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#LovetheWayne? Join the OEC on a virtual hike through Ohio’s only national forest

Hannah Tyler, February 13, 2017

Click on the map below to navigate through a virtual tour of our Wayne National Forest hike. Share your photos and stories by clicking  and adding a marker to the map!

Wayne National Forest

Recently, I had a chance to visit the Wayne National Forest and see, firsthand, the place I’ve been working to protect. Today, I’d like to bring you along on a virtual walk through this special forest.

Although I was joined by several colleagues and locals who have experienced the beauty of the Wayne many times in their lives, it was a first for me.

The Wayne feels a little wild – in the best kind of way. As an avid hiker and lifelong lover of forests, I was thrilled to be able to enjoy this kind of place in my home state of Ohio. You don’t have to drive to Tennessee or West Virginia to get away from it all. Ohio has its own wild places, at least for now.

Ring Mill Campground

Our hike through the Wayne began at Ring Mill Campground in the Marietta Unit.

I spent some time trodding through the muddy shoreline on this stunning creek that many people in the area enjoy for kayaking, swimming, and fishing.

This place is quiet and serene. It’s the perfect spot for a family picnic and time away from the busy pace of everyday life. I brought my camera with me and there was great material everywhere I looked. I asked a colleague to stop on the side of the road so I could capture these misty hills.

My favorite leg of the hike included stops at two unique natural rock formations: the Great Cave and Irish Run Natural Bridge.

The Great Cave

I asked people on Facebook to describe this place in a word. Some of my favorites were: sanctuary, peace, hideaway, tranquil, escape. Maybe it’s impossible to capture the Great Cave in just one word.

Irish Run Natural Bridge

Irish Run Natural Bridge is a unique rock formation that connects two sides of a steep valley. I’d recommend viewing from a distance if you’re afraid of heights. As a thrill seeker, I couldn’t help myself!

Some of my favorite parts of the trip were conversations with local people who regularly enjoy the Wayne and all it has to offer. Sadly, our talks repeatedly came back to the federal government’s plan to lease tens of thousands of acres of the Wayne National Forest to fracking companies.

In fact, the areas I hiked through are part of the Marietta Unit, where 719 acres were just auctioned off in December of 2016. An additional 1,200 will be auctioned in March of 2017. When all is said and done, the Bureau of Land Management plans to lease 40,000 acres, or about a third of the entire Wayne National Forest.

Ohio has such little forestland left and places like the Wayne are rare. We need to protect the Wayne National Forest and all that makes it special.

Have you been following the fight to protect the Wayne National Forest? Make sure you sign up to receive updates on how you can get involved in the fight to keep the Wayne beautiful and wild.