by Aimee Delach
After a chilly start to the month of May, the sun and warm temperatures were welcome as 15 riders gathered in the Nelsonville Library parking lot to embark on “A Ride Through Time.” The ride, with several stops narrated by local historian Ingrid Buckley, covered 17.5 miles of paved and gravel roads in Athens and Hocking County, and was organized by Rural Action.
The group headed west out of Nelsonville, paralleling the Hocking River on Haydenville Road, which has a comfortable shoulder that becomes a designated bike lane at the Hocking County line. The first stop, 3.3 miles along, was Lock 19, the best preserved of the locks along the Hocking Canal, which transported coal, salt, timber and wool to Columbus, from the 1840s until it was rendered obsolete by the railroad in the 1870s. Buckley, an Athens native who recently completed a degree in history from College of Wooster, provided an overview of the early history of the region, including Indigenous people and early European settlers, and discussed the role of the canal in the 19th century economy of the region.
Back on the bikes, we continued west, making a stop at Wolfe Cemetery, a peaceful and scenic spot — and also the steepest, but mercifully short, gravel climb of the ride. We then proceeded into Historic Haydenville, an archetypal company town founded by Peter Hayden. Buckley pointed out how the architecture of the town exemplified the products of Hayden’s brick works, from the “Round House” illustrating their potential use for construction of silos, to the company houses, to the Methodist Church, whose facade incorporates all the types of brick made by the company.
From Haydenville, we embarked on the longest stretch of the ride, 5.5 miles of paved and gravel roads. There was one substantial hill on this section, but this is a no-drop ride, and we all regrouped at the top, before the descent to the stop at the Ora E. Anderson Trailhead. The trail, which is located in the Wayne National Forest and follows an old railbed along a wetland and into pine forest, is popular with birdwatchers. Buckley discussed the history of the Wayne National Forest and Anderson’s role in local land preservation. This stop was also important in that it featured SNACKS — ride leaders had parked a vehicle here with ample water and locally produced treats from Shagbark Mill and Crumbs Bakery.
Our next leg was a short trip into Carbon Hill, where Buckley discussed the coal mining towns known as the “Little Cities of Black Diamonds” and the importance of the progenitors of the American Labor movement, particularly the Knights of Labor, which was very active in this region. From Carbon Hill, it was 3.2 paved miles — and one long but gradual hill and a nice descent — back into Nelsonville to our start point.
Sad you missed A Ride Through Time? No worries, the organizers are doing it again on June 12! They are also doing an overnight ride from Nelsonville to Lake Hope on July 10-11. For more information and to register visit: https://ruralaction.org/events/a-ride-through-time-guided-bicycle-tour-2/