Excursion 38, Part 2 (Unease among the Truffula Trees)

This is the continuation of my recounting of my 38th excursion across Ohio in September 2014.  The first half of my trip consisted primarily of an exploration of the southern Ohio town of Chillicothe.  After I had my fill of the Chill, I headed southeast out of town into the rural Appalachian woods of Ohio, always a treat for me.

[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image.  Also, the EXIF data for each image contains GPS coordinates that you can use to locate the exact place where the photograph was taken.]

Thus while the previous blog entry was dominated by small town scenery, this blog is very rural in nature.

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I wasn’t very far outside of Chillicothe before I encountered something quite striking—though not necessarily in a good way.  I came across the side of a hill that had been totally clearcut.  All the trees, all the brush, had been removed from the entire hillside, almost like a giant mower had swept up and down the slopes.  Only a few spindly stalks somehow escaped the green reaper.  In my previous excursions, there were one or two times when I saw what might have been clearcutting, and I had seen areas of woods that were obviously still recovering from a past clearcutting, but this was the first time I had come across such a recent and obvious episode of clearcutting and it did not make me happy.

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There are a number of ways to get timber off the land.  Clearcutting is one of the easiest, because you simply level everything.  However, it is also the most environmentally damaging.  Obviously, it destroys a lot of habitat for animals, but it also leads to a great deal of erosion (exacerbated by cutting of logging roads as well).  Without the trees protecting the soil, heavy rains can just wash a lot of topsoil right away, sometimes causing mudslides and in any case doing more ecological damage.  No method of timber extraction is without consequences, but of the various methods, clearcutting is certainly the most destructive, not to mention the ugliest.

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It turns out that Google maps recently updated some of its satellite photos of this area to 2015, so I was actually able to look at some of the clearcutting done in this section of Ohio.  The above satellite photo is of another clearcut area just a bit down the road from the previous photographs.  You can see how much of an entire clear was swept clean of trees, with all the logging roads quite visible from the air.

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Here’s another example of clearcutting in the region, another hill stripped of all its trees.  Clearcutting is not usually done in huge areas, at least not in Ohio, but rather in smaller patches, so one might find a clearcut area surrounded by forest.  Vegetation then slowly grows back in while other areas are clearcut.  This is a poor area of Ohio, so logging represents one of the few ways to make money out of hilly countryside that won’t support agriculture, but it would be better if the logging were done by tree selection and harvesting rather than by simply cutting everything down.

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I believe that this clearcut hill in the background is the one shown in the satellite image earlier.

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Clearcutting can take a really attractive forest and just make it look ugly as hell.  Ugh, that’s enough of clearcutting.  Let’s look at some nicer scenery.

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Ohio has a wonderful variety of barn styles and, though it is certainly possible to see the same barn twice, or more than twice, it is also true that you will keep coming across barns the likes of which you have never before seen.

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This scene, one of my favorite photographs from this excursion, really suggests the quiet beauty of rural Appalachian Ohio.  Sure, there is no Grand Canyon here, no Hoover Dam, no Niagara Falls.  It is woods and hills and pastureland and a barn.  Serene, peaceful, beautiful.  Although I did apparently lie in my previous paragraph—it looks like the ridge in the background of this photo is still recovering from a past clearcutting.

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This black-and-white photograph is of the barn in the previous photo, shot further down the road, from a different angle.  In black and white, and from this perspective, it somehow seems very different, at least to me.

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During my meandering, I wandered through the town of Jackson (population 6,397, salute!), county seat of Jackson County.  Jackson has an odd claim to fame in that it has an unusually high percentage of Welsh-Americans, many of whom probably originally came over for coal mining (in the 1890s, this was the highest-producing coal county in the state).  In Jackson’s earliest years, salt manufacture was the driving industry.

On the outskirts of town, I came across a huge brick facility, which turned out to be the DT&I Car Shops.  In the 1800s, Jackson came to be an important railroad town.  One railroad that eventually passed through Jackson was the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad Company, which in 1904 constructed this facility to build and service railroad cars, at an eventual cost of some $150,000.  It employed as many as 400 men at its peak.  In 1980, the DT&I was acquired by the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, which resulted in the closing of these shops a few years later (as well as the whole railroad line).

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The history of this railroad company is extremely tortuous, as it had gone through innumerable changes of ownership before it became the DT&I and quite a few after, as well (including Henry Ford, for a time).  It never seems to have been in great health, financially, and it seems that the decline of the coal industry eliminated a lot of the demand for freight and the rise of highways eliminated passenger traffic.

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This is a very interesting nearby building, currently the site of “Tim’s Woodshop.”  I suspect it might have originally been linked to the DT&I in some way, because DT&I shut down in 1984 and Tim Crabtree took up his business here in 1986.  But I don’t know that for a fact.  Notice the old advertising:  Smoke King Edward Cigars.

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Jackson County has a fair Amish population, so you can occasionally see roadside stands selling Amish produce.  These pumpkins look a little the worse for wear, though.  I’d want a discount for that one on the far left.

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Here’s a little abandoned shack in southern Ohio.  Feeling playful, I made the atmosphere a bit more ominous than it actually was.

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At this point, I was only about eight miles or so from the Ohio River, the river into which this little stream would eventually find its way.

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The woods thinned out a bit and I got a bit of countryside not very typical for much of southern Ohio, relatively flat and full farmland, not trees.

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In black and white, the same scene looks a bit more early 20th century.  You could almost imagine this as somewhere in north Texas, with Bonnie and Clyde about to appear zooming down the road, chased by angry police.  Maybe I have an overactive imagination.

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One of the interesting thing (to me) that you sometimes see with Ohio farmland are alternating strips of farmland, switching back and forth from one crop to another—typically corn and hay or corn and soybeans.  This creates interesting patterns of color and texture.

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Here a path winds its way through the various fields.

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Far southern Ohio has a climate that is somewhat suitable for tobacco cultivation, so you’ll sometimes see tobacco plants in the field or, as here, drying in a shed.  I have only seen small fields, never large tobacco fields, so this is probably a sideline for farmers in the area rather than a crop they depend on.

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South of Rio Grande, west of Gallipolis, basically in the middle of nowhere, I came across what I considered one of the real “finds” of my excursion—an ancient gas station, still standing, with an old tractor added as a bonus.  I was tickled pink at this and would just love a Hot Tub Time Machine to go back and see what this was like in the 1920s or whenever it was at its heyday, maybe get myself a nice, cold RC Cola (notice the sign) and talk to Old Man Hill.

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I take these to be tobacco leaves drying in the field.  When I zoom in close, it seems that they are hanging from stakes implanted into the ground.

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Running across this colorful little farm vehicle was an unexpected treat.

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Nothing really earth-shattering here, but an undeniably nice pastoral scene, with the old barn against the backdrop of the trees just starting to think about possibly turning their colors.

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I’ll end this excursion with a late day photo of this large barn a few miles north of the Ohio River on SR143.  Good night, G. W. Davidson—until we meet again.

3 thoughts on “Excursion 38, Part 2 (Unease among the Truffula Trees)

  1. Another wonderful post, Mark. I discovered this blog from your blog postings over at the forum at Consimworld. Being a railfan, I particularly enjoyed the shots of the DT&I shops as well as the shots from your earlier excursion in Minerva.

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