Burr Oak is that rare state park catering to the curious hiker, the capable camper and the expert mountain man. Here are trip ideas for each.
Burr Oak State Park 10220 Burr Oak Lodge Road Glouster, OH 740-767-3797 Homepage Park map A Day at the Beach Casual hikers will find much of the trail's topography too grueling, but the park offers prime opportunities for other summertime activities.
Through a network of county and township roads, the 664-acre lake has a number of access points that allows day trippers to swim, spend the day on a rented pontoon boat or watch a maritime sunset. (A nice sandy beach on the north side seemed especially appealing after five hours in the woods.) The lake also offers prime fishing for carp, bass, bluegill and saugeye, said Marcia Halasz, an employee of the park.
Tip: If you're there to hike first and swim second, try the swimming area on the southeast side. Two looped trails can be found to the north and south of the beach. A Walk in the Woods For backpackers eager for a test of will with a safety net, Burr Oak is a great trail for an overnight hike: a deep-woods loop that offers needed facilities at convenient locations.
Between extended and fairly rugged trail sections are three places offering toilets and fresh drinking water that alleviate the two worst downsides to backpacking: dehydration and doing your, um, business above a hearty patch of poison ivy. The trail is far from a cushy Metro Park, however. Incorporating parts of the statewide Buckeye Trail and the North Country trail, which runs from New York to North Dakota, it's a fantastic cross-section of terrain: cavernous outcroppings, deep ravines covered in ferns, pine-tree forests, meadows of wildflowers and healthy marshlands. Mushrooms and berry bushes laden with tasty fruit also abound, and you'll see a fair share of wildlife along the way. Halasz noted that the park is home to white-tailed deer, wild turkey, beaver, muskrat and even the occasional black bear wandering in from states to the east.
Tip: The concession stand on the map turned out to be nothing more than a lone Pepsi machine next to the remnants of what was likely a counter serving delicious corndogs and ice cream.
Roughing It Not far past the chest-high grasses that surround the northern tip of the trail as it crosses the lake's watershed is the beginning of the Wildcat Hollow Trail, featured route of the Athens branch of the Wayne National Forest. “Wildcat is beautiful -- it's just a very inviting trail,” said Jennie Freidhof, one of the forest's assistant district rangers. “It has amazed me. I'm used to no one using a trail in the winter. But this one is used year-round.”
A somewhat hilly traverse, Wildcat offers five- and 15-mile loops-just enough terrain to add another day to a backpacking weekend around the lake.
Though wildcat sightings are rare, Freidhof said, the trail is known for wildflowers, pine trees and several creeks and streams. Tip: Park at the head of the Wildcat Hollow Trail, just off CR 58. Spend two days and one night hiking the Burr Oak section to the south and return to your car to replenish supplies before tackling the Wildcat.