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Long lingering in the background, dwarfed by the posh amenities of state parks, the state's natural areas and preserves have become a focus of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which is hosting a series of events at them this summer.
I've been hitting some during the past several weeks, including Shallenberger State Nature Preserve on Sunday afternoon. A short drive down Rt. 33, it's a hidden secret among the popular spots lying among the Hocking Hills.
Shallenberger is like most state preserves that don't lie within state and local parks. It's got a small parking lot and a bulletin board. Go to the bathroom beforehand and print your own map. Then, once you're there, enjoy a remote walk through great forests and rock features.
View larger image The trails are well worn and marked with sturdy brown posts. The trails offer some moderate ascents -- no surprise in the Hills.
View larger image There are some great overlooks on Allen and Ruble knobs. (A knob is a prominent hill or mountain, by the way.)
View larger image If you're up for some easy to moderate bouldering, the expanse has many crags. This one can be found on Allen Knob.
View larger image A quiet trail from the parking lot runs beneath giant hardwood, and you'll find it quieter than pretty much everything near Rock House, Ash Cave or Old Man's Cave.
View larger image The trees are astounding, as are the spring wildflowers still hanging on. Come fall, the Allen Knob overlook will be one of the region's best kept secrets.