Working off greasy track food
Overview: Mt. Gilead State Park is a small park, maybe one square mile, about one mile east of the small town of Mt. Gilead, which is in turn about 35 miles north of Columbus. There's no real reason to go to Mt. Gilead, unless you are from the area, other than you are going to the races at Mid-Ohio, and you find the chain hotels closer to the track are full.
Mt. Gilead State Park's main attractions are car camping, fishing and hiking. The bifurcated lake in the middle the park is formed by two dams on Sams Creek, where it intersects with Whetstone Creek. There are about nine miles of trails in the park. There were signs at some, but not all, of the trail intersections. The trails on the official park map (see More Info, below) are more suggestions than reality, so it may often be hard to tell where exactly you are. But still -- it's a square mile. You can't get lost.
Hike: This hike starts at the lower, lake-side parking area. From there. head south into the woods up a 75 foot climb to the access road you just drove down. Walk east on the access road to the main park complex, turning north, then east, into the car camping area. At the end of the car camping area, at .4 miles, you will see two toilet buildings. Between them is the start of the hike.
Starting on Sams Creek Loop, you will drop 50 feet into a ravine, cross a wooden bridge over Sams Creek, turn north, climb out of the ravine, and at .8 miles cross another wooden bridge. The trail will bend west, paralleling a farmer's field for a few hundred yards, before turning south along Fern Ridge Trail. At 1.3 miles, you will drop about 70 feet down a hillside to the Lakeside Trail, which will deposit you at the north end of the east dam at 1.5 miles. You are about half way.
Take a look around, then head back up the hillside, turning north on the Piney Woods Loop. At the north end of the Piney Woods Loop, there are two opportunities to get misdirected. The first will turn back east, returning to Fern Ridge Loop at the field; the second will continue north along the Whetstone Trail, which gets really close to US 42. (Though no matter where you are in the park, you can still hear traffic noise -- even at 6:30 a.m.) Instead continue west.
At 2.0 miles you will reach The Meadow, which is not so much a meadow as it is a slight clearing in the otherwise dense woods. After crossing The Meadow, turn south on the Whetstone Trail, following it to a third wooden bridge, at the base of the west dam, at 2.5 miles. Check out the dam, then cross the bridge to a small grassy area. Beware the numerous "land mines" left by geese. Turn east, following the shoreline, or the access road, back to the south end of the east dam, where your car is located. You have gone about 3.0 miles.
Being that the park is in an area that gets rain more than one day a year, if there has been any recent moisture, the trail will vary from muddy to boggy, so it would be a good idea to bring a second pair of shoes to change into so you don't get your car any messier than it probably already is. ;-)
Camping: Both car and tent camping in designated areas near the park complex. Not sure on fees, but it might be cheaper than a hotel near Mid-Ohio. Beware that if you stay there, there will be traffic noise all night long from Highway 65.
More Info: http://parks.ohiodnr.gov/mountgilead . Note that the scale on the official map is off by half. Where it shows the park as being about a half mile from east to west, it is more like a mile. Thus what I originally planned to be a three mile hike, would have ended up being closer to six, had I not cut my hike short.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.