Last week, as I drove through Indiana's Parke County, I often found myself thinking that the trees were just about a week from peak color. Even more frequently I thought how nice it would be if the sky wasn't three quarters gray. I had similar thoughts about the trees in Brown County Ohio when I visited there four weeks ago. Realizing that this weekend promised dry and warm (for the end of October) weather, I first thought of heading back to Brown County. Then I stopped by Ohio's Scenic Byway website and spotted the Morgan County Scenic Byway south east of Columbus. That looked inviting plus the area wouldn't be quite so familiar. So, after a day at my Dad's, I headed east instead of south and spent the night in Lancaster - about twenty miles from the east end of the byway.

My motel was in the middle of a big chain restaurant cluster but I went to the internet and located a few independent candidates for dinner. The nearest worked just fine. The food was merely OK but, even though dinner was the stated goal, I think finding the Taverne at the Mill was a good bit of luck. What better place to stop on the Saturday before Halloween than a haunted bar with costume party planned? Real ghosts are reported to stop by the Taverne from time to time and today some normal living folks are dressed like the supposedly deceased. I didn't attempt to distinguish the two groups.

Only after reading through a local visitor's guide did I learn that I was again in a county with a large covered bridge population. It isn't entirely clear where Fairfield County ranks in the list of bridge collections but I think it is second in Ohio and third in the country. The printed guide claimed that it was second in the state with sixteen. The excellent Ohio Barns website, which covers a whole lot more than Ohio and a whole lot more than barns, lists 19 for Fairfield County and 24 for Ashtabula County. The ODOT site credits both counties with 16. Of course, everybody recognizes Indiana's Parke County, where I was last week, as number one in the nation with 39 covered bridges.

So, even though bridges were not the day's primary target and I've kind of loaded up on them lately, I had to visit a couple. The closest and easiest were Roley School House and George Hutchins bridges. Both have been moved from their original locations and neither is open to anything other than foot traffic. The Roley School House Bridge is currently just inside the county fairgrounds in Lancaster and the George Hutchins Bridge is in Alley Park a little south of town. The third picture is also in Alley Park showing the lodge at the edge of lake Loretta.

I saw a bright silver diner off to the left of US-33 and decided that it looked like a good place for breakfast. Then, when I pull up in front, I saw that it's not yet open. Probably won't be until next spring according to two fellows I talked to in the adjacent flea market. I strolled through the not quite open market area - lots of "frosted" glassware - and got a cup of coffee. I assume that the barn is the current official bicentennial barn for Hocking County but I'm not 100% sure. Ohio's official bicentennial website has been retired and this is not the barn pictured at Ohio Barns. That site reports that the barn it shows has been torn down so I'm guessing that this one is a replacement.

OH-78 starts in Nelsonville and the Morgan County Scenic Byway starts about eighteen miles east at Burr Oak State Park. The first scenic byway sign is visible at the right side of the first picture. Between Nelsonville and Morgan County, OH-78 passes through the towns of Murray City and Glouster and crosses the Hocking-Athens county line no less than four times. The Ohio Byways site calls the section between the Burr Oak Park and the Wolf Creek Wildlife Area "Rim of the World". There are some great views but I don't think many will confuse it with the Rim of the World Highway in California.

The 1858 Morgan County Courthouse and 1890 Opera House form two sides of McConnelsville's town diamond. It's not quite the same as a town square since the surrounding buildings are set at an angle to the intersecting streets so that the streets enter and exit the square/diamond at the corners.

This scenic overlook is at Miners Memorial Park. The thing that catches everyone's attention at the park is the 220-cubic-yard bucket from the Big Muskie. The Big Muskie worked in nearby coal mining operations from 1969 until 1991 and, during that time, moved over twice the amount of earth moved for the Panama Canal.

After a short stretch on OH-83, the byway follows OH-284 to the county line. Just a half dozen miles into Muskingum, OH-284 goes by The Wilds. Of course, it was strip mining that the Big Muskie carried on and it made some mighty big scars. In 1986 over 9,000 acres of that land were donated to the International Center for the Preservation of Wild Animals and North America's largest open-range preserve was born. Timing and weather were just right for taking the open air tour although not too many others seemed to think so. Guide Jaime had only me and a family of four to deal with and we got a great tour. Some species (e.g., giraffes) were already inside for the winter but we got to see many others up close and personal. Note Jaime's special Halloween Eve head gear. With few exceptions, all species at The Wilds are endangered and both the land and many threatened animals are being benefited.

[Site Home] [Contact]