Hiking In The Winter At Mohican State Park, Ohio and Enjoying This Incredible Ice Column

I am reluctant to go hiking when the high temperature for the day is a single digit, so that’s really put a crimp in our hiking plans for this winter. However we took advantage of a warm spell last week to book a couple nights at the lodge at Mohican State Park. Once there we did one of our favorite hikes that took us by Little Lyons Falls and Big Lyons Falls on the west side of Clear Fork with the return route following along the creek on the opposite side. As a reward for finally getting outside this winter, we got to see the beautiful ice column below.

The trace is actually from a different occasion when we did this hike. We typically start and end at the covered bridge and follow the loop in a clockwise manner which is reflected in this trace. However since there had been a freezing rain the night before last week’s hike, and since there are no guard rails on the road leading to the bridge, we thought it might be better to start the hike near dam for Pleasant Hill Lake and follow the loop in the counter-clockwise direction. Unfortunately this means that there is a long climb up the side of the earthen dam at the end of the hike. The hike itself is just shy of three miles in length.

Because of the freezing rain, ice was something of an issue. Strapping Yaktrax Pro to your hiking boots increases your traction because the spring-like metal bands on the bottom dig into the ice.

The other piece of gear that I like using during the fall, winter, and spring is a drawstring backpack. I use it to assist me in adding and removing layers of clothing. During cold weather, I typically select my clothing so that I’m a little chilly when I begin the hike with the thought that I’ll warm up after I get moving. Particularly in southern Ohio where there are some substantial hills, I have often had the experience of being bundled up at the base of a hill, and then as I climb up to the ridgeline I find myself getting warmer and warmer. Having a drawstring backpack gives you some place to offload coats and jackets as you warm up from the exertion. This keeps you from getting sweaty, then chilled. An advantage to a drawstring backpack over a regular daypack is that it weighs practically nothing.

There is the option of just tying the sleeves of a jacket around your waist, but there are some disadvantages to this approach. If you are hiking on a trail that is so narrow that your jacket is brushing up against the surrounding vegetation, you are increasing opportunities for ticks to get on you. Ticks basically cling onto vegetation with their hind legs while reaching out with their front legs. They use their front legs to grip on to whatever brushes up against them. And unfortunately the species of tick that carries Lyme disease is active during the winter. Depending on the time of year that you are hiking, other disadvantages of hiking with a jacket tied to your waist on a narrow trail is that it can collect burrs, get snagged by briers, or even brush up against poison ivy.

Pleasant Hill Lake

For this hike, we started near the dam for Pleasant Hill Lake. Since we are normally here during warmer weather, it was fun seeing that a number of ice fisherman were out on the lake. Note the big drill laying to the side of the fisherman’s gear.

Before heading out we looked at the valley beyond the dam. On the way back we’ll be climbing up the dam. I had thought the stairs might be icy, but they were fine.

I’ve been doing some walking on an indoor track during this bitterly cold winter to maintain some level of fitness, but I can’t say how boring that is compared to hiking outside. It was great to be out. Before we knew it, we were approaching Little Lyons Falls. People used to have to walk across the stream bed above the falls to continue on the trail. However, friends of the park have been very industrious making bridges and boardwalks, so the trail is safer and more pleasant.

Little Lyons Falls

Little Lyons Falls is a small waterfall formed where a stream pours over a rim into a small, box canyon. While staying on the trail, you can only see the top of the falls. An as noted in the previous photo, you are warned against trying to get a better look by straying off the trail.

It’s hard to get an idea of how deep the little box canyon is, especially since logs and other debris have rolled into it and been covered by snow and ice. So here’s a look at it from the other side.

Big Lyons Falls

Next up was Big Lyons Falls. I have only been to this area once before during winter, and at that time the lake was not frozen over and water was running freely over Big Lyons Falls. So it was a real treat seeing that an ice column had formed from the falls.

The ice cone on the ground was interesting to look at. It reminded be of a pine cone. The outer surface was covered with small, upward pointing ice “scales”. The outer edge of the scales were white, but toward the interior, the ice was colored blue.

And on the way out, here’s a photo of me standing by the ice column to give a sense of its size.

The trail leading away from Big Lyons Falls heads towards the creek known as Clear Fork.

Clear Fork

As we depart Clear Fork, the trail takes us up and away from the creek.

One of the many improvements that friends of the park have installed are boardwalks in areas that are frequently muddy and prone to erode due to small springs on the hillside above the trail.

The trail ends at Park Road near the covered bridge. We typically park here, but we were unsure as to what the road conditions might be like. However, as you can see, quite a few others parked here. It looks like the road has been salted and is a bit slushy.

While we were on the bridge we noticed another hardy soul in his waders fishing in Clear Fork.

Flood Plain

We proceeded back on the other side of the creek. The trail there is really flat and near the creek bank. During warmer weather I have seen blue heron wading through the water here.

After getting back to the dam, we jumped in our car and headed toward the Clear Fork Gorge Overlook.

After a cloudy morning we were delighted to see the sun come out in time for our visit to the overlook. There is an overlook platform on both ends of the parking area. The gorge was formed by glacial melt water roaring through this valley some 14,000 to 24,000 years ago. The end result of all that erosion was a gorge that is a thousand feet wide and 300 feet deep.

This overlook actually has two levels. There are stairs leading down to a lower level, but they looked really icy so we stayed on top.

After this we walked over to the eastern overlook area.

I was pleased that we were able to see Clear Fork at the base of the gorge. When we have taken in the view during warmer weather, there has been too much foliage to be able to make it out.

Dining at the Lodge

After spending much of the day outside, it was nice to have a warm meal at the lodge. The restaurant in the lodge is known as Bromfield’s Dining Room. During dinner the staff had a fire going in the fireplace. We briefly considered sitting near it, but after realizing how much heat it was giving off, we decided to move a bit farther away.

Bromfield’s Dining Room overlooks the Pleasant Hill Lake which was frozen over (hence the ice fishing).

We have often dined at the nearby Malabar Farm Restaurant, but during January it is only open on weekends so that didn’t work out for us. However, I enjoyed our meals at Bromfield’s Dining Room. If you decide to dine there, just be aware that they open several hours for a meal, close, then open several hours for the next meal, etc.