Thursday, October 29, 2009

Exploring Barkcamp State Park

by Sarah Binning

Mother Nature apparently did not get the memo. Unseasonably chilly weather is cooping us inside. Despite the fact it is only October, cabin fever is setting in already and I need to get outside. Unable to afford any of the expensive remedies to cabin fever (like going to a museum or seeing a movie), I pack a light backpack and head to Barkcamp State Park.

Conveniently located a few miles off I-70 in Belmont, nature beckons all to hike in the quiet hills of Barkcamp. Standing in the park’s overlook, I see peaks of autumn color beginning to emerge from the treetops. I begin my adventure with a simple half-mile hike from the overlook to the camp’s beach.

The weather is brisk, but welcoming. Within a matter of minutes I am lost in the excitement in my friend’s voice as he teaches me how to identify trees. He scoops a fallen leaf from the path, “This is a red maple leaf. Know how you can tell?” He draws my attention to the small, sharp teethed ridge of the leaf.

The sun dances through the trees as we continue the trail. “Oh, here we go. Smell this,” Bryan says as he plucks an overhanging leaf. I raise my eyebrow. “No trust me, you’ll like it.”

He rubs the top of the leaf, surfacing the plant’s oils so I can inhale the sweet, fruity scent of sassafras.

I am not sure which is more satisfying, my taking the time to learn and enjoy nature or the fact I am doing it for free. Other than the cost of gas, I spent nothing for an entire day of activities.

With Ohio’s unemployment rate reaching 10.8 percent in August, it’s no wonder why families are turning to Barkcamp for vacations and getaways.

For overnight excursions, families pay a small fee to camp on the grounds. “The economy is bringing more campers,” Park Officer Dave Casasanta says. April through October, regular camping costs $20 per night, about the fourth of a cheap motel cost.

Camping is available year round, even in the dead of winter. Prices drop to only $18 per night during off-seasons. “We’ve even had families who have camped here for Thanksgiving. More people are starting to come for Christmas Eve and Christmas,” Casasanta says.

Camping in winter? Who could be so crazy? Yet despite how absurd it sounds, the park offers special seasonal activities to entice late fall and winter visitors.

In addition to seasonal hunting, guests can take advantage of the archery range. Many guests also use the multipurpose trail for horseback riding. Once snow hits the trails, guests are welcome to use the 24-mile path for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

I can hardly wait for Belmont Lake to freeze. My ice skates are sitting in my closet, as I eagerly wait to return to Barkcamp and test my talents on solid ice. Who knows, while I’m there maybe I’ll try my hand at ice fishing too.

1 comment:

Gail said...

The photos are beautiful and the writing is even better. I think I'm going to take a trip to Barkcamp. Thanks for the wonderful article Sarah. I'm sure you will be a successful journalist.