I didn't think less than three hours was enough to fully experience Blackhand Gorge, so I got my dad to go back there with me for a bike ride last weekend. Blackhand Gorge protects an amazing piece of Ohio's landscape as well as human history. We went back to explore this rock tunnel, which I found out used to be an Interurban trolley tunnel that was last used in 1929. Ohio's interurban system connected all the major cities via electric rail car, but with the car's success they were soon abandoned. This tunnel was completed in 1903, connecting the people of Zanesville to Newark and Columbus.
The path to get to this tunnel is just across the bridge on CR 273 from the main parking lot on the Canal Lock Trail. This isn't a paved trail, and it winds through the forest for a short distance before you get to an old canal lock. Just a bit further is the rock tunnel, which is about 300 feet long and carved completely out of natural stone. From across the river, you can see people sitting on top of the rock that this tunnel is carved out of. We didn't have time to check it out (daaaang guess that just means I'll have to go back again), but it looked like there was a relatively easy path leading up there.
Before we went to the tunnel, we rode the Blackhand Trail. It's an easy, one way, paved path that totals just over 8 miles if you ride to the end and back. The first time I went, I didn't make it through the "Deep Cut" pictured above. This was chiseled out through the sandstone to allow train tracks to pass through.
At one point the trail takes you straight across the river, just before you reach the West parking lot. This was probably the best way to spend the first day that I would call "green" in Ohio. Just a week ago, the wildflowers were limited and there were hardly buds on the trees. By this weekend everything was out and the forest was coming to life.
The sandstone that underlies the forest is exposed in some parts along the trail. Waterfalls, crevices, and rock formations pop out of nowhere. My dad kept talking about this giant "bucket" at the top of a hill. I thought he was making a dumb joke about Wyandot Lake (remember Christopher's Island?), but on our way back he pointed out what was, in fact, a giant bucket at the top of one of these hills. We climbed up to get a closer look and found two of them. The one you could see from the path had tipped over and the other was upright. They were probably 10-12 feet tall and 8-9 feet wide. We're not sure, but we think they were probably once used to hold oil.
(Off the Quarry Rim Trail - My favorite spot in Ohio)
If you're looking for something to do this weekend, check out this spot! There is another path leading out of another parking lot that I have never even been to (Part III, perhaps? Coming this fall...). Or, you might want to check out the Central Ohio Folk Festival at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. If you're in the Columbus area, it's already time for Gallery Hop again!
Congratulations to all the lucky graduating Buckeyes this weekend who will have President Obama speaking at commencement on Sunday!