Athens County, tucked away in the rolling hills of Southeastern Ohio has a beauty that has never failed to astound me. I have trekked through the graveyards buried in the woods behind the Ridge, I have seen Athens to its entirety after conquering the muddy odyssey of Bong hill and Strouds Run is a weekly adventure for my friends and me. What I had never done though, was hop on the bike trail to Nelsonville.
The Hockhocking Adena Bikeway is a 21-mile path through the Ohio University Campus and then into tranquil woods that hug the Hocking River all the way to Nelsonville. “Hockhocking” was the native Shawnee name for the Hocking River. It translates to “twisted.” “Adena” remembers the Adena Indian tribe that inhabited southern Ohio over 2,000 years ago.
While the casual bike rider will jaunt a mile or two up and down the path I found the drive in myself to take it just a few miles shy of Nelsonville. As soon as the treads of my tires sunk into the deep asphalt of the bikeway a wave of excitement forced me to peddle faster. There is a nostalgic factor that attaches itself to riding a bike. I could feel the freedom I felt as a young child biking around my neighborhood by myself. That, I remember as my first taste of immunity. The constant white noise of wind skating over my ears was soothing as I drifted out of Athens and into the woods of the Wayne National Forest.
Passing over the less populated end of Richland Avenue the white mile markers painted on the asphalt led me into an area of Athens County that I never knew before. Playgrounds and baseball fields mark the first sign of the true Athens culture. As I went on to pass the Westville Community Gardens I couldn’t help but start salivating to the aroma of fresh greens and the sight of sweet corn ready to be shucked. I stopped to get a better look at the gardens. I made eye contact with a scarecrow elevated twenty feet over the crops. I was on my way.
As I peddled past farms speckled with old log cabins and the occasional pony, waves of shade from the overhanging trees hit me with relief. In the depths of the Wayne National Forest the smell of summer air swimming in the grass tangles with the aroma of tall pine trees.
I wasn’t the only one that decided to spend my Labor Day on the bikeway. When you pass others there is a subtle smile to hint at the excitement that someone is sharing the same feeling as you. There are people sitting on the banks of the Hocking, there are parents taking children on an afternoon ride and there are bikers exercising to the beat of their own thoughts.
The Hockhocking Adena Bikeway brings a sense of culture, purity, knowledge and fun. The feeling that traveling this path brings with it is both irreplaceable and contagious. In fact, next weekend I’m taking it all the way to Nelsonville.