Being Lost on New Ground

By Martha Marcom

Jerry and I have the lovely job of hosting Tim Miller between gigs-- after he finishes the April workshops in Columbus and before he departs for Charlottesville. Since he mentioned our annual hike in his Tuesdays with Timiji Blogs of April 17 and April 24 I offer my experience here.

Over the past dozen years of this tradition, we’ve hiked almost all of the parks of Hocking Hills, sometimes in the rain. Mid-April in Hocking County, spring is generally in its beginning stages with the earliest flowering trees and shrubs in bloom―forsythias, crab apples, and redbuds. The wildflowers include spring beauties, pinks, bloodroot, violets in purple, yellow and white, and sometimes trout lilies. One or two years we’ve been graced with dogwoods. This year, our spring came very early, and everything was in bloom, the trees really leafing out, but were still tender spring green. We walked through a blooming woodland forest.

We decided to head up to Cantwell Cliffs, one of the few area parks we’ve not hiked.
We were richly rewarded in wildflowers and bird song--including an owl hoot--and got pleasantly lost, as there were several places where the trail forked with no explanation.

This photo shows the entrance/descent to the stream-level hiking area.

My friend, the remarkable naturalist Larry Henry, told me that the Hocking Hills area had lost 75% of its original biodiversity because of settlers and farmers, and there is also tremendous displacement of native species by non-native invasive species. The most extensive loss resulted from clear-cutting timber and planting multiflora rose and Asian honeysuckle to prevent erosion. The area is also inundated with garlic mustard and, in some areas, Russian olive trees. Garlic mustard not only spreads prolifically, it also makes the soil inhospitable to other plants. It’s a good plant to recognize and eliminate whenever and wherever you can. You can eat the leaves in salads, and use them to make garlic mustard pesto, but the flowers and seeds are ideally disposed of in secured plastic bags so that they can’t inadvertently spread further.  Here is a photo of a plant in early spring, and then they begin to look gangly like this.









Two years ago in April I was still limping and recovering from a car-bike accident--me on the bike. Last year it was a personal triumph for me to muster along the ridge trail of Conkle’s Hollow for a 1.5 mile hike. This year, I had no restrictions, and I reveled in the pure joy of just being able to walk along and explore this unfamiliar trail of undetermined length. That the walk was with Tim and Jerry on a perfect golden day along winding trails strewn with trilliums, violets of every color, phlox, jack-in-the-pulpits, wild geraniums was over the top glorious. I celebrated the relative biodiversity expressed in the variet of flowers. Jerry caught sight of two lady slippers, a wild orchid, and also a tall orchid-like flower I’ve not yet been able to identify which is pictured below.









Tim lead us across a shelf-like ledge of a large rock face.

In crossing this, we were sprinkled with little rivulets of what felt to me like holy water.

Tim’s workshop --especially the 3rd Series Intensive--took us to new territory which will not be a familiar practice to me in my lifetime. What was challenging in class, being lost on new ground, I loved about our hike this year.

The Hocking Hills area of Hocking County is just an hour south of Columbus. In addition to the gorgeous hikes, you’ll find tourist attractions, and we just had to stop at the newest one--the Pencil Sharpener Museum at the Welcome Center.

At the Paul A Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, OH.

There are many artists, musicians and writers who live in Hocking Hills and a wonderful annual poetry festival where we were lucky enough two years also to be in the presence of Coleman Barks, the renowned translator and reader of Rumi. To study with Tim Miller is to be regaled and uplifted with delicious readings of Rumi, Hafiz and others as you enter Savasana. Next April, at the Poetry Festival, one of YOHI’s favorite poets, Naomi Shihab Nye, will be one of the guest poets.

2 Responses to Being Lost on New Ground
  1. Lyen

    I think the unidentified flower is a pink lady slipper. They grew in the woods behind my house when I was growing up….I would usually see one bloom each year, and it was always wonderful! I haven’t seen one in years! Stunning!

    • Martha

      Lyen, thank you–and I believe you are correct. I asked Nancy at the Arc of Appalachia and she said it looked to be a lady slipper before it turned pink. It was so much taller than the lady slippers near it, I saw it as a different flower–though clearly an orchid.