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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sheepskin Hollow, Ohio - A Treasure of the NCT

Jack's Lookout Sheepskin Hollow Nature Preserve, Ohio
view from "Jack's Lookout" (photo by JHY)

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by JHY with material from a news article at, "Pristine, wild beauty - Sheepskin Hollow is difficult to access, but worthwhile," by Bob Downing

Sheepskin Hollow is one of the wildest spots left in Ohio, according to Bob Downing. It is a 453-acre nature preserve in Columbiana County at the eastern edge of Ohio. It nestles in the North Fork of Little Beaver Creek.

Any North Country Trail hiker who has crossed that river on the old, narrow, rusty truss bridge and then turned steeply uphill into the woods just a few yards east of the river has entered Sheepskin Hollow.

Sheepskin Hollow has no amenities: no parking lot, no rest rooms, you may be lucky to find a blue blaze. In fact, when I hiked there in 2003, we found old blue blazes farther up the road that led us astray.

Another way to enter the Sheepskin Hollow Nature Preserve is to park by a railroad overpass off Pancake-Clarkson Road and head south on foot along the old elevated rail bed for a half mile in Middleton Township. After a short walk you will find a small sign indicating that you have entered the preserve.

Downing says, "Then you suddenly come to an opening on the left that drops off into a pretty rock-walled gorge lined with hemlocks. No sign. Just go for it."

The preserve contains a small stream in a ravine with sandstone and shale walls. The maple and oak, beech and hemlock, are more often found in forests farther north. "I poked around a bit, saw one of two waterfalls in the three-quarter-mile-long hollow and was impressed by the wild ferns and eye-popping spring wildflowers," continues Downing.

The state has no plans to improve Sheepskin Hollow. Manager Charlotte McCurdy said, "It is one of the most unique state nature preserves in Ohio...It's as natural as you can get in Ohio."

The land previously belonged to the Vodrey family who began to acquire it in the 1920's. The stat began to purchase the preserve in 1986. Jackman Vodrey explained that the name came from a sheep farm which operated at the head of the stream. In the past the area has both been logged and mined for coal.

Now it is an area where such unusual plants (to Ohio) as speckled wood-lily, pipsissewa, pink lady's slipper orchid, Bicknell's panicgrass, and Canada fly-honeysuckle are found. The preserve is a haven for birds, labeled as "Important" by the Ohio Audubon Society.

And the North Country Trail traverses Sheepskin Hollow! The Great Trail Sandy Beaver Canal Chapter of the North Country Trail Association has been working hard to forge agreements to connect the trail through the preserve on to Little Beaver State Park to the west. At the present time, the trail actually dead-ends just beyond the overlook shown in the picture. A potential right-of-way has been identified, but thru-hikers need to be sure they do not stray onto private property.

The Division of Natural Areas and Preserves is sponsoring a guided hike with McCurdy on Sept. 26. The hike to the western tract will be at 10 a.m. Advance reservations are required. A maximum of 30 people can attend. Call 330-527-5118 for reservations.

Great Trail Sandy Beaver Canal Chapter of the NCTA

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