Mike Breiding's Epic Road Trips: May 2024

Our 42nd Wedding Anniversary Road Trip

Athens, OH and The Hocking Hills

Birding, Hiking, Biking, Eating and Drinking in Southeastern Ohio

Our thanks to:
* Petra Wood, who got the ball rolling by loaning us trail maps for Hocking Hill SP
* Claire Berlin and Dave Sapienza, who sent us lots of suggestions and recommendations on where to eat, hike, and sightsee.


Wedding photo by Meredith Pearce May 15th 1982

Our 42nd Wedding Anniversary Road Trip
May 14, 15, 16 - 2024
Birding, Hiking, Biking, Eating and Drinking in Southeastern Ohio
Or - Our Marriage is for the Birds

Every year Betsy and I try to do something a bit different to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary. Sometimes it happens, sometime is doesn't. This year, 2024, it did.

Then I started thinking about some of our previous Anniversaries.

   A memorable road trip through West Virginia and into Tennessee.

   A trip to northeastern Ohio to get our new recumbent trikes and visit with Lenny and Phil.

   We had dinner out at Wilson Lodge in Oglebay Park. This was during our Five Years of Social Isolation when we lived in Wheeling.

   Tom Pue joined us for a takeout Thai dinner graciously provided by our new Morgantown neighbor, Marion.

   John and Petra joined us for dinner at Cabin #18.

   A big one! We travelled to the Philly area to visit Jerry and Joan and enjoy the day at Longwood Gardens and wrap it up with a visit to Jenkins Gardens.

   We splurged and got takeout from Long John Silver's and Betsy played me a song that brought tears to my eyes.

"Rose of My Heart" sung by Johnny Cash



Tuesday, May 14th - 2024
Exploring the Hocking Hills: Birds, Ferns and Rocks

Now 2024 has rolled around and we are at it again. This time we will be staying "local" and visiting some of Appalachian Ohio where the Hocking Hills are waiting for us.

Here is a map to get you oriented.
It shows the area where we hiked, biked, ate, drank and slept. Hocking Hills - Athens area map

Our first stop on this tour is Hocking Hills State Park.

The Hocking Hills is a deeply dissected area of the Allegheny Plateau in Appalachian Ohio, primarily in Hocking County, that features cliffs, gorges, rock shelters, and waterfalls. The relatively extreme topography in this area is due to the Black Hand Sandstone (so named because of Native American graphics on the formation near Newark, Ohio), a particular formation that is thick, hard and weather-resistant, and so forms high cliffs and narrow, deep gorges.

Source: WikiPedia

The Black Hand sandstone mentioned above is what Betsy and I would spend the afternoon walking through, climbing over and walking on top of for much of the hike.

We did not arrive at the Hocking Hills SP visitors center until 11:00, and, not surprisingly, it was quite busy. We try to arrive early when we visit places we know are popular but that was not possible this time because we came straight from Morgantown and the drive took us nearly 4 hours.

We made a brief stop at the gift shop to look for postcards. I did a quick scan of the book section and was delighted to see Emily Sessa's  Ferns, Spikemosses, Clubmosses, and Quillworts of Eastern North America that was published March of 2024. The guide covers all 305 species, belonging to 96 genera and 30 families.

If you have any interest in living ferns, this book is a must have.Ferns, Spikemosses, Clubmosses, and Quillworts of Eastern North America

We then made a brief stop for maps and trail info and exited via the lower level, which was jam-packed with a bunch of noisy and unruly 3rd graders. A bus load of them, in fact. We could not wait to get out of there!

Ohio is one of the midwest states which are considered flat, however there is a section of Ohio in the southeast corner that is anything but flat.

Terrain map of SE Ohio and SW West Virginia

If you look at the map above you can see a distinct change in the terrain to the west of Athens around Chillicothe and following a line north to Cambridge and Coshocton. The area of Ohio to the west of this line is flat. But, why isn't the Hocking Hills area flat? It has to do with ice. Lots of ice.

Laurentide Ice Sheet

Source: Britannica.com

The map above shows the extent of the Wisconsin Glacial Episode of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. The asterisk is the approximate location of the Hocking Hills. The map clearly shows the glacier did not quite make it down to the Hocking Hills and so the flattening, scouring, gouging and debris deposition that took place in glaciated parts of Ohio did not happen in southeast Ohio.

The last ice advance into Ohio, the Wisconsin Glaciation, began around 35,000 years ago and ended roughly 12,000 years ago, when ice retreated out of the Lake Erie Basin. Ice reached its maximum extent in Ohio around 26,000–24,000 years ago during a time known as the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). During this time, glaciers advanced across the landscape in western, central, and northeastern Ohio previously shaped by the Illinoian Glaciation. Like during the Illinoian Glaciation, the Wisconsinan glaciers did not advance into southeastern Ohio. The maximum extent of glaciation during the Wisconsin Glaciation did not advance as far as the Illinoian Glaciation except for in Holmes County. Because the Wisconsin Glaciation was the last glaciation to occur and happened relatively recently, sediments are still well-preserved at the surface across Ohio. Thus, geologists can infer a more detailed account of the events during this period.

Source: Ohio DNR

Let's take a look at a couple more terrain maps.

Terrain map of the Hocking Hills and Athens area - SE Ohio

Here you can clearly see the deeply dissected area that has all the hills and hollers of SE Ohio.
Contrast this with the area around Columbus.

columbus ohio area-terrain map

This is what you get when you are run over by a glacier. The area is mostly flat with little relief. This makes for boring hiking but is great for farming, road construction and city building.

OK. Now that I have shared my newly learned lessons about glaciation with you, perhaps you would like to know more. How about this - what was the preglacial topography like? "For the first time, a research team including IU scientists has reconstructed a view of North America’s mid-continent, before glaciers changed the landscape forever." Read all about it: New study reconstructs preglacial topography of mid-North America for first time.
Far out, man.

But wait! That's not all!

The effects upon the land by the glaciers were more than geologic. With each advancing ice sheet the plant life was either wiped out or forced southwards.
Prominent botanist and ecologist Lucy Braun (1889 – 1971) concluded there was a lowering of altitudinal belts which permitted the southward migration of northern vegetation.
This accounts for the presence of plants such as Canadian yew (Taxus canadensis) and Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) as well as northern or high altitude birds such as the Winter Wren and Hermit Thrush.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's go for a hike.

Todays HikeGrandma Gatewood and Gorge Overlook Loop

Click on the photos below for a larger image.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here is the first "attraction" on this hike: the Upper Falls. This and all the other bridges, stairways, waterfalls, and ledges were what the hordes of people were here to see. We immediately got into a series of human traffic jams, which made the hiking tedious.
Fortunately for us, it turned out almost all of the people were there for a short loop that had all the goodies and was little more than a mile long.

Short loop hike

Here is a detail of the previous trail map. It shows the top of the map where two loops can be hiked. As you can see the loop trails are one-way. If they were not, it would have been chaos.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Considering all the scouring and sculpting of the rock faces on both sides of the creek, it was surprising to me to find out this is an ephemeral stream. Even though the season had been very wet, the water was only ankle deep. I imagine that by mid-summer it must be just a trickle. However, flash floods have occurred in the gorge, including a catastrophic event on January 7, 1998, which wiped out much of the trail system.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

As you can see from the rope barrier on the left, there has been some attempt to corral people on the trail. However, there was much evidence of people wandering all over the place and there has been significant erosion caused by human traffic.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

One of the several bridges we crossed. Note the potholes. Potholes are found where the rock is softer or in locations where the flow is channeled more narrowly.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

There were a number of stone stairways all of which were muddy and slippery. We saw some folks who were having a difficult time negotiating the steps without slipping and falling.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

As you can tell by Betsy's attire it was raining. This made the footing even more slippery. Fortunately, the rain did not last for more than a mile of so of our hike.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

There were some interesting erosional features where the gorge narrowed.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Many of the exposed rock faces in the upper gorge area had these beautiful ferns growing on them.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This is the Bulblet bladder fern (Cystopteris bulbifera). This fern, along with another species we saw, Maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) is always found on calcareous substrates, such as limestone. However, this is not limestone. A calcareous sandstone, perhaps? This had me scratching my head. Fortunately, I knew who to contact to have this puzzle solved — retired WVU  Emeritus Professor of Geology, Tom Kammer.

Whether my questions have been about spherical weathering, pot holes in sandstone, or rock jumbles all over the landscape, Tom has been Johnny on-the-spot with comprehensible answers for me. Now I had yet another question for Tom. Is the sandstone these ferns were growing on calcareous sandstone? Tom had this to say:

Yes, there certainly could be pockets of calcareous sandstone but they would be volumetrically insignificant (<<1%) and thus not warrant describing the Black Hand as a calcareous sandstone. The Black Hand Sandstone was deposited by an ancient river that incised into older marine deposits that had some sea shells, and marine deposits were deposited on top of the Black Hand. So groundwater percolating through rocks surrounding the Black Hand could transport dissolved calcium carbonate that precipitated on the surface of the sandstone when the groundwater evaporated. That may explain the occurrence of that fern species.

There you have it. I knew Tom would come through for me. And, as it turns out, Tom had some very specific knowledge about this particular sandstone.
Tom, along with former PhD student David Machen wrote a 24 page paper entitled: "Incised valley fill interpretation for Mississippian Black Hand Sandstone, Appalachian Basin, USA: Implications for glacial eustasy at Kinderhookian–Osagean (Tn2–Tn3) boundary".

The Abstract for the above paper states: "Black Hand Sandstone is a multistory, crossbedded, coarse-grained conglomeratic sandstone within the Cuyahoga Formation in Ohio."

In addition to being a "multistory, crossbedded, coarse-grained conglomeratic sandstone" it is also very pretty, in both its natural state and as a cut masonry stone.

Black Hand Sandstone masonry stone

Source - Black Hand Sandstone: A Building Stone of Unique Distinction from Richland County, Ohio
Mark E. Wolfe, Ohio DNR, Division of Geological Survey


Source: WikiPedia

Beautiful, is it not? Betsy and I are going to have to visit the Bushnell Residence in Mansfield Ohio and take a look at the real thing.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

There was much to enjoy in this cool and shady gorge from sculpted Black Hand sandstone to towering hemlocks.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This rather unusual bridge had a story. On January 7, 1998, a catastrophic flood damaged many of the old stone bridges and destroyed seven wooden bridges. The above bridge is an example of the extensive efforts to rebuild Hocking Hills’ trail system, which took four years and 4.1 million dollars.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I was very excited to see this plant. It is rock clubmoss (Huperzia porophila). It is uncommon, growing only on sandstone, and it requires cool, moist, shaded, acidic spots. Although I have been on the lookout for this species for 50+ years, I had never seen it before today.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This is the entrance to Old Man's Cave. It is not really a cave but a rock shelter.

Old Man's Cave derives its name from the hermit Richard Rowe who lived in the large recess cave of the gorge. His family moved to the Ohio River Valley around 1796 from the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee to establish a trading post. He and his two dogs traveled through Ohio along the Scioto River in search of game. On one side trip up Salt Creek, he found the Hocking Region. Rowe lived out his life in the area and is buried beneath the ledge of the main recess cave. Earlier residents of the cave were two brothers, Nathaniel and Pat Rayon, who came to the area in 1795. They built a permanent cabin 30 feet north of the cave entrance. Both brothers are buried in or near the cave. Their cabin was later dismantled and relocated on the nearby Iles farm to be used as a tobacco drying house.

Source: HockingHills.com

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I have to say this trail had some very unique feature but (whine, whine) having so many people there tainted the experience for me.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here is the bridge to Old Man's Cave. Very picturesque but ruined by too many people.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

By now the crowd was thinning out and the quietude had returned.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

These hemlock tree roots must be kept scoured clean by high waters. We thought they were pretty amazing-looking.
It was shortly after this I stopped in my tracks, looked at Betsy, and held up my index finger. This is the silent signal we use to tell each other to stop and listen. And when we did listen, we both heard it, a Winter Wren calling out from deep within the hemlocks. It is always a thrill to hear the Winter Wren and the call which has been described as "A long, silver-threaded, and exuberant song that can include clicks, trills, and warbles. Male winter wrens sing a cascading, bubbly song that can last 5–10 seconds and be delivered with remarkable vehemence. Winter wren songs can have over 100 notes."
Have a listen. How would you describe it?

The song of the Winter Wren

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

More fern fun! I have seen this fern less than half a dozen times in all the years I have been searching cliffs in hopes of finding it. Today was a jackpot — over two dozen plants of various ages.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here is a mighty fine group of Pinnatifid spleenworts (Asplenium pinnatifidum). This fern is a hybrid between the Walking fern and Mountain spleenwort. However its parentage is still ambiguous. I know you are dying to know more about this unusual plant so here's the skinny.

Originally identified as a variety of walking fern (Asplenium rhizophyllum), it was classified as a separate species by Thomas Nuttall in 1818. It is believed to have originated by chromosome doubling in a hybrid between walking fern and mountain spleenwort (Asplenium montanum), producing a fertile tetraploid, a phenomenon known as alloploidy; however, the hypothesized parental hybrid has never been located.

Source: WikiPedia

After an appropriate amount of oohing and aahing, we continued on down the trail. It was not long after that I felt Betsy's hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see why, and her index finger was up, and she had a look of rapture on her face. "A Hermit thrush!" she whispered excitedly. And then, I too heard it. This is a thrush of the far north or high mountains of the Appalachians and Betsy's favorite songster.  When we hear the Hermit thrush, it confirms what we already know: we are somewhere remote, quiet, and beautiful.
There is a song recording here.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

We came across this strange looking fungus near the end of the hike. I am able to identify only a few mushrooms, but luckily I know someone who can identify 100s. Enter Ryan Tomazin: birder, moth-er, fungus man and chef. I shot off an email to Ryan with this photo attached. Shortly I received a reply.
"Wow, looks like Umbrella Polypore, a good edible, though I've never found one before. Nice!!!"
It was the first time I had seen this mounding beauty and if Ryan had never seen one before if must be a bit on the uncommon side.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Grandma Gatewood, for whom this trail was named. I first heard her name and a little about her when Betsy was reading "Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail".
She became famous as the first solo female thru-hiker of the 2,168-mile Appalachian Trail in 1955 at the age of 67.
Starting in 1967 she led a six-mile hike in Hocking Hills SP every January until 1973, the year she died. She was 86 years old.
You can read more about this remarkable woman here.


Wednesday, May 15 - 2024
In Search of the Moonville Tunnel

Today would be a very different day—quiet, peaceful, few people, and a feeling of being in a very remote area.

When I was emailing Dave about our upcoming trip, he suggested we check out the Moonville Tunnel. It was on the Moonville Rail-Trail and we could either walk or bike to the Tunnel. But first, we had to do some driving.
We had no idea how to get to the tunnel from Athens, so I started googling for directions and found this site:
Moonville Tunnel | Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ohiodnr.gov). The web page had a brief history of the tunnel and what looked like straight-forward driving directions to the tunnel. Ha!  

Moonville Tunnel near Zaleski State Forest is one of few reminders of the ghost town of Moonville. In 1856, Samuel Coe gave the Marietta and Cincinnati (M&C) Railroad permission to construct a railroad line across his property. Coe hoped that the line would then provide him an easy means to ship coal and clay on his property. The railroad accepted the offer for two reasons. First, Coe offered the land for free, and second, Coe's land would provide a better route for the track from Marietta to Cincinnati.

The community of Moonville soon sprung up on Coe's land around the railroad. Moonville principally housed miners and a few railroad workers. The town had approximately one hundred residents at its peak in the 1800s. Yet, the community declined, especially during the early 1900s as coal mines started closing. The last family abandoned Moonville in 1947. Today, only the old schoolhouse's foundation, a train tunnel, and the community cemetery remain.

Source: Ohio DNR

From Nelsonville: From US-33, turn south onto OH-278 towards Lake Hope State Park. After passing Lake Hope, turn left on Wheelabout Road. Stay straight on this road. This becomes a gravel path and eventually crosses a one-lane bridge. Park near the old rail bed and cross Raccoon Creek to pick up the trail. Moonville Tunnel is about 100 yards from this point.

Source: Ohio DNR

"Stay straight"? Wrong!
"Gravel path"? Wrong!

Although the drive was beautiful, as soon as we turned onto Wheelabout Road, we felt like we were on a wild goose chase. Finally we came to a Rail-Trail crossing. I pulled off the road so we could read the signs posted there.
39°19'02.0"N 82°21'03.5"W - Google Maps

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Betsy: Normal Mode

The sign post indicates it is 3.3 miles to the tunnel. We talked about just parking there and walking down to the tunnel but after looking at the map we decided to find a closer parking spot..

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Betsy: Enthusiastic Mode

Inside joke.

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We found our way to another Rail-Trail crossing and parked. We decided to walk to the tunnel from this point. We could see a gate and a bridge but the surface looked as if the trail had not had much work done to it.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Just before we got to the bridge we saw this nice sized snapping turtle.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Whoever designed the bridge certainly made sure it used materials that would last.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I tried to find out the name of this type of bolt but I had no luck. If you know the name, please contact me.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

A look back at the bridge and the area where we parked.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

It started to rain, and the mosquitoes were making themselves known, but we decided to keep walking down the trail. But shortly after this, we came to another crossing over Racoon Creek. I should say former crossing because the trestle was gone and there was no replacement bridge. We found out later that this was one of two crossings still needing a bridge in order to complete the Rail-Trail.

When we got back to the car, we checked the map again and determined we were only about a mile from the Rail-Trail access point that would allow us to walk to the tunnel, so we decided to walk there rather than drive.
The road was like a wide trail in the woods. It was very quiet, with only bird song to keep us company. But we did see some humans. As we walked up a hilly section of the road and rounded a bend, we saw a pickup truck with the engine running, sitting in the middle of the road. As we passed, we could see two bearded bubbas in full hunting camo outfits. I slowed and said, "Howdy". The driver responded, "Have you heard any turkeys?" What I wanted to say was, "You might hear some if you shut off the engine and get out of the truck". (Betsy said later she should have responded, "No, not until now.") Instead, I replied, "No, and I have not seen any either".
It turns out they were from Alabama and in the area for spring gobbler season. They said they had just come from Slaty Fork WV. I guess these guys really liked to turkey hunt! We mentioned we were on our way to the tunnel. They did not know about it and seemed interested, and indeed, we saw them there later inside the tunnel.
I mentioned bird song above. Betsy identified a Cerulean warbler singing, and we heard it several times on our road walk. The Cerulean is a bird we seldom hear and have never seen. Their populations have declined dramatically due to habitat loss, and they are usually high in the tree canopy, making them difficult to spot, especially for casual birders like Betsy and me.

Cerulean Warbler

Source: Wikipedia

Walking route to Moonville Tunnel

This map shows the "S" curve of the Rail-Trail, the two missing bridges and our walking route to the Moonville Tunnel.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here we are at the northwest entrance to the Moonville Tunnel. There is ugly graffitti at the top arch that hopefully will be removed some day.


Here is the out and back route from where we parked. Note the several bodies of water shown on the map. These are some of the numerous wetlands and small ponds which were created by the railroad corridor when the drainage was changed. These are excellent breeding areas for mosquitoes. That is why I have few photos of this walk, as soon as we stopped we were engulfed in a cloud of mosquitoes. As long as we kept moving at a good clip we were OK, but did not dare slow down or stop.

Eager Mosquito Drawing

Yummy! Here come Mike and Betsy!

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

When we exited the south portal of the tunnel we found out the Rail-Trail was nicely surfaced and would have been an enjoyable bike ride. We will make sure that is on our list for the next visit to this area.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

One final shot before we walked back to the road and then to the van. A very nice 6 mile stroll through a forest where the Cerulean doth sing.

When we arrived back at the hotel we engaged in some R&R and then headed out the door. Time to get crazy.

Athens Lunatic Asylum

A turkey vulture's view of the former Athens Lunatic Asylum, now a mixed-use development known as 'The Ridges'.
Former Athens Lunatic Asylum now a mixed used develpment knows as 'The Ridges'

One of the places Claire suggested we visit is now called "The Ridges". Formerly it was the site of the Athens Lunatic Asylum.
In 1868, construction began on the asylum. The facility was built with an estimated 18.5 million bricks made on site. Also used was locally quarried stone, no doubt Black Hand sandstone.
We arrived late afternoon and did not spend as much time there as I hoped we would. The site houses the Kennedy Museum of Art and we spent some time on the first floor looking over the displays. We then walked around the grounds to have a closer look at some of the buildings. Unfortunately we noticed several of the them had holes in the roof and one building had a collapsed dormer.

In addition to the Kennedy Museum, The Ridges is also home to the OU Campus Police HQ, a Child Development Center, and various Academic offices.
There is also a trail system. There is a trail map here.

I took no photos worth posting, with the exception of one, which is below. In their stead, here are some photos of the asylum as it once was and a bit of history about the place.

Exhibit showcases history of former Athens Lunatic Asylum

This is a promotional graphic from a 2018 Ohio University library exhibit titled "From the Athens Lunatic Asylum to The Ridges: 150 Years of Hospital and Community," that was displayed in the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections.

Athens State Hospital Postcard

Source: LegendsOfAmerica.com

On Thursday November 5, 1868 the Village of Athens celebrated the laying of the cornerstone of the Athens Asylum with a parade of nearly ten thousand persons. One thousand masons from across Ohio, a brass band, two church choirs, judges, masons, the mayor and village council of Athens, townspeople, and supporters from the region marched across the old South Bridge, and up the great hill to the new hospital grounds.

Built to American psychiatry's 19th century gold standard, the Kirkbride Plan for moral treatment, the Athens Asylum proposed to cure its patients with orderly routines, views of the countryside, exposure to the arts, a built environment with abundant natural light and ventilation, outdoor exercise, useful occupation, and personal attention from a physician. Its restorative landscape and efforts to offer humane treatment were a revolution in care for those with mental illness and stand in contrast to old models featuring confinement, restraint, and punishment.

The original building was constructed from an estimated 18.5 million bricks hand-made on the site, and contained wrought iron work from Cincinnati, stone quarried in southern Ohio, and floor joists of heavy timber. It took a community of stonecutters, masons, and other craftsmen six years to complete the project.

Cleveland architect Levi T. Scofield designed the new Asylum which, when it was completed, was the largest building in Ohio. Cincinnati designer and gardener Herman Haerlin planned the landscape according to moral treatment philosophy and supervised the extensive grading and planting needed.

The Athens Asylum received its first patient in January 1874. Patient care followed the moral treatment model until 1893, when American academic psychiatry shifted its focus from asylum-based medicine to its 20th-century inception as a research-based modern medical specialty.

Source: Kennedy Museum of Art | Ohio University

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This tree is on the right side of the main entrace of the Kennedy Museum of Art. At first I did not give it much attention, until I looked up and saw the leaves. Then I realized it was a Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua). Prior to this, I had seen only smaller trees used in landscaping or along roadsides while traveling through the southeastern states. Seeing a Liquidambar this size and age was quite a revelation, and, for me, that alone was worth the visit.

We had hoped to visit the Dairy Barn Arts Center as well but the access road was closed. Here is a bit of history about the barn.

First Dairy Barn Festival

The Athens Asylum for the Insane, later the Athens State Hospital, was provided for by state legislation of April 13, 1867. The hospital opened in 1874. The land around the hospital cow barn and the “fashionable” residence, later used as the herdsman’s house, was the original property of Lt. James Bower, a Civil War veteran, born near Pittsburgh. In 1855, Bower came to Athens County to work as a blacksmith. In 1877, he established a dairy and secured the contract for supplying milk to the State Hospital.

Source: Dairy Barn Arts Center


After this report was published I received an email from a reader with this memory of the Athens Asylum.

The story of the "lunatic" asylum brought back memories of my nursing school days at Parkersburg Community College. We were taken to that very place for our mental health semester. It was still in operation at that time. My most terrifying memory was the tour of the basement which had cells like jail cells and shackles which were used for patients with epilepsy! That sort of contrasts with the claim that the treatment was more humane, but I guess for the standards of the day, it was. My granddaughters' daycare is in the old goat barn of that hospital. And it is a lovely building architecturally - hard to believe it once housed goats.

Here is the the evolution of the establishment of The Ohio University Child Development Center since 1872 to 2001 when the center moved to the Ridges after the renovation of the former horse and goat barn.
History of the CDC



Thursday, May 16 - 2024
Breakfast with Claire and Riding the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway

Today would be the last day of our 42nd anniversary trip. We planned the activities based on the weather forecast, and luckily it held true— there would be no rain today for our bike ride. We will hike in the rain, but ride? Only if forced to. But first things first: bike fuel! Fortunately, Claire had us covered with an invitation to join her at Brenan's Cafe for breakfast. And we did.

We had a good visit and a good breakfast. We had not seen Claire for a number of years, so we had some catching up to do.
Some of you may remember Tom and Becky Berlin, Claire's parents, who homesteaded on an off-the-grid farm in rural central West Virginia. I call it the Berlin Homestead or The Hilltop Retreat. It is a lovely place, and Claire was very fortunate to be raised up there.

But every bird leaves the nest and Claire now lives between Parkersburg WV and Athens OH and works for Ohio University as the Director of Academic Marketing Strategy in the University Communications and Marketing department. In fact, her office is in the old insane asylum! How crazy is that? !

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Thanks Claire!


After breakfast we went back to the motel and got our cycling gear ready and we were soon on our way to the trailhead at The Plains.

Our cycling route for today.

Route: Hockhocking Adena Bikeway 24 miles

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

We found the trail had good directional signage which is always reassuring. "Nelsonville 10.8 Miles". That will be our lunch stop and turn around point.

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Trailside artwork is always fun to come across. This is the underpass for US 33.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

There was a nice mix of both open and shady sections. We had lots of beautiful clouds on this day that always make for nice photos.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

There were a number of memorial benches placed along the trail.

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Ahhh, the lovely Maidenhair fern.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image


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Here is everything you need to know in order be a respectful trail user. I thought the "Paths are for Everyone" sign was well done and informative.

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Thankfully much of the adjacent land was a nature preserve.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I was puzzled by the number of portable toilets placed here then I realized this section of the trail went through the campus of Hocking College and must get heavy use. We saw exercise equipment like that shown all along the trail next to the College.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

How nice it is to have water available. Very nice amenities on this trail.

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This is from the informational display next to the water fountain and bottle filler.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I was really diggin' those big puffy clouds.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Here we are at the connector to the town square in Nelsonville. I noticed the sign was partly obscured so I did a little judicious pruning.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

And here is our lunch spot: The Mine Tavern. It is one of the oldest taverns in Ohio and has been in business since 1842. 

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Fortunately they had a patio in the back complete with a beach themed mural.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Yeee-Hawww! Nothing better than 4 wheeling on the beach.

We split a club sandwich that was plenty for both of us and washed it down with some cold beer. Local bars are one of our favorite spots when cycling in places that are new to us.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

The Nelsonville town square was clean, tidy, and interesting-looking, but we opted not to check out "the cute little shops."

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I spotted these previously along the connector trail and this time stopped for some snaps.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

Click on the image to read the text. 8-BitRyan is a YouTuber

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

We always enjoy seeing old trestles like this. Pretty heavy duty. This line must have seen a bit a of traffic in its day.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

The recent heavy rains had really swollen the Hocking River. The day before it was much lower.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I stopped to take a snap of this cute little black snake.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

I stood guard over it as two people on huge motor bikes went by.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image


Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This reminded me of some of the scenery we saw when riding Rail-Trails in Wisconsin.

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This was new to me - a corkscrew bike rack. Clever.

We kept rolling down the trail, and before we knew it, we had overshot our turnoff for the trailhead. Fortunately, Betsy noticed; otherwise, I don't know how long we would have kept going.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were a bit tuckered, and Happy Hour was soon upon us. We set up our lawn chairs in a grassy strip on the other side of the parking lot and enjoyed the view of two large Sycamores and the comings and goings of some of the interesting looking people who were staying at the hotel.
After a beer and some R&R, the clock and our stomachs told us it was about time for some supper. For our first evening meal we dined, at Claire's recommendation, at Jackie O's Public House Restaurant, and the second night we ate at the North End because they had outdoor seating, but where would we go tonight?
By now, we were having a bit of "reluctance to get in the car". Neither of us wanted to get cleaned up, get in the car, and drive anywhere. What are two weary cyclists to do?

Larry's Dawg House to the rescue! Just two doors down, our dinner awaited us. Betsy did the noble thing and volunteered to walk the 272' feet to Larry's to get our dogs. And there we sat, enjoying each other's company, happy as clams with our dogs and beers, enjoying the early evening sun on our backs, and watching the sycamore leaves move to and fro. As they say, "Life is Good", especially if your needs are simple.

Soon after, it was beddy-bye and into the room of our Patel Motel we did go. And it was not long before we were cuddled up in bed, watching reruns of Gunsmoke. Soon, it was lights out.

The next morning we loaded up and headed east towards home, but there was one more stop to make: Tom and Becky's Hilltop Retreat, where we would enjoy warm, from-the-oven blueberry muffins and hot French press coffee and sumac seedlings for Cabin #18. We had a nice visit, and then it was back in the car, and up the road we did go.
End of story.

~~~~~ Bonus Photo ~~~~~

Photo by Mike Breiding - Click for larger image

This was posted on the information board at Larry's Dawg House. Betsy and I saw this plant along some of the roadways we had recently travelled. Apparently, poison hemlock is becoming more widespread in the area. This is the plant that, on January 31st, 1969, nearly killed all four of the Breiding Brothers.

That incident was written up in the Journal of California Medicine, 1973 Aug; 119(2): 78–82. You can read that report here.

Additionally, I wrote up the incident and it was published in William Breiding's Portable Storage #3. You can read that report here.


See you next time...
Mike and Betsy


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