Sunday, August 14, 2016

Flint Ridge State Memorial (Blog Hike #603)

Trails: Quarry, Creek, and Bear Hollow Trails
Hike Location: Flint Ridge State Memorial
Geographic Location: southeast of Newark, OH
Length: 2.5 miles
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: August 2016
Overview: A lightly trafficked hike featuring ancient flint quarries.

Directions to the trailhead: From Columbus and points west, take I-70 to SR 668 (exit 141).  Exit and turn left on SR 668.  Drive SR 668 north 0.8 miles to the town of Brownsville and its end at US 40.  Turn left on US 40, then almost immediately turn right on Brownsville Road.  Drive Brownsville Rd. north 3.1 miles to Flint Ridge Road and the signed memorial on the right.  Turn right on Flint Ridge Rd., then immediately turn right to enter the memorial.  Park in the paved parking lot for the museum.  From the east, take I-70 exit 142 to US 40, drive west to the town of Brownsville, and follow the previous directions to the memorial.

The hike: Flint Ridge, an 8-mile long east-west hill in eastern Licking and western Muskingum Counties, has had a major impact on the history of eastern North America.  The ridge gets its name from some unique rainbow-colored flint deposits that American Indians exploited for making arrowheads, tools, and ceremonial objects.  The flint was quarried to such an extent that the ridge has been called “The Great Indian Quarry of Ohio,” and archaeologists have found Flint Ridge’s flint in artifacts throughout the entire eastern United States.  The largest quarry sites are protected today in 533 acre Flint Ridge State Memorial, which is owned by the non-profit Ohio History Connection (formerly known as the Ohio Historical Society) but managed locally by the Licking Valley Heritage Society.
            The memorial features a small museum that contains some flint artifacts and some exhibits on how flint is shaped into tools.  As of this post, the museum was only open Friday through Sunday, so I did not get to tour the museum on my Monday visit.  The memorial offers three loop trails: the Quarry Trail through the heart of the flint quarries, the Creek Trail that explores the upper reaches of a shallow ravine, and the Bear Hollow Trail, a seldom-used nature trail.  While the Quarry Trail features the greatest points of interest, this hike combines all three trails to form a grand tour of Flint Ridge.
Museum at Flint Ridge
            From the front of the museum, head south on the Quarry Trail, which is marked with lime green rectangular paint blazes.  Almost immediately you enter the quarry area.  Unlike more modern quarries that appear as deep gouges in the earth, the ancient quarries at Flint Ridge appear as a collection of shallow pits or depressions.  The trail stays on the high ground between the pits, and some short but steep ups and downs will need to be negotiated.  Some nice maple and beech trees make for a pleasant setting.
Ancient flint quarry
            The Quarry Trail makes a sweeping 180-degree left turn through the quarries.  After hiking 0.5 miles from the parking lot, you reach an intersection where the Creek Trail exits right.  If all you want to do is see the flint quarries, then you can continue straight here to head directly back to the parking lot.  This hike turns right on the yellow-blazed Creek Trail to head into the eastern part of the memorial.
            The somewhat narrow Creek Trail stays near the ridge for a short time before descending into a shallow ravine on a moderate grade.  Some unmined flint outcrops stick several inches out of the ground beside and even in the trail.  Thus, the Creek Trail gives you a feel for what the American Indians might have seen when they first came to this area.
Flint outcrop
After losing just over 100 feet of elevation, the trail curves left to cross a couple of small streams on wooden footbridges.  Watch for some poison ivy that grows beside the trail in this low area.  Another sweeping 180-degree left turn brings the trail on a westward course as it begins a gradual climb out of the ravine.
At 1.3 miles, you reach the end of the Creek Trail at its north intersection with the Quarry Trail.  Turn right to ascend gradually on the Quarry Trail and return to the parking lot, passing a couple more flint outcrops en route.  This return to the parking lot completes the first (southern) loop.  To get to the nature trail, walk back out the entrance road, cross Flint Ridge Road, and look for a wooden sign with a white blaze that says “Nature Trail” on the north side of the road.  The Bear Hollow Trail enters the woods just beyond this sign.
Start of Bear Hollow Trail
The Bear Hollow Trail is definitely not the memorial’s best trail.  The trail starts by paralleling moderately trafficked Brownsville Road before curving right to head away from the road noise.  This trail receives less traffic and maintenance than the trails near the museum, so you will have to deal with some encroaching vegetation.  Some white paint blazes keep you on the trail, and some crude log bridges get you over wet spots.
Spanning a wet area
As you approach the steep north edge of Flint Ridge, the trail forks to form its loop.  A double white blaze marks this point.  I chose to turn left here and hike the loop clockwise.  The short loop takes you through more young forest tucked between the north edge of the ridge on the left and Flint Ridge Road on the right.  Overall, the terrain remains fairly flat.  After closing the loop, retrace your steps along the “stick” of the lollipop loop Bear Hollow Trail to the parking lot to complete the hike.

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