WHERE YOU CAN GO ON WATER DESTRESSOUTDOORS HOME WHERE YOU CAN GO ON LAND
Jefferson Lake (actually the Town Fork of Yellow Creek) State Park
Perimeter Loop Via Parts Trillium, Logan and Oak Grove Trails
Friday, March 30, 2012
State Website: http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/parks/tabid/749/Default.aspx
Just as I’ve gotten a lot of my Ohio hiking ideas, this one originally came courtesy of a book on hiking – in this case Mr. Ralph Ramey’s (http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=21985)
Today I drove down from Cleveland and then caught Ohio Route 43 in Canton, OH to then follow it the rest of the way to the park (full directions are below). What I like about the two lane state highways is that you can avoid a lot of the omnipresent contempt of the road by travelling on them instead of the more heavily travelled interstates. In fact, I actually flare my mirrors way out so that I don’t even have to know there’s a tailgater behind me. That way I can go at my own pace and enjoy my surroundings without having to get upset over something ridiculous.
Another benefit of the country roads is that they’ll save you money on gas because you’re driving at a slower speed - and because you’re driving slower you’ll be able to see a lot more, both in terms of scenery and history! In this part of the country, especially, the scenery is beautiful and there are a lot of classic, family run, business here too. In fact, I stopped at one. It looked like an original Dairy Queen in the little town of Malvern, Ohio and when I remarked on the look of their restaurant the nice woman behind the counter seemed proud mention that the business had been operating for decades at this location – and under the same family. That’s my kind of place!
When I arrived at Jefferson Lake State Park I left the car in a lot alongside a little stream across from a baseball/softball field. The stream here is the same one which is dammed to form Jefferson Lake and at this point you’re just downstream of said dam. In fact, you’re almost sure to see water spilling over up ahead. The path starts in this direction. Cross a little bridge and you’ll begin.
When you cross the bridge you’ll note what appear to be a couple trails heading off to the left. I never did find out what these were (although I assumed they were part of the horse trail system they have out here). I instead headed straight up to the top of the spillway. You’ll be able to see the route I took in the picture above. It’s up and to the left and it’ll deposit you on the south side of the lake.
Jefferson Lake, if you look at it on the map, is shaped much like a little “inch worm” and as lakes go it’s not that large – only 17 acres – but as you travel around it you’ll get some great looks across the water and you’ll even see that there’s a little beach across the way! This would be a nice way too cool off after a long hike!
Presently you’ll pass a park picnic shelter which looks old enough to have been built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) and then you’ll be overlooking a marshy area with great views back toward the headwaters (origin waters) of the stream.
Now by this point I’d noted a woman across the lake with a couple unleashed dogs. Hmm… They weren’t the barking kind... I’d tested their temperaments by making just enough noise to ensure they’d heard me. The woman herself didn’t seem to be too concerned. I kept going…
As it was, I’d soon to meet up with them at a point where a picnic table lies in the midst of a pleasant clearing. This is the same point at which the Lakeside Loop curves to the right to cross over the stream while the Trillium Trail heads left and uphill. I paused here to meet a very pleasant woman and her interesting dogs…
The dogs, an old collie and what could have been a Border collie mix, were very friendly and the Border collie had the most amazing eyes - they were almost all white with little black dots in the middle! The woman and I talked dogs and trails. In fact, she was very familiar with the paths out here and she mentioned that my intended backcountry loop route was apt to be a steep one, fraught with a combination of deep horse hoof marks and more than a little bit of mud. It was also quite long.
Hmmm… “Well, I have to at least try it.” I said. I wanted to get my “money’s worth” after driving two hours! Besides, moderately difficult trails don’t really bother me that much as they help me to burn off my excess energy and anxiety. In fact, I engage in activities like this as much for that reason as to escape society and see beautiful things in the wild. I want to be exhausted at the end of each trip – both physically and mentally. I think that if you drain yourself in this way you’re apt to be revived in both with the added benefit of a third aspect; a renewed spirit - and to that point…
An odd thing is that toward the end of these trips I actually find that my mind goes blank. Honestly. On my out-and-back kayak trips I can seldom remember any of the things that I’ve passed unless they’re particularly memorable. Early onset Alzheimer’s perhaps? Well, at least I can feel good knowing that I’ve fully immersed myself in the experience!
As I bid this kind woman a fond farewell I headed uphill on the yellow-blazed Trillium Trail. There are also some horse paths that come in here too, though, so it can be a tad bit confusing. As with most of the Ohio parks that I’ve visited, the horse trails out here aren’t always on the map although it does appear as if they’re marked in orange.
At any rate, I kept to the right at each intersection and was OK. In this section you’ll be following an unnamed (as far as I can tell) tributary of the Town Fork of the Yellow River upstream all the way to the back to its origins with some nice views down into the ravine that it’s carved out…
Then, once you reach the end of Trillium you’ll meet up with the Logan Trail. At 4.5 miles Logan is the longest trail in the park. It’s marked in red and you’ll begin on it by stepping over the stream that you were just following. Yep – what is now but a little trickle of a stream looks to be the same one that carved out the entire ravine, and from this point you’ll essentially be following it downstream, whereas before you were following it upstream. You’re really getting a nice, good look at this one! It really would make a nice ecological study for a local high school or university.
Anyway, at this point the stream is barely more than a trickle but I nevertheless found it interesting to note how the water had carved through the rock on the bottom – a microcosm of how it carved the ravine over time!
From here you’ll begin a long right curve in the path, one which will take you up and around a ridge, and it was alongside a second stream in this section that I encountered more of the big-leaved plants that I’ve encountered on many of my Ohio hikes. I’m still not sure what these are. If anyone could enlighten me I’d be appreciative.
Anyway, the long right curve I mentioned will end at the edge of a ridge top and here you’ll get some nice but limited views - not only of the valley below but also of the rustic old farm buildings which lie atop the surrounding ridges. Later the path will take you very close to one of these farms, but for now you’ll find yourself in the midst of another long right curve, this one much tighter than the last. It’ll have you descending a ridgeline on a wide path to bottom out in a low-lying marshy area where the path crosses another stream, this one apparently an unnamed tributary of the same unnamed tributary of the Town Fork of the Yellow Creek that you’ve been following since you began on the Trillium Trail!
The low area here is very pleasant but it’s close to where some private land comes in at an odd angle, so for this reason and one other I didn’t linger. You see, I’d also noted that the wildflowers were just starting to come out… Well, you know that when the wildflowers start to come out you’re apt to hear quite a bit of buzzing; a buzzing that can sometimes be a little unnerving – especially when it’s loud and it seems to be following you (usually a yellow-jacket)! I’ve not had a problem (so far!) because I keep moving steadily away. In doing so I’ve always found that the noise, however persistent, seems to shortly fade away. (So, too, I always stay on the beaten path! Less chance of disturbing nests this way…)
Anyway, in crossing the stream you’ll have made a left turn but now the path will straighten for a while and have you gently climbing a ridge in the midst of another nice, wide and wooded section of the path. At one point in here I even found that the stream itself had decided to use the trail as a bed!
Soon you’ll find yourself veering left. You’re about to make a detour to see one of those farms! Follow the path as it makes another tight left curve and you’ll see the following…
Thanks to the people who own this farm for sharing their beautiful views with park visitors!
Once you’ve completed this curve you’ll now be in a different valley. This one has been carved out by a branch of the Town Fork which you’ll soon see below you. Then, as you begin to descend toward it you’re apt to start hearing more noise - the campground areas are up that hill you see on the other side of the stream. Regardless, you’ll shortly cross over the fork to make a right turn. Here I got a bit confused. A red arrow indicated that a right turn would keep you on the Logan Trail, but once you’d made this turn there was immediately another marker that indicated you were on the Beaver Trail. The two paths do not connect on the trail map...
So what did I do? I went the wrong way – left! Not a problem though. I was soon led right back to Logan. Going this way simply takes you up alongside another tributary of this Town Fork and then curves right back around, while the way you’re supposed to go takes you on a lower plane directly beside this stream. Oh well… Here’s a picture looking back the way I should have gone…
I found the next section of path to be really interesting. You’re about to explore an area around the convergence of two little tributary streams and you’ll start by following one of them as it flows just to the right of you. The other is further off to your right. What you’ll actually find yourself doing here is meandering nearly in the shape of a block letter “V”. Image yourself starting on the bottom right of this letter. I’ll call it the southern side…
Start by stepping over the first stream and then curve left to climb a little ridge as you dip down into the middle of the “V”. Next you’ll come up the other side of the letter, at which point you’ll nearly double back upon yourself and trace the letter on its northern side! That’s the “V”! Oh well… I thought it was interesting…
At any rate, from here you’ll arc right on a climb up to the main campground and when you reach the top you’ll see a green-blazed path come in from the left. To me it looked like this simply led to a horse camp so I kept following the red markers. These quickly led me to the camp check-in station alongside one of the park roads and here there was a map of the trail system carved into a piece of wood. “Oh good!” I thought. “I can confirm my bearings.”
Well, the sign was quite well done, but it had me very confused! The color codes on it seemed to be totally different from the ones I’d seen on the trails and I simply couldn’t reconcile this map with the one I’d printed out from the park website. I was going to have to wing it. There are quite a few ways you can go here too, but as the scene below confronted me I opted to take a right into the woods on a trail marked in green.
Then, immediately coming to a “T” intersection, I made a left and was led down into the little gully of a stream. The point seemed to be the origin of one of the little lake tributaries and from here I was to meander around for a while. Then, crossing to the other side, I saw that I was suddenly on a combo trail – one marked in both green and purple. I knew I had to be on the right path now. This was clearly the Oak Grove Trail. Problem was, it was taking me awfully close to some private dwellings and this always makes me a little nervous.
I’d be in the clear soon though, as I strode alongside what looked like some very pleasant farmland. I even spotted a man tending the fields in a tractor. There’s supposed to be a split in the path about here but I didn’t see it. I continued straight on the path to eventually begin a left arc around the end of a ridge top to later a dip down into a little ravine. I was nearing the end of my hike. I could see the lake through the trees.
How attractive is this lake? Check it out… Even a hack like me was able to take some nice shots here!
You’re on the northern side of the lake now and you can basically follow it right back to your car if you want. This I did, although I did note a blue marked trail breaking off to the left at one point. This was apparently part of the Lakeside Loop, but I was so taken with snapping shots of the lake that I decided to simply follow it – and a portion of the road - back to my car.
I think this park is well worth a 2 hour drive from Cleveland!
From Cleveland I took I77 down to Canton, briefly caught US30 East and then got on Ohio Route 43 heading south. (At this point I’d suggest re-setting your odometer.) Go 45 miles on 43 while keeping your eye’s peeled – this road makes a few turns. Then, at the 45 mile point start looking for a road on your left. It looks like a half-paved gravel road and it’ll come in at the same point as a batch of road markers on your right. One of them points you toward Jefferson Park but it comes up so suddenly that you’re apt to pass it up – as I did!
Anyway, turn left here and then go 2.4 miles until the road dead-ends. Make a left ,and then another immediately afterward. You’ll be in a parking lot alongside a little stream. The trail begins as you make your way up to the spillway.