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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