Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).
Mountain laurel is also known as calico bush or spoonwood. As a mature shrub this evergreen plant can grow to be anywhere between 9.8 feet to 29.5 feet in height (3 m to 9 m). It is native to the eastern United States, and it prefers to grow on rocky cliffs in acidic soil. Although it is a member of the blueberry family, no part of the plant is safe to eat. Even the pollen is poisonous which means that honey made from its pollen is also toxic. Besides being potentially lethal to humans, it is also poisonous to deer, cattle, horses and goats.
However as long as you have no interest in eating it, Mountain laurel is a beautiful shrub, especially when it’s in bloom. The flowers grow in clusters; they are usually white, though some have a light pink tint. The plant blooms in May and June.
In our visits to Ohio’s parks and preserves we’ve seen many wooden, covered bridges. Since wood was a cheap and plentiful in the 19th century, it was used in the construction of bridges across the many creeks and streams of Ohio. Unfortunately, a wooden bridge exposed to the elements – sun, rain, snow, ice has a a short lifespan – perhaps as short as 10 years. By adding wood siding and a pitched roof, the bridges lifespan can be greatly extended – perhaps as long as 80 or 100 years. This was the motivation for building covered bridges.
Fairfield County is not nearly as famous a venue for outdoor activity as it’s neighbor Hocking County. But the fact is, there are some great places to go hiking there.
Scenes from Fairfield County.
Lockville Park is a 6 acre park in Fairfield County containing the ruins of three locks from what was once the Ohio & Erie Canal. The park also has a covered bridge that was constructed in 1888.
The ruins of one of the locks with water pooling in the center.
Rock Mill is a gristmill that was built in 1824 in Fairfield County. It is currently in the process of being restored. (Note: a gristmill grinds corn, wheat, or other grains into flour).
Viewing the rear of the mill you can see the ongoing restoration work.
Charles Alley Nature Park is a 300 acre city park in Lancaster. The park features two lakes, a nature center, and six miles of hiking trails. Currently 20 acres are being developed for use as a primitive campsite.
This covered bridge is in Alley Park near the Nature Center.
This fall Bob and I visited Rising Park in Lancaster, Ohio. The big attraction there is the view from the top of Mount Pleasant. Both of us wanted to see what the view would look like when blanketed in snow, so we went back to take some more photos a week or so ago.
Bob snapped a photo of me snapping photos
Lancaster, Ohio has a population just under 39,000, and it is the county seat of Fairfield County. It has a municipal park known as “Rising Park.” The park offers the normal sort of amenities that you might expect: a pond, picnic tables, playgrounds… things of that nature. But what’s unusual about the park is its terrain. Rising 250-foot (76 m) above the surrounding plain is a bluff known as “Mount Pleasant.” The bluff is made of highly erosion-resistant Blackhand sandstone. From the top of Mount Pleasant you have an exceptional view of the city and the forested hills at its outskirts.
The county fairgrounds have a permanent site in Lancaster which is the county seat. Here I am looking down at the horse race track that’s located on these fairgrounds.
Me photographing the view from Christmas Rocks
This weekend we went to two sites to take in the fall color: Airplane Rock in the Hocking State Forest and Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve in Fairfield County. The trees in Hocking State Forest were just starting to turn colors, so we felt that we were there a little too early to see the colors at their peak. We were also surprised that there was a crowd of people at Airplane Rock. In contrast Christmas Rocks is a bit farther north, and it was definitely more colorful. In addition Bob and I had the cliff on the Jacob’s Ladder trail to ourselves because nobody knows about it. I’m guessing that both of these sites will be even more colorful in another week.
And with that, let’s look at some photos.
Glacial ice flowed across the surrounding plain bypassing the sandstone knob you see in the distance.
Twenty one thousand years ago two-thirds of Ohio was covered with a thick layer of ice from the Wisconsin glacier. In what would later be Fairfield County, two adjacent knobs made of Blackhand sandstone successfully resisted this glacial onslaught. Instead of engulfing these knobs, the ice sheet flowed around them on its southward journey that stopped just short of the Hocking Hills. Today they’re known as Allen and Ruble knobs, and they’re the main attraction of the 88 acre Shallenberger State Nature Preserve.