Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wayne National Forest: Lamping Homestead Trail (Blog Hike #602)

Trail: Lamping Homestead Trail
Hike Location: Wayne National Forest
Geographic Location: southwest of Woodsfield, OH
Length: 3.5 miles
Difficulty: 8/10 (Moderate/Difficult)
Last Hiked: July 2016
Overview: A loop hike with plenty of up and down through a wide variety of habitats.

Directions to the trailhead: From Woodsfield, take SR 26 south 11.4 miles to SR 537, noticing the large number of oil and natural gas wells you pass along the way.  Turn right on SR 537.  Drive SR 537 west 1.7 miles to Clearfork Road and a national forest sign for Lamping Homestead.  Turn left on Clearfork Rd.  The parking area for Lamping Homestead Recreation Area is 0.2 miles ahead on the left.  A vault toilet but no water can be found at this trailhead.

The hike: Known regionally as “the Wayne,” Wayne National Forest protects over 240,000 acres in rural and rugged southeastern Ohio.  The forest was established in 1934 to buy up land that had been depleted by decades of poor timbering and agricultural practices.  Other parts of the forest cover former coal mines.  Today the forest features over 300 miles of trails, which make the Wayne one of Ohio’s best hiking resources.
            Many of the Wayne’s trails interconnect to form large trail networks, but the Lamping Homestead Trail featured here sits by itself and connects with no other trails.  The Lamping Homestead Recreation Area is named for a family that lived on this site from the 1800’s until 1971.  After the Forest Service acquired the land, the farm buildings were dismantled, so only a small cemetery remains from the Lamping’s ownership era.  The recreation area features a 2 acre pond stocked with bluegill, bass, and catfish, 6 walk-in campsites, 8 picnic sites, a picnic shelter, and of course the trail described here.
Trailhead: Lamping Homestead Trail
            Start the hike by walking toward the left side of the fishing pond, which sits east of the parking area.  The Lamping Homestead Trail makes a loose loop around the pond, but the trailhead to the left of the pond is easier to find: look for a brown wooden sign beside a small pine planting that reads “Lamping Trail.”  Starting here and hiking the loop clockwise gets the toughest climb over with first.  Also, the area’s picnic facilities and campsites are located here.
            The trail heads up the left side of the fishing pond before curving right to cross one of the pond’s feeder streams on a wooden footbridge.  White plastic diamonds mark the way, and brown carsonite posts labeled with trail distances appear every quarter mile.  These markings and the above average trail maintenance give this hike a frontcountry feel in spite of the remote location, which keeps trail traffic down.  I did not encounter anybody else on this trail when I hiked here on a Saturday in late July.
Fishing pond
Now on the east side of the pond, the trail begins a long gradual to moderate but occasionally steep climb up a series of ravines while curving right to head south.  In addition to some steep areas, parts of this trail have high cross slope, i.e the treadway slopes steeply from right to left or vice-versa across the side of the hill.  Therefore, I recommend boots or shoes with good ankle support for this hike.
Climbing the ridge
            Just shy of 1 mile, you enter a pine planting near the top of the ridge, which stands more than 250 feet above the pond.  When you reach the top of the hill, a trail signed as the Short Loop exits right.  As its name suggests, this trail goes downhill to shortcut the main loop, thus reducing the hike’s distance to only 1.5 miles.  Continue straight to hike the longer loop.
            Very quickly you enter a small prairie that contains a rusty old natural gas well.  While southeastern Ohio is no Permian Basin, this well and the large number of oil and natural gas wells you passed while driving to the trailhead provide evidence of the fossil fuel resources this region possesses.  The grass can wisp at your ankles in the prairie, so be sure to check yourself for ticks at the end of the hike.
Hiking through the prairie
            Back in the forest, the trail goes across the ridge to begin descending its south side.  The descent is gradual to moderate at first, but a couple of later areas are so steep that I felt more comfortable going down backward than forward.  At 1.3 miles, the trail curves right to begin heading down a steep-sided but flat-bottomed ravine.  The nice maple/beech forest here makes this hike an above average destination for fall leaf peeping.
            After 0.5 miles of fairly flat hiking, the trail curves right to begin climbing around the hillside.  When I hiked this trail, some recent side hill work had been done here to reduce the trail’s cross slope and therefore make the hiking easier.  While I did not help build this trail, my feet did their part to stamp down the newly built treadway, thereby solidifying the new construction.  Trail traffic is one of the best ways to wear in new trails.
Improved sidehill trail
            At 1.8 miles, you reach a narrow overlook of the Little Muskingum River’s Clear Fork, which was muddy on my visit.  The Little Muskingum River flows south and west from here to empty into the Ohio River just upstream from Marietta.  For the next 0.9 miles the trail passes in and out of several small ravines between finger ridges as it goes more up than down.  More pine plantings appear as you get closer to the top of the ridge.
Little Muskingum River overlook
            2.8 miles into the hike, you top out on the ridge again just below a knob that rises to the right.  Next comes a steep descent down the north side of the ridge.  Just past 3 miles, the signed Short Loop enters from the right.  Angle left to begin the final segment back to the fishing pond.
            The trail now enters young lowland forest, which contains some sycamore trees and a dense shrubby understory.  After hopping over a small ditch, you pass on the right side of a low knob before coming out at the southeast corner of the fishing pond.  Walk across the pond’s dam and through the picnic area to return to the parking lot and complete the hike.

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