Monday, June 18, 2018

2-1-2-0 - PART II --- June 18, 2018

Ok --  back for Part II of "2-1-2-0" aka The Tale of Two Weeks at Sand Hollow!  Hopefully I can avoid that annoying white highlighting that occurred on the last post.  Sorry about that!  This program is quirky!

Last post I talked about our first great campsite at the AEP Sand Hollow Campground... right by the lake.... the extraordinary work of American Electric Power (AEP) which developed 60,000 acres of ReCreation Land from old coal mining land, and an overview of the nearest town, McConnelsville, OH.  This post I will show you our second site at the same campground, a third AEP campground, some sights from the surrounding area,  a memorial park, and a look at some fun wildlife. 

So, first off, our second campsite at Sand Hollow.  I am, overall, not a proponent of "developed campgrounds".   If you were with me back in my RV days, you probably remember that.  That was THE LAST place I would have ever wanted to "live"...and never did... and it pretty much still is.  So, I was hesitant to go near this campground with the fear that it would be overrun with people, the sites would be on top of each other, and who knows what the noise and party factors might be.  But, it is FREE camping...for up to three weeks.  Hard to overlook that particular feature.
  
The camping gods were with me at Sand Hollow
None of the above occurred!  

I left the lake site on Thursday and went up the lane of other campsites.  Most all of the campsites were on the left side/lake side.  There was plenty of "forest" between each site. Great privacy! Several of the sites were really only good for tent camping, tho.  You couldn't take a vehicle into the actual site.  Park up on the lane and trek your stuff down an incline to the level spot where the fire ring and picnic table was located.  Those wouldn't work for me, eventho they were nice spots.  But there were several where that wasn't the case.  I ended up choosing, I think, the eighth site....there were probably 10-12 more on up the hill. The further you went the less lake view (if any) you got.  I got spoiled by our first site so I was looking for water!

We set up camp, parking the van parallel to the road to give some privacy....
and we had a bit of a lake view....

Oh --- and plenty of shade!  Almost a complete canopy -- 
totally enclosed in dense forestry on three sides and over our heads



View from the water's edge....



Bo played in the water at our first site quite a bit.  We tried it here, but it was pretty mucky down at the edge....plus "seaweed".  Pretty much just resulted in a messy, muddy pup!  But he kept begging to go back in. 


I relented and took him down to the first campsite several times when no one was there.  It was the least I could do -- he's a good boy for being so flexible with so many unknowns (except when people or dogs are around....his protective nature takes over then.  I wouldn't want to deal with those teeth!) 


But the view from the muddy, seaweedy edge was pretty...


As I thought, when weekend approached there was considerably more "activity".  The sites are all pretty close to the gravel lane, so that road noise couldn't be avoided.  At the onset, most of the traffic was campers seeking out "the best site"...a bit of back and forth..."Do we take this one or the one up there?  I don't know...let's look at them all again."  Once people were settled, they mostly were just towing their boats down to the launch area and/or going to get water from the hand pump....or maybe utilizing the restrooms...also down by the pavilion.  All in all, it wasn't bad or distracting from our nice forest spot.  We did have visitors float by here and there with their fishing poles.  Bo had established our viewing area as part of his "yard", so he wasn't thrilled with the boaters, eventho' they were very quiet. How noisy can fishing be??  Lol!


I checked emails and weather usually once or twice a day, going the few miles down the main road to get a signal.  Starting Saturday, the weather icon was pretty much that cloud with rain drops underneath.  Well, it was accurate.  Saturday through Wednesday of last week, it rained off and on most every day, but there were occasional moments of sun effort.  But there was enough rain that I pulled out my rain boots and plastic poncho.  Bo wants to walk, no matter the weather.  It wasn't torrential downpours like the week before...just "rain"....we could still sit under the canopy most of the time, and it kept the temps down.  So, really, it wasn't so bad.  Camping means nature....whatever that might be...and there's nothing you can do to change it.  Just be prepared and you will still have fun!  I read 8 books on this trip and did scores of crossword puzzles.... and some artwork.....



Somewhat inspired by all the different tents I saw around the campground...


One day while going out to check emails, I decided while I was out, I would exit the campground in the other direction and see where it took us.  I had seen cars go down that way.  


We passed a few nice water features....like this one...
kind of "architecturally" interesting as far a nature goes


At the end of the lane, probably about a mile or so, it ended at Rt 83 and across the road was the AEP Hook Lake Campground.  


This campground is very different from Sand Hollow.  All open grass - no forest features, except the perimeter, but very pretty.  I  probably wouldn't stay at this campground since it has no privacy and no shade...and finding a level spot looked questionable. Probably the best spot is where these tent campers are...away from the main loop and one side is all trees....and I doubt anyone would crowd your space up there....so, maybe it would be a decent spot in cooler weather.  There was also some playground apparatus, so great for kids! 


This is an odd thing to point out but something campers deal with all the time.  Note the number of trash cans in the above photo....7 within almost inches of each other.  Same at Sand Hollow...there were at least 12 around the small pavilion area, plus 1-2 at each and every campsite.  NO EXCUSE for littering!  It was extremely clean at both campgrounds and I'm sure AEP's other campgrounds are the same. People use the trash cans. So often, with dispersed camping areas, you have to take your trash with you when you leave. But, unfortunately, some people don't always do that.  I've never seen so many trash cans at any camping spot anywhere!  
  
Hook Lake
(must be 15+ years old to fish here)


A little pond in the middle of the campground...



Overall, a very pretty spot!  AEP really takes care of this ReCreation Land.  

Going back and forth the 15 miles to McConnelsville a few times, I was able to spot several interesting, old barns / buildings.  There was virtually no traffic on that road, so I was able to slow down enough to get some shots through the windshield.  No comments on these....just photos of neat structures.  One early evening there was an eerie pink glow plus low lying mist around the trees....







 



Also, on the way to McConnelsville, just a couple of miles from Sand Hollow, is the 
Miners' Memorial Park



The main attraction, which is IMPOSSIBLE to miss is the unbelievably large bucket from, literally, the world's largest mining dragline machine ever built.  It has been featured on The History Channel and is one of the seven engineering wonders of the world.  Empty, the bucket weighs 460,000 lbs.  Fully loaded, 640,000 lbs.  The volume equals a 12-car garage.  "Big Muskie" as it is known, moved 483 MILLION TONS of rock and soil between 1969 and 1991. (That's 966,000,000,000 lbs!) The site represents a major piece of history and assures that the mining men and women of southeastern Ohio will never be forgotten.  The wooden structures at the park are all made from 50 year old red oak trees planted by the miners. (Note the trash can. They're everywhere! But it also helps with relative size.)



Moving on to "wildlife".......Bo and I saw the "typical" wildlife here and there.  Deer, tortoises trying to cross the main road, a few hummingbirds attracted to my red comforter when the back doors of the van were open, butterflies, almost tame blackbirds, and the resident Rocky Raccoon who visited our second site a few nights.  He stole my tub of butter and my CoffeeMate!  I could only get one decent shot of the many blue herons that hung out around the lake.


Still on the wildlife topic, I had camping neighbors at my second site.  I could barely see their tent through the dense trees and rarely heard a peep out of them.  Perfect!  But they had a tiny chihuahua (named "Tiny"!) that yapped a little and one day the guy called to me from across the little overgrown path that was between our sites to say he was sorry about the barking.  (Not like Bo hadn't barked a lot at boaters, walkers, and any other perceived "intrusion"!) So, anyway, we got to talking and he said his wife wanted to show me something....this was after he introduced himself as someone who is on disability because of "severe mental problems".  Hmmmmmmmm.... I was a little wary, but he seemed harmless.  And ultimately, he was.  

I walked over to their site and this is what she wanted to show me.....


Yes, she's on her back....as tame as a kitten.  This lady used to have a certification to take in certain animals that might be found motherless or in some other predicament where they couldn't survive on their own.  She doesn't do it any longer as they live in an apartment now, but she said "yes" one last time.  She bottle fed two baby raccoons and at this point, they were eating "food".   She was hoping to be able to set them free at the campground but they just aren't old enough and would never survive.  Ultimately, she will call her local game warden and surrender them to that agency.  She doubts they will keep them as there's no shortage of raccoons, but at least they wouldn't end up as "prey".  At the least, she gave them a good, short life.  They were so attached to her and she to them.  They even followed their chihuahua around like a big brother.  It was all just too cute, but sad in the bigger picture of things.  


So, that wraps up this Part II post.  These travels may not be quite as "exciting" as my RVing across the country, but one point I want to make is you don't have to travel across the country to come across scenic areas, history, and interesting people.  Check out what's just a few hours from home! I'll be off on another adventure in a few days to parts unknown! 

Until we meet again, thanks for camping with me!
Happy Trails!
  
Sand Hollow Campground -- Site #2

Saturday, June 16, 2018

2 - 1 - 2 - 0 -- June 16, 2018

Wow!  I can hardly believe my last update was 17 days ago.  Time flies!  Well, it certainly flew by for me and Bo out camping for two weeks.  Lots to report and lots of photos, of course.  Sit back and revisit our trip with me!  (If this starts feeling like it is getting too long for prolonged enjoyment, I may decide to do two posts instead of one loooooong one....we'll see how it goes...).

My crazy blog title??   It has some significance:

  • 2  Weeks
  • 1  Campground
  • 2  Campsites
  • 0  Interet
Yes, NO internet.....this is my valid excuse for not blogging for so long!  A signal was available a few miles away from our camp ground, but it was if-y and just too much to deal with to create an entire post with photos, etc....especially with no backup power cord for the laptop...I left it behind at home base.   

Now for some details....  We finished up our "business" at home base and  took off, heading east, on June 4th.  Mondays are usually pretty good for getting a decent choice of campsites as most campers have gone home after a weekend of campfires and mosquito bites.  The worst part of this journey was driving on the interstate. UGH.  I could have taken back roads but for the same amount of miles it would have taken, at the minimum, an hour longer and a lot of navigation.  I wanted to get to my destination so there would be time for a new idea if my original plan didn't work out for any number of reasons.  But, with that said, once we hit Zanesville, we got off the interstate and had a pretty 30-mile drive south  on Ohio By-Way 284.  It was rolly-polly, curvy, hilly, twisty, turny, windy, and every other adjective which does not mean "flat" and "straight"!  

First, a little history about the area we called "home" for two weeks.  It is called 
AEP ReCreation Land.  


ReCreation Land is a 60,000-acre outdoor recreation area built on land once strip mined for its rich deposits of coal.  AEP has received many awards for this project from environmental and conservation groups for going above and beyond the legal requirements for land reclamation.  ReCreation Land offers a number of outdoor activities and is free to the public, but you do need a permit (available online or at a number of physical outlets in the surrounding area -- but, actually, I never saw anyone checking for them.)  
AEP planted over 63 MILLION trees, established 350 stocked lakes and ponds, created 380 campsites in various locations, and created hiking, mountain bike, and equine trails to turn this area in to a vibrant recreational destination.  The 1400-mile Buckeye Trail also runs through this region.  
So...back to By-Way 284.  While it was very scenic and only 30 miles, it took forever.  Could rarely drive over 40 mph. I passed only ONE car the entire way and never did see a house.   Internet would come and go.  I was really hoping I didn't break down!  Seeing  no homes, buildings, businesses, cars, or people, all of a sudden we came upon a very quaint and picturesque church/cemetery.  I couldn't figure out where anyone came from to attend this church!

The same question arose when I saw a tiny "high school" -- no photo, but believe me, it might have held a total of 30 students.  But where was everyone??  I wondered about this the entire two weeks!
Finally, we arrived at our campground, Sand Hollow.

A well-maintained gravel road took us on a short drive to our first sighting of what was in store.  And what a sight it was!

This was looking really good, especially after an almost 4 hour drive!  We pulled into the actual campground which bordered this beautiful lake and drove around a little loop with the pavilion in the center.  This was also where the hand-pump water access was located.   Yay!  Potable water!


There were a couple of fishermen right down by the water, but the campsite I had my eye on there was empty.  There were only about five sites in this area by the pavilion (4 out of 5 were empty).  These guys were just day-fishing.  Not camping.  I got out of the van and said hello -- mentioning I was just checking out the campsites.  They got the hint and in about 15 minutes they left...hopefully that was their plan anyway!  But, that was all I needed to get the van situated and nab this perfect site!  Even if someone else took another nearby site, they were still plenty far away.  

Picture perfect!  It paid to show up on a Monday!  There was a boat launch area right by our site, but even that wasn't a problem.  Only 2-3 people showed up over the next 4 days to take their little boats (no motors) out.  Not a big deal.  I complained about "no shade" at our previous site in the Hoosier National Forest, but that was not a problem here...I was willing to forgo shade for the great view, plus it wasn't hot at all.  70's.  A far cry from 93* on our last treeless outing!
Bo loved having the water right at our campsite!  


We never tired of the view!  Loved the misty mornings...



You can read all you want to about specific campgrounds, but you never know exactly what you are going to find until you arrive.  Well, we found a good one!  The good weather was initially short-lived, however.  But I was already aware that rain was coming on Tuesday. And, did it rain! 



When it finally let up a little, Bo was anxious for me to stop reading my book and he wanted out of the van.  The rain didn't bother him! He went right back out to his lookout spot, raindrops and all!  The rain actually felt good and kept the temps at a very comfortable level.  

It did clear up by evening and we were treated to a very nice sunset...

We stayed at this site until Thursday afternoon, with the weather cooperating and cool, knowing that the weekenders would soon start arriving and this area of the campground would probably be very active. I wanted to score a good campsite on up the lane before others had the same idea.  More on Site #2 coming up.  

Switching Gears....

I have a really nice 65 qt Yeti cooler which holds ice for many days.  But, eventually, you do need to replenish it.  The nearest town, McConnelsville, is about 15 miles from this campground.  So, we did go "into town" a few times over the two weeks.

McConnelsville is right on the Muskingham River.  It's an old, small, quaint, one-main-street kinda town with a center rotary.  (Most all of the upcoming photos of McConnelsville were taken from the van while driving...).  


The center's statue is that of "Simpson" (to his hometown).  The bronze statue is a Civil War private which stands 13 feet tall.  It is perched on a block of granite that came from the Gettysburg battlefield.  McConnelsville is a big reinactment community.  There is a lot of history here.



The Twin City Opera House, which opened to the public in 1892, hosts live drama and musical performances, film screenings and ghost tours.  McConnelsville, in general, is known for its paranormal happenings! 




Our primary stop and reason for going to McConnelsville was ice and replenishing our food supply a bit.  Right on the main drag was a Kroger's.  If you are at all familiar with Ohio, Kroger is headquartered in Cincinnati, making it the largest chain grocery in the state.  Why would anyone care to know about Kroger??  Well.....


This particular Kroger store is known for it's diminutive size.  It is THE SMALLEST Kroger store in existence.  Who knew??  Literally, if someone enters the same time you do, you have to walk single file through the aisles.  It's a little crazy in there, but the good news is, you don't have to walk five minutes to the far back corner of the store just for a gallon of milk!  There are two very short, cramped, checkout counters with very friendly employees.  The size of the town (pop. 1800) will probably never warrant a larger store than this.  Anyway, just some McConnelsville trivia!  

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yep, I think this post is going to get too long if I keep going with the rest of The Tale of Two Weeks at Sand Hollow.   So, I'll end here for now and catch up the rest of the trip in a day or two.  Hope you have enjoyed the adventure so far.

Thanks for tuning in and please use my Amazon link for your orders if you think of it.  Gas prices are killing me on these excursions.  Every little bit helps!  Many thanks!

 

Chapter II coming up!