September 19, 2017
I sent a group text with pictures from Tar Hollow to the Wednesday night men’s group in my church recently to prove (jokingly) that I wasn’t just skipping that week’s Bible study for no good reason. I had some trail maintenance to do. A couple of men responded (jokingly—I think) that they wanted to do trail maintenance, too.
Most, if not all, of the men in our group are outdoorsmen, and there is something almost spiritual about outdoor projects to men like that. There sure is for me.
Tar Hollow State Park is one of my favorite places. It is found in Tar Hollow State Forest, the third largest in Ohio. It’s a half hour east of Chillicothe, the nearest town of any size. It is, as far as I’m concerned, in the middle of nowhere. And to me that is a major part of its appeal.
Around ten miles of the Buckeye Trail wind through the forest there. My friend Jim Gilkey is responsible for keeping four of those miles maintained. He never has to twist my arm to get me to help. If only I was so helpful at home!
I’ve already worked there eight days this year, Jim even more. Our friend George has joined us multiple times. It looks like a couple more days should do it for 2017, provided there are no major tree falls.
Another man in the men’s group responded, “Looks too much like work.” I get it. Some work doesn’t appeal to me, either. This is different, though.
Yeh, it can wear me out, especially when it’s hot and muggy. Stinging insects are sometimes involved. Both Jim and I stirred up some yellow jackets on our last trip, and of course there were some stings. Then there are the spiders, ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, and poison ivy. Usually I come home with multiple bites and rashes. Yet I’ll return to the trail—voluntarily—and do it again. Looking behind me and seeing a clean, clear trail is just good for my soul.
Then there’s the camping. Tar Hollow doesn’t have many camping sites compared to some bigger state parks, but weekdays our favorite site is almost always available to Jim, George, and me. It’s perfect. I’d give out the site number, but sorry, you know how it is.
The park has just the basics: showers, pit toilets, and a beach on Pine Lake. I never seem to make it to the beach. I’m usually so tired after a day’s work I go straight to my comfy camp chair for a good half hour. Then there is a shower, supper, and sitting around again. Recently I’ve discovered the swing and the chairs on the porch of the camp store. It’s quiet and relaxing there on the porch.
The store also has wi-fi. It doesn’t take a lot to entertain me. Last time I camped there, I watched YouTube on my phone until the battery died. Classics like The Best of Eddie Haskell, and great episodes from Green Acres. Some of you more senior readers—you know who you are—will remember Mrs. Douglas’ “hotscakes” and the wheeling-dealing Mr. Haney. If you ask me, they don’t make sitcoms like they used to. I laughed so hard people might have thought the ginger beer I was drinking was alcoholic. That is, if there was anyone nearby besides Jim or George. Actually, they might be starting to wonder about the brew I’ve been drinking.
I can also email Bonnie while I’m on the porch. That’s good because cell service in that area of the state is very spotty. I can sometimes get a text sent or a call in on one of the ridges where we maintain. Bonnie’s used to hearing from me only occasionally on some trails. When I do reach her, we quickly exchange “I love yous,” knowing from experience that the call could be dropped at any moment. Thus, one side effect of trail maintenance in Tar Hollow is that it has at least made me a little bit more romantic.
Maybe the best part of the trip is the good company I have there. Good enough friends to trust your life with, but not above teasing and ribbing each other when the situation calls for it.
Hmm. Trail maintenance is a lot like the Wednesday Bible study I miss sometimes. Quality bro time. Consideration of others’ needs. Food for the soul. No wonder I look forward to my occasional hooky breaks down in Tar Hollow.