Friday, August 01, 2014

Hidden treasure in the hollows

Early morning sentinel on the lake
Living in Florida, I grew accustomed to seeing little lakes around every turn in the road, but with a few exceptions, Ohio lakes hide in deep hollows behind thick curtains of trees.  For years we drove up and down I-77 without any awareness of the gorgeous lakes hiding just beyond the trees--Wolf Run and Seneca and Salt Fork and more. Today we went further afield to find a gem of a lake I'm reluctant to name because I wouldn't want it to be overrun with tourists.

We left the Interstate to follow country roads that probably weren't designed to withstand the heavy truck traffic produced by hydraulic fracturing; we drove past Amish farmsteads and over hills and through little towns named Cadiz and Smyrna and Freeport, past Fish Hook Lane and Nibble Lane and a road named Tippecanoe (which we didn't), finally bumping our way down a road more pothole than pavement that led to lovely Clendening Lake

Green heron--hard to spot, harder to photograph.
Reputed to be "Ohio's largest undeveloped lake," Clendening is tucked amidst hills with no signs of human habitation except a marina and an occasional glimpse of a country road that crosses a neck of the lake over a bridge just high enough to allow a canoe underneath. On the way back we saw two Amish women and a boy fishing in the cool shade under the bridge and we saw their carriage parked near the road--but where was the horse? "Maybe they cut it up for bait," said the resident comedian.

Early this morning mist hung over the glassy lake, but later it lifted and we paddled in bright sun. A few fishing boats puttered around the edges, but in the shallow coves we heard no sound but the birds--and what birds! We watched three or four kingfishers swooping to grab fish from the water, and later we saw at least a half dozen green herons and many great blues. At the upper end of the lake we paddled through a maze of tall reeds to find Brushy Fork, a quiet creek that feeds the lake and leads through woods so still the only sound was the splash of the paddle. 

We wanted to explore more--that skinny cove beyond the bridge, the deeper end of the lake toward the dam--but the heat and humidity ramped up so we pulled out after nearly four hours, having explored less than half of the length of the lake. More for next time! I want to go back in the fall to see those hills awash with color, and next time we'll take fishing gear and see if we can bring home some of the big bass we saw jumping in every direction.

Funny, but in all the years I've lived in Ohio, I've never heard anyone mention Clendening Lake or seen it mentioned in the travel section. Perhaps there's a conspiracy afoot to keep its treasures secret so it won't get trashed. If so, the secret's safe with me. Shhh! Don't tell a soul!

Paddling up Brushy Fork

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