There are a few plants on may spring nature BINGO card every year and this year I wanted to be sure to check off some of the early spring ephemerals. I have a week booked in the Adams county area, so I decided to head north to the other local hotspot. Unfortunately, the electric sites at John Bryan were already booked, but there was still some availability at Buck Creek State Park and I am always game to try a new park.
I was able to take a half day on Thursday, but as I packed the weather people gave increasingly concerning forecasts: storms with a slight chance of tornadoes and high wind warnings cautioning of gust up to 60 miles per hour. I did a quick Google Earth search of the campground and it didn’t look TOO forested. I decided to risk it. It is pretty disconcerting to encounter storm chasers right outside your campground.
Fortunately, there was only about 30 minutes of hard rain and though the winds were fierce, the only tree within striking distance held firm. In fact, despite hearing the cracking of several trees in the night, I saw no evidence of the storms the next day.
Backing up to the arrival at the campground, the approach is rather long. It is three whole miles from the entrance of the state park to the actual campsites. This can take a decent amount of time at the posted 25mph speed limit. I can imagine those arriving after dark for the first time might feel like it took forever. As I got to the campground loop, I realized I hadn’t check where and IF there may be water. At the end of March, this is still technically winter camping. I tried the dump station (before arriving at the campground) and a printed sign in the large potable water pavilion directed me to the spigot across site 10. That pump seemed turned off as well. I began to get a little panicky since my trailer was completely winterized I was hoping to shower at some point in the coming days. I was determined to try all the spigots and fortunately found water at the next one up.
The campground is moderate-sized, consisting mostly of one main loop and two small branches. There are 108 sites in total. Most are 30 Amp electric, but there are 22 primitive sites. Some are in a separate loop and a couple are walk in. Both would be great options for tenters looking to get away from large RVs. Sites are pretty well dispersed. They are mostly sunny, but back up to woods and many have a single, well-placed tree. There are not many options for hammockers. Many of the sites feature good views of the lake, at least before the trees leaf out. I was on site 39. This was an okay site. A large culvert drain leads to some sloping of what would be the eating and campfire area, so the fire-ring and picnic table were moved to behind the trailer. This put me within 25 feet of the neighbor’s fire-ring. Fortunately, that site is a host site so wasn’t booked this weekend.
I briefly explored the Lakeview Trail that leaves from the campground. It does live up to its name and there were lovely looks at the 2,120 acre Clarence J. Brown Reservoir. Despite the frigid early spring weather, the beach actually looked relatively inviting, covered with smooth stones and less trash than many park beaches. The trail provides access to several areas that would be nice for picnics, swimming or fishing in a relatively private manner. But the rest of the trail was rather unremarkable. It is a good way to burn off some energy.
For some truly unique hiking I highly suggest making the 10 minute drive to the Gallagher Fen State Nature Preserve. I actually didn’t see these trails on my normal hiking apps, but Detour, the ODNR trail app, brought it up. I knew the bogs and fens of this region might be a good chance to see some spring ephemerals I couldn’t see elsewhere. The trails were not particularly long. The Gallagher Springfield Fen Trail is .5 miles and leads to an old cemetery and the East (.3 mile) and West (.5 mile) loops for a total of less than 2 miles. The West Fen Loop is to the right and is definitely not to be missed I went counter-clockwise and descended a long staircase to the fen boardwalk. I enjoyed exploring the loamy soil and got to check off the skunk cabbage I had been hoping to encounter. On the ascent, one of the steps was missing, requiring a sizable step, but those not comfortable with that could always backtrack.
Buck Creek is also a reasonable alternative for camping while exploring John Bryan State Park, Glen Helen Nature Preserve, and Yellow Springs. This is one of my favorite areas in southwest Ohio, but the campground at John Bryan only has a handful of electric spots. I enjoyed the blooming hepatica, bloodroots, and other spring flowers. On the way back, I decided on takeout from a local Springfield place. I don’t normally think of ramen as a hearty, post-hike dinner, but Speakeasy Ramen added porkbelly, a soft boiled egg, and bone broth to the noodles and veggies. Coupled with Hibiscus Sour (love carryout mixed drinks), I elevated camp food way beyond hotdogs!