Tale of two trails …

After hiking Hickory Trail, which hugs the southern shore of Dow Lake, I set off yesterday to try Lakeview Trail, which tracks the northern shore, including a long leg that circumnavigates Pine Cove.

What a contrast.

While Hickory Trail was in great shape, Lakeview was pretty much of a mess. Several stretches of it were more creek than trail and parts are already getting overgrown with weeds. But I still loved it.

Tough to see it in this photo, but the trail dissolves into mud in this stretch.

Tough to see it in this photo, but the trail dissolves into mud in this stretch.

I biked to the dam and set off on Lakeview from there. I must have missed the formal trailhead because the path I took in was closer to bushwhacking than hiking. After a bit of a slog, I found the trail’s thread but things grew only nominally better. The trail is in rough shape all the way to Whitesel Junction, where Groundpine Run feeds into Pine Cove. I set off at about noon, so the woods were quite. Everyone was hunkered down for siesta. Even the omnipresent chipmunks were unusually quiet. I did startle a black vulture along the shoreline, the whoosh of his wings echoing through the piney cove as his ominous shadow lumbered across the water.

At Whitesel Junction, the trail grew noticeably better but it still tended to meander around a bit. I walked all the way to the parking lot at the swimming area, stopped to eat a few apples, drink water and marvel at the day. During the return trip, I diverted to Amoretto Trail, a horse trail that cuts up the hill to a ridgeline trail called Lake Hill Trail. From there I picked up Indian Mound Trail, taking me back down to the dam. (Not sure if I spotted an actual Indian mound along the trail, though there was one hill that I suspected could be it.)

Lakeside selfie while taking a break during my Lakeside Trail hike.

Lakeside selfie while taking a break during my Lakeside Trail hike.

A few tidbits I picked up along the way:

  • Watching Roscoe the dog splash around in Dow Lake, oblivious to his owner’s shouts to return to shore.
  • Listening to a couple shout and giggle as the paddle-splashed each other in a canoe out on the lake.
  • Taking a call to discuss details of the closing for the house we’re selling while I was standing out in the woods, listening to birds sing.
  • Two women riding horses down Hank Trail. They were talking so loudly it was if they were riding Harleys instead of horses.

Distance: About 8 miles RT hiking Lakeview Trail out and diverting to the Amoretto Trail and Indian Mound Trail to loop back to the dam during my return; 8.9 miles RT biking to the trail head and back.
Bike route: Route details from Cyclometer.
Highlight: The wind picked up as I returned to the dam, creating crazy-beautiful patterns in the tall grasses that carpet the dam.
Link: Athens Trails
Critters: A mountain biker, a few squirrels and chipmunks, a black vulture, two swimming dogs, assorted songbirds, a pair of horses ridden by very loud women.
Song: I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke, a nasty earworm that infected me the previous night while watching the Mad Men finale on DVR.

The dam at Dow Lake seen from the Lakeside Trail.

The dam at Dow Lake seen from the Lakeside Trail.

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Next stop, Nelsonville …

Details from my bike ride to Nelsonville.

Details from my bike ride to Nelsonville.

One of my goals this summer was to ride the entire Hockhocking Adena Bike Path from Athens to Nelsonville. I figured it would take several weeks before I attempted it, but during my ride yesterday I felt great when I hit The Plains and I just kept going. Before I knew it, I was cruising through the campus of Hocking College and on to Nelsonville, where I did a victory lap around the Square (depressing to see the destruction the fire caused there) and then back to Athens.

It was 37 miles round trip and took me about 3 hours, including a half-hour of time when I stopped to eat an apple, drink water and rest. Now I can start working on trying to do the ride in 2 hours round trip …

One thing is for certain: The bikeway is amazing. I had to cross roads only a few times during the ride, and pedaling beside the Hocking River is wonderful. There are several stretches where the path goes through beautiful, shaded woods, and there are several Porta Potties along the way for bathroom breaks. I did have to divert around the section from Stimson Avenue to Richland because they’re redoing that stretch of bike path, which was much needed.

And here’s a photo I shot of the mural at the Rocky Boots store in Nelsonville. Just to prove I made it …

The very cool mural at the Rocky Boots store in Nelsonville.

The very cool mural at the Rocky Boots store in Nelsonville.

 

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Hickory Trail: A great place to start

Redbuds bloom with the lake in the background.

Redbuds bloom with the lake in the background.

For my first hike of the season, I decided to ride my bike out to the dam at Dow Lake and then hike up into Stroud’s Run State Park. I’ve been there several times and always vowed to spend more time there. I decided to hike Hickory Trail, which is relatively flat and follows the southern shore of the lake. Good decision. While it took me a few hours and taxed me my first time out, the hike was beautiful.

Wildflowers grow near the foundation of one of the buildings from the Gillette homestead.

Wildflowers grow near the foundation of one of the buildings from the Gillette homestead.

The trail itself is mostly double track and very easy to negotiate. It circumnavigates several small coves, so it’s longer than it looks. Great views across the lake of the swimming area and boat rental shack. Chipmunks were tweaking on the May sunshine, skittering through the brush ahead of me like a reverse wake as I talked,. A flutter of blue-black butterflies hovered over scat of undetermined origin. The air was treacly with honeysuckle and buzzing bees. 

The Gillette Farmstead at Stroud's Run State Park.

The Gillette Farmstead at Stroud’s Run State Park.

When I reached the end of Hickory I picked up Trace Trail for a short bit to check out Pioneer Cemetery, featuring a few lonely tombstones from the Gillette family, who originally farmed the area. I found it fascinating that the patriarch was a tanner who worked with more than a few puma hides.

After a short break, I doubled back and returned to the dam and my bike, stopping along the way to peer into a mud puddle post-plops to see three frogs hunkered down in the mud, hoping I’d keep moving.The puddle had an odd rust tint to it. I’m assuming that’s iron oxide from the shale redbeds in the park. I also came across a pair of jubilant Labs chasing sticks into the lake, bringing chaos to a silent tree swing I’d passed on my way out.

  • Distance: About 6 miles RT hiking Hickory trail; 9.3 miles RT biking to the trail head and back.
  • Bike route: Route details from Cyclometer.
  • Highlight: First hike of the spring and I didn’t kill myself. That, and the Gillette Cemetery.
  • Link: Athens Trails
  • Critters: Frogs, dogs, buzzards, squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays …
  • Song: Fresh Air, Quicksilver Messenger Service. Something about the pristine spring day. Couldn’t get this out of my head as I hiked, though I suspect the fresh air Quicksliver was pimping smelled more of kind bud than honeysuckle.
A swing near the dam at Dow Lake. It was empty on my way out, but a it was canine chaos when I returned as a pair of Labs frolicked in the water.

A swing near the dam at Dow Lake. It was empty on my way out, but a it was canine chaos when I returned as a pair of Labs frolicked in the water.

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Getting back in step after a listless winter

The totals on my iPhone pedometer show a steady decline from August, when I started using it, through the Athens winter. April and May show an uptick that I'm hoping to sustain.

The totals on my iPhone pedometer show a steady decline from August, when I started using it, through the Athens winter. April and May show an uptick that I’m hoping to sustain.

After the spring semester ended, one of my goals was to get back in shape. Or at least back to the weight I carried when I arrived in Athens last June.

Jackie O’s incredible beers have taken a toll on me (Oil of Aphrodite is my favorite). Restaurants like Salaam and hot dog joints like O’Betty’s (yes, Athens has an “O” thing going on) added pounds. And the winter was tough, cutting into my daily step counts. I generally try to stay at 10k or better per day, but I dipped closer to an 8K average in the dark depths of February.

So starting last week, I vowed to get more active. I’ve been riding my bike and exploring Athens’ myriad hiking trails. I also intend to start kayaking on Dow Lake in Stroud’s Run State Park.

In the past, the best way I’ve found to keep myself honest in these situations was to start documenting it. So that’s what I’m going to do here throughout the summer. One of my goals is to hike every trail at Stroud’s Run, but I’m also trying to explore the rest of Southeast Ohio as much as possible. I also want to round trip the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, which is about 36 miles to Nelsonville and back. Let the summer commence …

 

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Athens, Ohio: A love story

I took advantage of a gorgeous winter day in D.C. to walk down to the National Mall with Ozzy. He did great in the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic along 14th Street, but he was underwhelmed by the Washington Monument, preferring to focus on the fat dog-ignorant squirrels that were scurrying around in search of benevolent tourists.

I took advantage of a gorgeous winter day in D.C. to walk down to the National Mall with Ozzy. He did great in the heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic along 14th Street, but he was underwhelmed by the Washington Monument, preferring to focus on the fat, dog-ignorant squirrels scurrying around in search of benevolent tourists.

You’re not gonna get to Uber in Athens …

A First World problem, to be sure. But losing our favorite urban car service is one of the numerous concerns my wife, Lara, and I have as we discuss our impending move from Washington, D.C., to Athens, Ohio. After almost four years in the District, we are completely smitten with the city.

Bored on a Saturday? Walk over to the Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle to chill in the Rothko Room.

Craving seafood? A quick Metro ride and short walk along the Potomac River  lead to the Maine Avenue Fish Market, the oldest continuously operating seafood market in the United States.

Need some drama? Choose from not one but two incredible Shakespeare theater companies — not to mention numerous other theaters within walking distance of our Logan Circle digs.

How could Athens compete? We are appalled at the prospect of having to buy a car after relying on Metro, Uber and foot power to get around D.C. But we pack up and head west in a U-Haul and our brand-new Prius. I’m about to begin a one-year appointment as Scripps Howard Visiting Professional in the Scripps School of Journalism. While I relish the opportunity, I dread what we are about to lose.

Ozzy rides shotgun in the U-Haul during the drive from Washington, D.C., to Athens, Ohio.

Ozzy rides shotgun in the U-Haul during the drive from Washington, D.C., to Athens, Ohio.

***

I’m standing in front of  Passion Works Studio in Athens, shaking my head at the scene before me. A strange little  pug of a man is running back and forth in front of the storefront, chasing a mouse. He and the mouse perform a frenetic dance, back and forth, back and forth, until the mouse drops down into a sidewalk grate. Pug man looks up, chagrined to realize I’ve been watching the entire time.

I think I’m going to like Athens.

We’ve been in Athens a few weeks, and most of our fears have proven unfounded. Our Prius sulks in the driveway most days as we walk from the house we’re renting in the Near Eastside Neighborhood to the Hocking River, to restaurants, and to Court Street. The Hockhocking Adena Bikeway prompted me to dust off the bike I bought in D.C. but was too afraid to use because of the cutthroat traffic. Lara buys a bike. And we spend the summer pedaling the bricks and exploring our new home.

Lara pulls over on the 18-mile Hockhocking Adena bikeway to enjoy the view of the river.

Lara pulls over on the 18-mile Hockhocking Adena bikeway to enjoy the view of the river.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at Athens’ magnetism. When we announced we were decamping from D.C., I received several unsolicited emails from Bobcats I’d worked with over the years. Each gushed about the town and offered a list of things I simply had to do upon arrival. Being a linear list-loving kinda guy, I got right to work.

Here’s an excerpt from one email I received from a 2006 alumna:
If I had a summer to spend in Athens, here are things I would do:
  • Go to the Concert Under the Elms. Every Wednesday, on the College Green.
  • Take my dogs to the dog park on West State Street. (My imaginary dogs, that is.)
  • Eat Miller’s Chicken.
  • Go to the Athens Farmer’s Market.
  • Go to First Friday in Nelsonville.
  • Go to a Copperheads baseball game.
  • Get drinks at Tony’s and get a hot dog at O’Betty’s.
  • Eat three meals in one day at Casa Nueva. Hang out in between meals in the bar area.
  • Go ca-brewing in the Hocking Hills.
  • Go for a hike to the old pioneer cemetery at Stroud’s Run.
  • Hike at Old Man’s Cave.
  • Get Avalanche Pizza.
  • Spend way too much time at Donkey Coffee.

I’m proud to say I crossed most of these items off my list … and managed to uncover even more.

An email list wasn’t enough to explain the allure of Athens for one Bobcat, a 2012 graduate of the Scripps School of Journalism. She worked up a hand-drawn map of Uptown, complete with recommendations and occasional snarky comments. If you click the map, you’ll get a larger version that’s easier to read.

A hand-drawn not-quite-completed map a Bobcat alumna gave us when we departed D.C.

A hand-drawn not-quite-completed map a Bobcat alumna gave us when we departed D.C. Click it for a larger version.

After six months in Athens, it’s official. I’m over D.C. She’s history. I’m all about Athens. And I’m clearly not alone. In talking to students and alumni, I came to realize this town has a seductive allure that’s often hard to explain. But I decided to ask the students in my Magazine Feature Writing class to try. For their final project, they were instructed to write a feature for a site I set up called CourtStreetStories.com. I gave them a lot of flexibility in what they’d write, demanding only that it be focused in or near Court Street, the main artery. The work on this site is the result of that. It’s not perfect. In some instances, it doesn’t share my infatuation with Athens. But there’s some good long-form storytelling here.

( I wrote this post in December and it fell off my radar. After agreeing to another year of teaching at OU and buying a house here, it seems even more relevant now …)

 

 

 

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My next gig: teaching at Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism

OU BobcatsI’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be the Scripps Howard Visiting Professional at Ohio University for the upcoming academic year. Some of the proudest moments of my journalism career came under the Scripps banner. Spending a year at OU teaching journalism seems a perfect next step for me.

The Scripps School of Journalism is a renowned program, which is demonstrated by the number of OU students I’ve placed in internships and full-time openings at the various media companies I’ve worked for.

I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve hired a Bobcat.

Now I’ll get to work closely with students as they develop their skills. If you’re shopping for talent, let me know and I’ll steer the best and brightest your way.

The statue of E.W. in Scripps Hall. His nose is shiny because students rub it for good luck before tests.

The statue of E.W. in Scripps Hall. His nose is shiny because students rub it for good luck before tests.

After I was laid off from Hanley Wood last winter, I started sizing up the opportunities that were coming in over the transom. Andy Alexander and I had coffee on P Street in D.C. and started talking about OU. Andy and I served on the Scripps School’s professional advisory board together several years ago, and after he left his role as ombudsman at the Washington Post he amped up his relationship with OU, including working as a visiting professional.

Andy got me thinking. I’d had numerous conversations with J-school director Bob Stewart over the years about opportunities to move to Athens to teach, but the timing never was quite right. This time, it was, and Bob helped make it so.

Lara and I moved from D.C. to Athens in late June. We were stressed about leaving D.C., which we love. But we’re now smitten with our new home. Athens is a great town (the farmers’ market rocks, and there are several great restaurants within walking distance of the house we’re renting.)  Shortly after arriving, I had a chance to participate in OU’s High School Journalism Workshop. The quality of that program convinced me I’d made the right decision.

While I’m teaching at OU I’ll continue the digital media consulting I’ve been doing under the LedgeSolutions banner.  And I’ll be rooting for the Bobcats.

This is an HDR shot I took of Scripps Hall several years ago. OU's campus is beautiful.

This is an HDR shot I took of Scripps Hall several years ago. OU’s campus is beautiful.

 

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Brutalism in context

brutal contextual ad

 

Loved this contrarian contextual ad along the right rail of  Kriston Capps’ most excellent defense of Brutalism on CityLab.

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Builder goes big …

Builder magazine September 2013Great to see Builder win the Magazine of the Year award in the American Society of Business Publication Editors’ Azbee Awards. Congrats to everyone who made this happen. Despite all the change that was happening at Hanley Wood through 2013, the staff still managed to produce top-caliber work. (I notice Architect also nabbed more than a few awards in the competition, too. Sweet)

 

 

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Labatt’s, the Dead and the 1990s …

Bob and Lara

 

Boogie’s daughter, Kim, texted me this photo she found among her mother’s things. I’m thinking this is early ‘90s, after we moved to Albuquerque. That’s a Labatt’s in my grimy paw and some sort of Grateful Dead homage.

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General Logan in the snow

Logan Circle in snow

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