I remember my first visit to Williamsport Chapel in Lisbon, Ohio, vividly. It was the summer my husband and I got engaged.
His grandfather opened the chapel for a non-denominational service the first weekend in July every summer. Side-by-side front entrance doors were the gateway to a trip back in time. The boxed pews and the simplicity of the chapel made me feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder could be sitting right next to me.
Following the service, my husband’s extended family traveled together to the nearby picnic area in Beaver Creek State Park. They prepared brunch on camp stoves along Little Beaver Creek. The younger cousins weaved in and out of the tall pines that fill the center loop in the park.
The aroma of sausage, eggs and potatoes kept them close by in anticipation of the meal. It took longer to prepare the meal than it did to consume the meal.
First of many
The babbling creek was the perfect backdrop for throwing a frisbee or as grandpa would say, “chewing the fat” with relatives after the meal. I didn’t know it at the time, but that first trip was the beginning of many outings to Beaver Creek State Park.
In the years that followed, we have had more Sunday brunches along with Easter morning hikes and Mother’s Day picnics. Some of our very first bike trips as a family were riding loops around the park. With four kids going on field trips to Beaver Creek Wildlife Educational Center, we have the layout memorized and everyone has their favorite display.
Eventually, we exchanged the camp stoves for the fundraising pancake breakfasts under the barn to benefit Pioneer Village. Gaston’s Mill is the largest attraction in Pioneer Village. It was built in 1837 and then later restored allowing visitors to witness firsthand the grinding of whole wheat flour, cornmeal and buckwheat flour.
Other buildings in the village include a church, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, general store and covered bridge. The buildings represent another time, a time when canals were a booming mode of transportation and the locks along the Sandy and Beaver Canal were a bustle of activity.
Our latest trip to the park didn’t involve a big breakfast or historical displays. We went to make the most of our predictably unpredictable Ohio weather. Exactly 10 days after our first snowfall, the high temp was slated to reach 78 degrees in November! I was determined to be outside knowing it may be the last warm day before winter.
The first thing we noticed when we arrived was how the air smelled, and it wasn’t the scent of bacon and eggs. The overwhelming scent of pine filled the air; it was heavenly! Along the path, yellow leaves were still clinging to the osage orange trees that line the creek.
Impulsively, I picked up one of the yellow-green spherical fruit balls off the ground. I tossed it up and down a few times before realizing my fingers were getting sticky. The stickiness was a result of latex oozing its way out of a cut. The wood of osage orange trees was used by Native Americans, the first inhabitants of the area, to make strong and flexible bows.
We followed along the path to the main focal point of the park, Echo Dell Road Bridge. With blue skies above it and the rushing creek below it, the silver bridge beckoned us toward the most popular trails. We chose the Lower Vondergreen Trail that runs parallel to the creek.
Climbing over trees and roots, we admired the view of the rushing water and sandstone rocks in the creekbed. The trail also showcases remains of the locks along the Sandy and Beaver Canal, allowing hikers to stand within the structures used to make early transportation possible.
Another perk of hiking in November was the lack of Canada geese. It was the first time in the park without seeing a gaggle of geese around the small lake. We took our time walking around the lake and noticed the construction work around the newly located log house, donated to the village by Cindy DePillo. The log house demonstrates the effort made by the Friends of Beaver Creek State Park to continue the legacy of Pioneer Village.
Thanks to the association, my children and future generations can witness the ingenuity of pioneers while admiring nature at Beaver Creek State Park.
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