Saturday, July 6, 2013

Miami Whitewater Forest County Park: Tallgrass Prairie Trail (Blog Hike #426)

Trail: Tallgrass Prairie Trail
Hike Location: Miami Whitewater Forest
Geographic Location: east of Harrison, OH (39.24043, -84.75928)
Length: 0.6 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: June 2013
Overview: A short loop featuring a restored tallgrass prairie.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: Near the Indiana state line, take I-74 to Dry Fork Road (exit 3).  Exit and go north on Dry Fork Rd.  Drive Dry Fork Rd. 1 mile to West Road and turn right on West Rd.  Drive West Rd. 0.2 miles to Timberlakes Drive and turn right on Timberlakes Dr.  Drive Timberlakes Dr. 1.3 miles to the trailhead parking area on the right.

The hike: For my general comments on Miami Whitewater Forest, see the Oakleaf/Badlands Trails blog entry.  The Tallgrass Prairie Trail is the shortest of the three nature trails at Miami Whitewater Forest, but it is also the only trail in the park to feature a restored tallgrass prairie, a habitat that once covered large sections of Ohio.  Despite the trail’s name, it actually travels most of its distance through shady broadleaf forest.  Thus, this trail remains comfortable to hike on warm July/August days when the prairie wildflowers are at their peak.           
Trailhead: Tallgrass Prairie Trail
            The gravel trail starts across the road at a sign that reads “Tallgrass Prairie Trail” and enters the mature forest.  Almost immediately the trail forks to form its loop.  To get to the tallgrass prairie quickly, I chose to angle right here and use the left trail as my return route.
            The trail dips through a somewhat steep wooded ravine and, at 0.15 miles, enters the heart of the tallgrass prairie.  Upon entering the prairie, the gravel trail surface changes to grass undergirded by some cement blocks that keep the dirt surface firm after a rain.  Many unusual plants live in the prairie, including purple coneflower, big bluestem, Indian grass, and black-eyed Susan.  An interpretive sign helps you identify these plants.  Take some time in the prairie to see how many you and find.
Hiking through the tallgrass prairie
After spending a couple hundred feet in the prairie, the trail returns to the shady forest, and the trail surface turns back to gravel.  As you dip through the ravine on the return trip, you might expect to quickly close the loop.  Instead, the trail meanders through the forest on an angular course cutting no corners.
Hiking through the woods on gravel trail
At 0.5 miles, you use a boardwalk to cross a wetter area of forest.  I most recently hiked this trail just before sunset, and the bright yellow tape on the edge of the boardwalk helped me stay on the trail in low-light conditions.  Past the boardwalk, the trail rises slightly to close the loop, where a right turn is required to return to the trailhead and complete the hike.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Caesar Creek Lake Park: Adena Trace (Blog Hike #425)

Trail: Adena Trace
Hike Location: Caesar Creek Lake Park
Geographic Location: southeast of Waynesville, OH (39.48932, -84.05883)
Length: 0.75 miles
Difficulty: 1/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: June 2013
Overview: A short lollipop loop nature trail.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: From the intersection of US 42 and SR 73 in Waynesville, drive SR 73 east 1.1 miles to Clarksville Road.  Turn right on Clarksville Rd.  Drive Clarksville Rd. 2.3 miles to the Visitor Center on the left.  Park in the Visitor Center parking lot.

The hike: For my general comments on the Caesar Creek area, see the Gorge Trail blog entry.  The short mulch trail described here provides access to the natural environment for users of the playground adjacent to the Caesar Creek Lake Visitor Center.  This trail used to be known as the Bluebird Trail, and the name change to Adena Trace somewhat mystifies me.  While Adena earthworks can be found at various locations in Ohio (most notably Chillicothe), I saw no evidence of the ancient Adena civilization on this trail.           
Trailhead: Adena Trace
            Start at the left side of the kids fishing pond as the trail heads into the forest with the pond on the right.  Continue straight where the pond access trail exits to the right.  The trail dips through a shallow ravine and crosses a small creek on a wooden footbridge.  Young beech, ash, and maple trees dominate the forest along this trail.        
Wooden footbridge over small creek
            Just after crossing the bridge, the blue and yellow blazed dirt Perimeter Trail exits to the right where the mulch Adena Trace continues straight.  At 0.2 miles, the trail forks to form its loop.  For no reason, I chose to turn right and hike the loop counterclockwise, thus using the left trail as my return route.
            The trail curves gradually left to make its loop through the young forest.  At 0.4 miles, the trail surface changes from mulch to grass as you enter a meadow area that has been farmed more recently.  This meadow makes for great wildlife-viewing.  On my hike, a young deer, probably less than 1 year old, scampered across the trail just feet in front of me.           
Young deer on trail
            Just under 0.5 miles into the hike, the trail skirts a grassy picnic area as it curves to the left.  Shortly thereafter you close the loop.  A soft right turn and some retracing of your steps will return you to the parking area to complete the hike.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Winton Woods County Park: Great Oaks Trail (Blog Hike #424)

Trail: Great Oaks Trail
Hike Location: Winton Woods County Park
Geographic Location: south of Greenhills, OH (39.25995, -84.53749)
Length: 0.7 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: June 2013
Overview: A short streamside and ridge loop featuring large oak and other trees.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: On the north side of Cincinnati, take I-275 to Winton Road (exit 39).  Exit and go south on Winton Rd.  Take Winton Rd. 3 miles to Valley View Drive, the main park road; there is a traffic light at this intersection.  Turn right on Valley View Dr.  Pay the park entrance fee, then drive 1.1 miles to the perpendicular parking area on the left that serves this trailhead.

The hike: For my general comments on Winton Woods County Park, see the Kingfisher Trail blog entry.  In the early 2000’s, the Hamilton County Park District allowed the construction of a sewer line through the forest on the Kingfisher Trail, effectively ripping a scar through the nice mature forest that existed there.  Thus, whereas Winton Woods used to have 2 excellent nature trails, it now has 1 excellent and 1 mediocre nature trail.
The Great Oaks Trail on the west side of Kingfisher Creek is the park’s one nature trail that escaped the sewer line.  Though shorter than the Kingfisher Trail, this trail passes through some beautiful forest in a combination of hillside and streamside habitats.  Thus, the Great Oaks Trail has become my favorite of the two trails.  I have hiked this trail several times, and it never seems to get old.
Trail sign at park road
The trail starts across the park road from the parking lot at a wooden sign that says “Great Oaks Trail.”  The gravel trail descends slightly as it enters the forest and quickly forks to form its loop.  For no particular reason, I chose to turn right here and use the left trail as the return route.
The trail undulates slightly as it heads south with Kingfisher Creek ravine falling away to the left.  The trail map shows the trail going through a meadow here, but the meadow sits uphill to the right near the park road.  Soon the trail curves left and begins the descent into the big woods.  The largest trees in this forest are indeed oak trees, but some good sized maples and beeches live down here as well.
A great oak tree
At 0.3 miles, you reach creek level, and the trail curves sharply left to begin paralleling Kingfisher Creek, which lies to your right.  You might see some kingfishers, ducks, geese, turtles, frogs, or other wildlife down here, but all was quiet and still on the late summer evening that I visited this area.  The people you see across the creek are hiking the Kingfisher Trail, and they are probably unaware of the nicer, older forest that lives over here on the Great Oaks Trail.
Kingfisher Creek

Old trailbed
After paralleling the creek for 0.25 miles, the trail curves sharply left and begins the ascent back to the trailhead.  Immediately after this turn, look for the trail to cross an old trailbed, a predecessor of the trail you are hiking today.  A moderate climb through more nice forest closes the loop.  A right turn will quickly return you to the park road to complete the hike.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Moccasin Creek State Park: Wildlife and Hemlock Falls Trails (Blog Hike #423)

Trails: Wildlife and Hemlock Falls Trails
Hike Location: Moccasin Creek State Park
Geographic Location: west of Clayton, GA (34.84464, -83.59000)
Length: 3.7 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: June 2013
Overview: A semi-loop up a cool, moist ravine to Hemlock Falls.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: From Clayton, take US 76 west 10.8 miles to SR 197 and turn left on SR 197.  The trailhead parking area is 3.7 miles ahead on the right opposite the fish hatchery and just after passing the park campground.  Use the gravel area on the right to park where paved Andersonville Lane continues to the left.

The hike: Weighing in at only 32 acres, Moccasin Creek State Park is a park in the mountains that contains no mountains.  The park is located on the west shore of Lake Burton, and all of its land surrounds the lake or the lake’s tributary for which the park is named.  The park is most famous for its lake access, trout fishing/hatchery, and a 55-site campground that fills on nice summer weekends.
            For hikers, Moccasin Creek State Park has only one trail, the 1 mile Wildlife Trail.  Fortunately, adjacent Chattahoochee National Forest contains the 1.5 mile one-way Hemlock Falls Trail that can be accessed from the state park with only a 0.1 mile gravel road walk.  Thus, combining these two trails gives the nice 4 mile hike described here and takes you to a major waterfall.           
Wildlife Trail trailhead
            Pick up the Wildlife Trail as it leaves the back of the parking area through a gap in a wooden fence.  Immediately you pass a small pond in Moccasin Creek to your right.  The pond is created by a concrete dam that contains a fish ladder, a testament to this creek’s popularity among anglers.  As I was leaving the parking area, I passed an older man carrying several small trout on hooks.
Fish ladder and concrete dam
            At the upper end of the pond, you pass a sign board that may contain some interpretive pamphlets.  The Wildlife Trail features 18 numbered markers that correspond to items in the pamphlet.  The pamphlet is also available for download on the park’s website.
            The trail goes back and forth between forest and field as it meanders its way west.  Moccasin Creek, a true mountain stream with cascades and rocky streambed, lies to the right, sometimes close and sometimes at a distance.  At 0.2 miles, the trail forks to form its loop.  This trail description will follow the numbered markers in increasing order by turning right here and hiking the loop counterclockwise.           
Wildlife Trail forks to form loop
            The trail crosses several tributaries on wooden footbridges.  If the bridge is wet, take care on these bridges: over time the wooden bridge surface collects a thin layer of dirt that becomes as slippery as ice when wet.  At 0.5 miles, the trail crosses a gravel road.  You need to turn right here to get to the start of the Hemlock Falls Trail, but there is no sign to indicate such.  Near the end of my hike I passed a couple who missed this turn and therefore could not find the waterfall; learn their lesson and turn here.
            In less than 0.1 miles the gravel road ends at the parking lot for the Hemlock Falls Trail, and the Hemlock Falls Trail itself begins at an engraved boulder.  A large toad posed on a log here as I photographed it.  As you begin to climb gradually along the Hemlock Falls Trail, what has thus far been a very mediocre hike starts to gain steam.  Rushing Moccasin Creek makes a near constant companion, and a lush understory of mountain laurel and rhododendron fills the cool, moist ravine.
Trailhead-Hemlock Falls Trail
            1.1 miles into the hike, a small opening in the trees provides a view of a waterfall created by a small tributary falling into Moccasin Creek.  Some benches built as an Eagle Scout project in 2012 provide ample opportunity to rest on the long, gradual climb.  At 1.4 miles, the trail crosses Moccasin Creek on a stone and wood bridge built in 1993.  Some stone steps built into the ground help hikers navigate the steep area around the creek.
Moccasin Creek
            Now on the north side of Moccasin Creek, the trail continues its gradual climb until, 1.8 miles into the hike, an unsigned spur trail exits left to the base of Hemlock Falls.  A large volume of water drops about 25 feet through a spout into a large plunge pool.  Notice the large hemlock trees that surround this area.  Even on warm summer days a cool breeze comes down this ravine from the mountains to the west, so take some time to enjoy this spot, the midpoint of the hike.
Hemlock Falls
            Although an unmarked path continues along the creek past the falls, the official trail ends at the waterfall, and it does not form a loop.  Thus, you next need to retrace your steps back down to the Hemlock Falls parking area and then along the gravel road to where you left the Wildlife Trail.  Turn right to continue the Wildlife Trail.
            The southern half of the Wildlife Trail passes through more young forest and meadow.  Large numbers of Christmas ferns populate the understory.  Interpretive signs describe how the meadows encourage wildlife to frequent the area, but I did not see anything more exotic than a gray squirrel on my visit.  At 3.5 miles, you close the Wildlife Trail loop, where a soft right turn will return you to the parking area to complete the hike.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sandy Creek Park (Blog Hike #422)

Trail: Lakeside Trail
Hike Location: Sandy Creek Park
Geographic Location: north side of Athens, GA (34.03328, -83.38488)
Length: 6.5 miles
Difficulty: 6/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: May 2013
Overview: A circumnavigation of Lake Chapman and Sandy Creek wetlands.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: On the north side of Athens, take the Athens Perimeter Road (SR 10-Loop) to US 441 (exit 12).  Exit and head north on US 441.  Take US 441 north 2.7 miles to Holman Rd. and turn right on Holman Rd.  Take Holman Rd. 0.7 miles to the park entrance and turn right to enter the park.  Pay the nominal entrance fee, bear left at the first two intersections (you are now on Beechtree Drive), and park in the boat ramp parking lot at the far end of Beechtree Drive.  Make sure you use the standard-sized parking spaces on the right: the double sized ones in the middle are for trucks hauling boats.

The hike: Located in extreme northern Clarke County, 782-acre Sandy Creek Park represents the crown jewel of Athens’ county-owned parks.  The centerpiece of the park is 260-acre Lake Chapman, which provides excellent boating and fishing opportunities as well as swimming from the park’s sand beach.  The park also features a tent campground, a disc golf course, numerous picnic shelters, and a few baseball fields along with other sporting opportunities.
            When I first visited Sandy Creek Park in August 2008, it was a real loser of a hiking destination.  The park had two poorly maintained trails, one on each side of the lake, and neither trail formed a loop.  In 2012, a fine bridge was built at the north end of the lake connecting these two trails, thus transforming this park from a loser to a winner.  The 7-mile loop described here uses this bridge to circumnavigate the lake.  The only downside to hiking at Sandy Creek Park these days is the long, sunny hike on park roads needed to complete the loop.
Trailhead for Lakeside Trail
            Begin at a wooden sign on the left side of the parking lot that says “Lakeside Loop Trail” and bears a rough diagram of the trail’s route.  The trail heads into the woods and begins tracing around the first of five small streams that feed Lake Chapman.  This initial section of trail used to be called the Swimming Deer Trail, and you may see remnants of the old trail route from before the 2012 upgrade.  That upgrade included the construction of some wooden bridges such as the one over the first small stream.
            At 0.2 miles, an opening in the trees to your right gives a nice view of the lake and the boat ramp parking lot on the other side of the inlet.  Yes, you have been hiking for almost 10 minutes, and your car sits only 200 feet away across the lake: so it goes when hiking along a crooked lakeshore.  The trail climbs steeply away from this overlook but only for a short time.  You soon arrive at a rocky bluff that provides another nice view of the lake, this one to the east and north.           
Lake view from rocky bluff
            From the rocky bluff, the trail curves left, crosses the second small feeder stream, and passes through a short stretch perched precariously above the lake.  This section of trail stays very close to the park boundary on the left, as evidenced by the wire fence.  At 0.9 miles, the trail crosses the third feeder stream.  This stream has the steepest banks, and rocks built into the hill act as steps to help the hiker negotiate it. 
After ascending the opposite bank, the trail turns sharply right to begin following an old road.  This section of the park features an extensive collection of old roadbeds that look much like trails.  Fortunately, the trail is marked with large white paint blazes, so be sure to look for the blazes to find the trail and not the ground.           
Trail following old road
            At 1.5 miles, after another short stint on an old dirt road, the trail angles right to leave the road and crosses the fourth feeder stream.  Most of the forest consists of mature hardwoods, but a few older pine trees still linger in the higher sections.  Species include beech, oak, maple, sweetgum, and loblolly pine. 
Curving right, the trail heads around the northern end of Lake Chapman, and some nice views down the length of the lake open up on the right.  The crowds have long since been left behind in the southern sections of the park.  When I hiked here on a warm Memorial Day afternoon, cars were lined up to enter the park, but I only encountered one other person on the trail.
Toad beside trail           
            Near 2 miles into the hike, the wetlands at the north end of Lake Chapman can be seen just below the trail to the right.  In spite of the 2012 trail improvements, this section of trail is still the narrowest and most primitive section of the hike.  Some houses lie very close on private land to the left, and my movement caused several dogs to start barking.  Fortunately, the dogs never came close enough to threaten me.
            Just past an old tree surrounded by a rock wall, the trail reaches a seeded-in roadbed.  Turn right on the old road, and at 2.3 miles arrive at the Ellen R. Jordan Bridge. Built in 2012, this wide wooden bridge gives you a view of the Sandy Creek wetlands from above.  On my visit, a mother Canadian goose and her goslings were stomping around the mud in search of a meal, and some toads were blurting out mating calls.  This wetland is the most interesting part of the hike, so take some time to see what wildlife you can see.
Ellen R. Jordan Bridge
Mother goose and her goslings
             On the other side of the bridge, the trail becomes much wider as it heads down the east side of Lake Chapman.  This section of trail is the original Lakeside Trail; it dead-ended at this point before the construction of the bridge.  For the next 3 miles the Lakeside Trail goes on and off the Buckeye Horse Trail, a 4 mile out-and-back bridle trail.  The horse trail does not show the usual signs of heavy horse use, but you need to follow the white hiking trail blazes as opposed to the blue horse trail blazes to stay on the correct route.
            At 2.7 miles, you pass a small rock outcrop beside the trail.  At 3.3 miles, you reach a recent trail reroute that avoids a steep climb up a lakeside bluff.  Again, follow the white blazes.  At 3.7 miles, the trail passes what remains of an old stone house with brick chimney and dirt floor.  Only the walls and chimney remain, but the old stones make good places to sit near the midpoint of this hike.
Old stone house
            After passing around a particularly large lake inlet, you reach the outskirts of the Buckeye picnic area.  The picnic tables here look out of place in the middle of the forest.  At 4.6 miles, you cross the gravel picnic area trail.  With the dam in view ahead and to the left, the Lakeside Trail climbs gradually and crosses some old springy wooden footbridges to arrive at sunny paved Campsite Drive, thus marking the end of the Lakeside Trail near 5.2 miles.
            To get back to your car, turn right on Campsite Drive, cross the dam, and climb gradually to the main park road.  The park trail map shows another trail going up the west shore of Lake Chapman through the developed area, but that trail was no longer maintained on my visit.  Turn right at the main park road, pass all five beach and ball field parking areas, then turn right on Beech Tree Drive, the route you drove in on.  Follow your entrance route back to the boat launch parking area to complete the hike.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ben Burton Park (Blog Hike #421)

Trails: (unnamed)
Hike Location: Ben Burton Park
Geographic Location: north side of Athens, GA (33.95795, -83.43652)
Length: 0.9 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: May 2013
Overview: A short woodland stroll on the hillside above the Middle Oconee River.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: On the north side of Athens, take SR 10-Loop to Tallassee Road (exit 15).  Exit and go north/west on Tallassee Rd.  Take Tallassee Rd. 500 feet to Mitchell Bridge Road and turn left on Mitchell Bridge Rd.  The park entrance is 0.6 miles ahead on Mitchell Bridge Rd. on the right.  Turn right to enter the park, then park in the only parking lot.

The hike: Consisting of only 32 acres on the east bank of the Middle Oconee River, tiny Ben Burton Park sits on the former site of a hydroelectric generating station.  The station was built in 1896, and it produced electricity until 1964.  In 1967, Georgia Power donated this land to Clarke County for development as a park.  The park was dedicated in October 1971 in honor of Ben W. Burton, Vice President of Georgia Power.
Nothing remains of the generating station, and today the park is best known for its river access and its large number of picnic sites.  For hikers, the park offers a short trail system on the wooded hillside above the park’s developed area.  While certainly not a major hiking destination, these trails make a nice lunch time or evening stroll and offer more solitude than you would expect so close to Athens.
Secluded picnic area near trailhead
              Start at the rear of the parking area by walking around a wrought iron gate and down a paved path that soon bridges a small stream.  Notice the pleasant cascades in this stream, and notice the secluded picnic area just beyond that is surrounded by short vertical rock cliffs.  This picnic area will constitute the end of our loop on this park’s trail system, though there are no signs to indicate it as such.
Cascades in creek
Continuing straight, the pavement turns to packed gravel as you pass picnic area after picnic area on the right and left.  The Middle Oconee River can be seen beyond a grassy area to the left.  Some interpretive signs tell about a streambank stabilization project designed to improve streambank health and decrease streambank erosion.  The river was high and muddy when I visited here, though during a drought it can nearly dry up completely.
Middle Oconee River
After passing through the developed area, you walk around a metal gate to enter the park’s natural area.  A short side trail left gives you the opportunity to access the river itself.  The main trail narrows and, at 0.3 miles, comes out at a power line clearing that also contains a sewer line, which it begins to follow.  A short cut trail exits right and climbs the steep hillside.  The short cut can come in handy when the trail in the power line clearing becomes overgrown, typically in the summer months.  If possible, stay with the path in the power line clearing. 
The trail eventually crosses the clearing, reenters the forest, and begins climbing, still following the sewer line.  About halfway up the hill, look for the unmarked return trail as it exits to the right.  If you continue following the sewer line, it comes out at a paved cul de sac on Chalfont Lane, but it does not form a loop from the cul de sac.  Thus, if you arrive at the cul de sac, you have missed the turn.
Hiking the return route
The return route is my favorite section of trail in this park.  The single-track dirt trail undulates gradually through nice broadleaf forest, which is dominated by oak, maple, and beech.  Ignore side trails as they exit right to return to the developed park prematurely and left to connect to a subdivision.  Traffic from the 10-Loop can be heard but not seen ahead of you.
At 0.7 miles, the trail begins a moderate descent to the unnamed creek you crossed on the paved path at the start of the hike.  Upon reaching the creek, the trail curves right to emerge at the picnic area described at the start of this hike, thus closing the loop.  A left turn on the paved path will return you to the parking area and complete the hike.

Richard B. Russell State Park: Cottage/Beech Loop (Blog Hike #420)

Trails: Cottage/Beach, Cottage Loop, Campground Spur, and Campground/Picnic Trails
Hike Location: Richard B. Russell State Park
Geographic Location: northeast of Elberton, GA (34.16291, -82.74652)
Length: 3.9 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: May 2013
Overview: A front-country figure-eight hike with views of Lake Russell.
Hike Route Map:
Photo Highlight:

Directions to the trailhead: From Elberton, take SR 77 north.  On the north side of Elberton, turn right on Ruckersville Road, SR 77C.  Take Ruckersville Rd. 7.9 miles to the park entrance, and turn right to enter the park.  Pass the park office and continue along the main park road.  Where the golf course road angles left, curve right to head for the picnic parking area.  The hike starts beside the picnic area restroom building overlooking the lake.

The hike: For my general introduction to Richard B. Russell State Park, see the Blackwell Bridge Trail blog entry.  The hike described here uses some of the park’s newest trails to make a figure-eight route through the park’s developed areas.  Although this hike does not feature any historic or scenic sites, the woods are nice enough to make it worthwhile.
Concrete walkway at trailhead
            Getting started on this hike is a bit tricky.  Start by walking down the concrete walkway with metal handrails.  At the first opportunity, turn left and walk on another paved path through the picnic area.  When this path splits, angle left and head uphill to the beach parking area.  Walk diagonally through the beach parking area to reach the trailhead for the Cottage/Beach Trail and the Blackwell Bridge Trail.  You could easily add the interesting Blackwell Bridge Trail (described elsewhere in this blog) to increase the length of your hike by 1.6 miles, but this hike will stay on the main loop by taking the Cottage/Beach Trail, which leaves to the left.           
Richard B. Russell Lake
            The wide compacted gravel Cottage/Beach Trail rises gradually with the beach access road just through the trees on your left.  A few interpretive signs tell of the plants in this Piedmont forest, which is dominated by loblolly pines, maple, oak, and sweetgum.  At 0.6 miles, you cross the golf course access road as the trail makes a wide sweeping left turn to begin heading west parallel to the main park road.           
Bridge over small stream
            1.2 miles into the hike, the trail dips through a steep ravine and crosses a small stream on a nice steel and wood bridge.  At 1.4 miles, you reach a major trail intersection that forms the pinch in this hike’s figure-eight route.  We will pass through this intersection again in just under an hour, but for now continue straight on a gravel path marked “Cottages.”  The park trail map calls this trail the Cottage Loop, but it is unmarked on the ground.
            The trail descends gradually as it curves to the right with the cottage area road through the trees on your left.  The going is very easy, but take your time through here: this is the nicest forest in the park.  At 1.8 miles, the spur trail to the cottage area exits left where the trail turns sharply right.
Partial view of Lake Russell
            Now back near lake level, the trail curves around an inlet, rises to top a small bluff, then descends to lake level again.  Partially obstructed views of the lake appear through the trees to the left, but no clear views emerge.  Soon the trail ascends from the lake on a gradual to moderate grade and joins an old road.           
Major intersection at pinch of figure-eight
            At 2.9 miles, you arrive back at the major trail intersection to complete the northern lobe of the figure-eight.  Continue straight to begin heading counterclockwise around the southern lobe.  The park trail map calls this trail the Campground Spur, but it looks identical to the trail you have traveled thus far.
            In quick order the trail crosses the main park road, passes through a small man-made clearing, and crosses the campground access road, gradually descending as it goes.  At 3.4 miles, the Campground Spur ends at the campground.  To begin the final leg back to the picnic area, angle left and look for the wooden portal that marks the beginning of the Campground/Picnic Trail.           
Portal for Campground/Picnic Trail

            With its dirt surface and narrow width, the Campground/Picnic Trail is by far the most primitive trail used on this hike.  The trail descends steeply but only for a short time to cross a small wet area without the aid of a bridge.  With lake in view to the right, the trail climbs gradually to emerge at the picnic area.  A brief walk through the picnic area on paved trail will return you to your car and complete the hike.