Jonathan W.
Dayton, OH
Joined June 2017
On the trail respite

You're learning to backpack the Buckeye Trail, and you want to know where and how you can camp along the trail. This primitive site is located a short hop (.17 mile) off the trail adjacent to Hipp's Lock, part of the old Miami-Erie Canal towpath.  There's space enough for perhaps two tents, with metal fire ring, and plenty of deadfall for that small survival TV fire. The pond is filled with wildlife, and the tree frogs and bull frogs will lull you to sleep. Another Boy Scout project that benefits the Buckeye Trail. You'll need to Leave-No-Trace, as it's a primitive site, but it's a welcome respite from the road walking of this section.

On the trail Adirondack shelter

You're learning to backpack the Buckeye Trail, and you want to take the first steps towards that without worrying about the physical load you're going to have to carry. You can drop the tent on this portion! This Adirondack shelter, located between Points 6 and 7 on the St. Mary's Section of the Buckeye Trail, is perfect for you. Built as an Eagle Scout project by Parker and Keaton Cole of Troop 95 (in Sidney), it is large enough for six or to sleep comfortably off the ground. You cannot miss it as you go along the trail. There is a fireplace (stone, make sure you check that the chimney is not blocked) large enough to cook your hotdogs and keep you happy as you sit in the shelter.  There is deadfall from the trees around you that will serve as kindling and fuel for the fire.  If you start in Lockington or Fort Loramie, this shelter is approximately 10 miles in and the right place to break a two-day backpacking trip.

Remote and peaceful

Tar Hollow State Park sits adjacent to the State Forest, in a similar setup to Scioto Trail and Lake Hope. It is pretty remote (no cell phone coverage at even the top of the hills), and really is a chance to 'get away' from the modern life. All sorts of camping is covered: RVing, trailer camping, and tent camping at electric sites, and primitive tent camping at several locations. Most of the camping is down in the valley, upstream from the lake. There is a camping area (and large paved lot) just below the dam (during this trip we saw a Boy Scout Troop with a school bus parked down there, so for those looking a for a group camping experience with a heavy vehicle that's an area to consider). This lower dam lot sits on the access trail to the main Logan Trail loop (for those wanting some serious distance hiking).

When we go, we tent camp with no electricity, so this review will focus on that style. The primitive camping is at the North Ridge campsite at the top of the hill to the north of the lake. There is a single gravel parking lot here, and you are carrying your gear in at most 100 yards, up hill, to the farthest spot. It is the crest of the hill, so the different spots have different amounts of slope. Pay attention to the descriptions in the reservation website if you're not prepared for this. The whole site is one large cleared oval, with a large grassy area (well mown) at the crest. There is room for the kids (or dog) to run around in circles, but you'll want to watch the thrown ball. It is really, really quiet. We could not hear anyone at the park down below. If you're lucky and have no clouds, there is virtually no light pollution and you can see the Milky Way. You are not within walking distance of the main park or trails, so plan on driving down to the main park or to the trail head you intend to use. There is water (drinking fountain and spigot) and his/hers pit toilets with antibacterial soap (you know the brand name).

Activities: it is a state park, so there are some things aimed at kids and there were lots of kids this past week running around looking busy and happy (even the teenagers). The lake has a sand beach and designated swim area. It is blocked off from the rest of the lake by a wooden dock from which you are able to shallow dive (it's only seven or eight feet deep). Swim at your own risk. There are peddle boats to rent (two drivers, two passengers). We rented canoes, but there is also a rowboat and several kayaks. The main lake is large enough that an hour's rental is just fine for your canoe time. Separately there is a boat launch, and a fishing dock. There is a small two-room nature center, and there is a naturalist who conducts several activities. In past years we've been able to spend an hour or so at the nature rooms, and then let the kids go off with the naturalist on an hour+ guided hike down the creek to explore for wildlife and plants. Call the camp store to get information on that. The camp store is friendly and welcoming, with a small selection of mementos (magnets, hiking sticks), a few nature-themed toys, last-minute forgets (duct tape, popcorn, table cloth and the like) and ice cream. The front porch has a swing and rocking chairs, and will definitely block a heavy thunderstorm for you. There is miniature golf, but don't expect a major chain's high quality production--this is a state park. There is a foosball table and air hockey as well in a separate game room. The park is well looked after, and the staff are friendly and helpful--everyone knows why they are there.

For committed outdoors people, it is a good base from which to explore Hocking Hills (25 minutes away) and the Tar Hollow State Forest trails. You're near the Buckeye Trail (accessed from the trail below the dam, 1.5 miles up to the Fire Tower), and the Logan Trail loop in the state forest. For the family looking to get away for a day or two, there is much to do so long as you aren't expecting a resort. And to get the kids off the electronics…oh, sorry, there's no cell phone access at all. Just listen for the hawks, the tree frogs, and the rest of nature.