county.

I’m not sure what criteria they used to rank the global locales to gain such stature. I’d like to think that there was more to it than seasonally colorful leafage.

Amish buggy fall leaves by Bruce Stambaugh

Pretty ride. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I hoped our fertile fields and comely homesteads, our quaintness and inherent hospitality helped. It’s hard to resist chestnut horses and black buggies driven by friendly, plainly dressed passengers passing sun-drenched woodlots flashing all of autumn’s bright, warm colors.

The area’s fall beauty is ubiquitous. From Glenmont to Winesburg, from Walnut Creek to Lakeville, from Limpytown to Lake Buckhorn, the autumn vistas are amazing.

Then my grateful grin narrowed to a willow leaf’s width. I winced just thinking about our already clogged roads during the fall.

I was glad our bucolic area had received such a high recommendation from such a reputable source. But I found the potential consequences of that distinction a bit intimidating. How in the world would our infrastructure handle the onslaught of additional leaf lookers that were sure to appear?

Though pretty year-round, there’s no arguing that fall is prime time when it comes to the natural beauty here. A bonus is that the scenery is always changing given our varying topography and variable weather. It can be sunny in the highlands, and socked in with soupy fog in the lowlands.

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In minutes that scenario most likely will change with the wind or the warming of the atmosphere or both. One minute you can barely see your hand in front of your face, and the next the sun is illuminating superb settings.

There’s beauty around every turn no matter where you are exploring, and in Holmes County curves and hills abound. You can circumnavigate the area every day and watch the scenes transform.

Having lived here all of my adult life, I’m likely prejudiced about the splendor of the local landscapes. Given this recognition, forget about the four corners of the world. The four corners of Holmes County are all you need to satisfy your desire for leafy vistas.

There are just too many good spots to view leaves to even think about making a personal list to share. Instead, just grab a map, drive in any direction and look. You’ll see what I mean. You can’t get lost either. All roads lead to somewhere.

A word of caution is in order, however. Our narrow, curvy roads are heavily traveled, with few places to safely pull off for photos. You may have to just take it all in as you go, and only stop where it is safe to do so.

There is an exception to that rule, however. The Holmes County Trail runs diagonally through the heart of the county for 15 miles from Killbuck to Fredericksburg. The photogenic panoramas and outdoor exercise will equally invigorate you.

The trail is for bicyclists, pedestrians, joggers, and horse and buggies only. No motorized vehicles are permitted, which makes for a safer, quieter trek to observe fall’s colors. The trail can be accessed in several locations, too, with vehicle parking provided.

I don’t recall what the first two locations were on National Geographic’s list. I just know that in the fall Holmes County is a giant, multihued maple leaf for all to admire.

Amish farm by Bruce Stambaugh

Long lane. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Autumn is upon us in more ways than one

foggymorningbybrucestambaugh

Foggy morning.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Fall is definitely in the air here in northern Ohio. The telling signs of autumn are everywhere.

A drive through our luscious countryside or a leisurely hike or ride along the Holmes County Trail or just a peek out a window all sing the same song. Fall has arrived.

The leaves have begun to change. Dense morning fog magically gives way to bright, sunny days, only to reappear the next morning to begin the misty process anew. The days cool, warm and cool again in alluring rhythm.

I marvel at nature’s humor.

I bask in the warmth of the morning sun high on a rural road. To the west, residents have to feel socked in. A thick, cottony cloud stretches the full length of the Killbuck Valley. The morning’s colder, heavier air spreads the wet blanket over the precious marsh teeming with its mix of migrants and year-round residents.

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Fog in the valley.

Fields of golden rod and patches of wild daisies bring a warming brilliance to the once verdant landscapes. The lessening sunlight and cooler temperatures tell the foliage it’s time to morph into the secreted richer colors. Once emerald stalks fade fast from a sickly yellow to a dormant brown even before the first frost of the season.

Wildlife sense nature’s urgings, too. Small flocks of Eastern Bluebirds, still flashing their azure brilliance, congregate, searching for both sustenance and winter cover. A few Cedar Waxwings still buzz from the tops of their favorite playgrounds, while the chatty Chimney Swifts have already checked out for the season.

changingleavesbybrucestambaugh

Changing leaves.

Despite having access to calendars and electronic device reminders, humankind seems to be in denial. Men and women clad themselves in t-shirts and shorts as if it were still July. Are they naïve or hopeful that fall will imitate summer? I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

No matter my activity, I dress in layers or carry extra apparel with me. I suspect it’s more me than the weather. I’ve noticed that the older I get the colder the days seem, even though the temperatures remain near their seasonal norms.

Further reflecting tells me that I am entering the October of my life as well. Transitioning from the long summer of busy workdays mingled with family meals and overlapping activities have evaporated like those morning mists. My good wife seems to have made the adjustments better than me.

waningmoonbybrucestambaugh

The waning Harvest Moon.

I enjoyed my career as an educator. In the 30 years of serving youngsters and cajoling adults, I learned a lot. I embraced my second career in marketing and writing with equal zeal.

Now reality is finally setting in for me. My parents are gone. My wife’s parents are gone. Friends from the Greatest Generation are fading fast, not to mention acquaintances from my own generation. I must ready to face the fall.

This certain transition hasn’t been easy. At times I have emotionally struggled with entering life’s October time. Yet facts are facts. My diminished hearing, loss of nimbleness and achy knees tell me that my autumn has arrived, too.

However long I have, I want to live life out with zest, energy and productivity. Fall is in the air. The harvest full moon is waning.

Whatever your age, together let us greet each day with a song and a smile. Let us celebrate the goodness that surrounds us regardless of whatever circumstances or personal season we encounter.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Winter wanes with March’s arrival

winterplowingbybrucestambaugh

A young Amish boy gets a head start on spring plowing with his a team of draft horses during a winter thaw.

By Bruce Stambaugh

On my way to dinner with a friend, a simple yet pleasant notice brought a smile to my face. As my car turned the sharp corner, I saw the sign in front of the volunteer fire station. It read, “Baseball sign up Saturday.”

With yet another wintry storm on the way, that was welcome news to me. Just the thought of those youngsters already registering to play baseball got me through the next day’s ugly weather.

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Daffodils peep through March’s melting snow.

That’s what I like about March. It’s both winter’s last gasp and spring’s first breath. That posting was a clarion call for more than little leaguers. It was a sign of hope.

Once we reach March, I feel like a new person. I know winter’s icy grip is behind us, and that spring is peeping.

I’m also old enough to know not to get too giddy too soon. March often offers up some of winter’s heaviest snows. But with the days growing longer, not counting Daylight Savings Time, you know the snow will not last long.

marchsnowbybrucestambaugh

March is notorious for delivering some heavy snowstorms in Ohio’s Amish country.

In fact, March often delivers us a four-star package deal on weather. Wait. You had better make that a four seasons package. March is famous for thawing out winter’s clutch, teasing us with summer-like days, then bringing us back to reality with a fall-like cold front. One day we could enjoy a welcomed spring rain, and the next be dodging tornadoes. March can be as fickle as it is friendly.

eastersundaybybrucestambaugh

Easter Sunday is March 31 this year.

This year March brings us a Trifecta of joy. St. Patrick’s Day, Palm Sunday and Easter consecutively complete March’s Sundays.

There’s much more, too. Early migratory birds begin to make an appearance. The male Red-wing Blackbirds begin to scout out their territories. American Robins come out of hiding and begin their bob, bob, bobbing along.

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American Robins begin marking their territories in March.

The Song Sparrows pick their fence post perches, tilt back their striped heads, and let it rip. American Goldfinches brighten as they begin their lemony spring molt.

If the ground is dry enough, farmers begin their plowing in earnest. Crocuses and daffodils poke their pointy green shoots through the crystalized snow remnants and await the sun’s command to bloom.

We humans follow their lead. We shake off our cabin fever, and find any excuse we can to go outside. If we do have an early warm spell, dedicated gardeners will be sure to be planting their peas.

We check our property for any winter damage. Without complaint we pick up sticks deposited by winter’s frequent, fierce winds. We’re just happy to be breathing in the freshness of life, and exhale without seeing our own breath freeze in midair.

earlyridebybrucestambaugh

Bicycles are common on the Holmes Co. Trail on a decent March day.

Bicycles, motorcycles and fishing gear are all dusted off, even if they won’t be used right away. Winter’s smudge is washed off the windows on the first reasonably warm day. Of course, the boys of summer spend March warming up for their April to October baseball games.

High school and college men and women create excitement and celebration with their basketball March madness. We dutifully follow along even if we haven’t attended a game all year.

crocusesbybrucestambaugh

Much to the delight of honey bees, crocuses are often the first flowers to poke through winter’s litter.

As you might be able to tell, I’m ready for some consistently warmer weather. The fact that we have already opened March’s door confidently tells me that winter is well on the wane.

As if we had any say in the matter, March always has her way with us. I for one am ready to be under her seductive spell, and bid a fond farewell to her bully winter cousins.

marchmowingbybrucestambaugh

Last year our yard received its initial mowing on March 23.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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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.

killbuckmarshbybrucestambaugh

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.

strollingandridingbybrucestambaugh

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.

youngredtailedhawkbybrucestambaugh

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.

mothergooseandgoslingbybrucestambaugh

A Canada Goose gosling follows its mother through the marshy water along the Holmes Co. Trail.

familyonthetrailbybrucestambaugh

Families enjoy all the Holmes Co. Trail has to offer.

summeronthetrailbybrucestambaugh

North of Holmesville, a road parallels the trail.

redbarnbybrucestambaugh

The views from the Holmes Co. Trail are beautiful and ever-changing.

fallalongthetrailbybrucestambaugh

Fall is especially nice along the Holmes Co. Trail.

goldenthreadbybrucestambaugh

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.

killbuckmarshsunsetbybrucestambaugh

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

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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

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