Some tourists claim it looks more like Africa than it does the rest of Ohio. Maybe that is why, after decades of mining, that American Electric Power agreed to lease a huge tract of land to an animal sanctuary organization known around southeastern Ohio as “the Wilds.”
(on a gravel – and mud- road near the Wilds)
(a buffalo or yak- not sure- beyond the fences inside “The Wilds”)
After years of reclamation, the former strip mined land looks more like grasslands mixed with hardwood forests, punctuated by numerous ponds and lakes. In that long reclamation process, from mined land to newly contoured surface area, the land underwent a sluggish regeneration. In many ways, the soil has forever changed. What grew on the sharp-edged two or three hundred foot ridges before might not grow there now. And, it is obvious that soil composition has favored new breeds of trees over the old…mixed in with pockets of the old world.
Driving through this area reminds the traveler of a blacktop roller coaster. The narrow roads still wind along narrow ridges, down into brushy hollows, and through white pine lined corridors. But now, the area is managed primarily by AEP, the Wilds, conservation groups, and the like, and an occasional long-time land owner. The latter can be few and far between, and signs scattered throughout the area harken to an era before the monster machines came to move the earth and dig for coal.
(Meigs High School- last occupied in 1951- sits alone, the last remnant of a town)
But south of the Wilds, the terrain and cover resemble some of what existed before the mining took place- rugged ridges and hollows with scrawny hardwoods, and all manner of brush and briers, These, mixed with the old high walls-rocky machine made and nature enhanced cliffs- with numerous ponds and streams nearby, make it an unusual place. But then again, anywhere where people have carved and excavated the surface of the earth, then abandoned to natural forces, does look unusual.
(in the old un-reclaimed former mine area)
It makes for fine hunting, good fishing, and some of the most unusual hiking in the USA (definition of “trail,” according to Ohio authorities, must be “a place where you find yourself lost in the woods. May have a few footprints to follow…or may not).
You can come out of the woods to your campground- as long as you have a permit and a place available (it gets busy in the summer, especially weekends). There aren’t very many campgrounds, but those that are there have wonderful views…like this picture of now frozen Sand Hollow Lake.
(the southern end of Sand Hollow Campground)
Slan go foill…