Vacation in Holmes County

Holmes County and Tuscarawas Counties

A week ago I was on vacation, and my wife and I went to one of our favorite places, Holmes County, Ohio. The purpose of the trip was to research a site for my next book – TRILLIUM TANGLE, THE PLEXUS PRINCIPLE. But it was a welcome retreat from the day to day grind and an enjoyable look at a slower time from the “olden days.”

East of Holmes County is Tuscarawas County. Sugarcreek is a small town just across the county line, in Tuscarawas County. It is an Amish community like much of much of eastern Holmes County. But Tuscarawas County has a history of coal mining. And coal mining history is very interesting.

As you drive the highways and back roads of Tuscarawas County, you see rolling hills with hay fields and pasture land. Behind those hills are large “hilly” forested areas. From the road, those hills look like part of the terrain. And they once were. But they’ve been mined – contour mined. Generations ago, the mining companies dug into those hill, taking the coal, and leaving huge “hills” of “coal spoil.” Now with trees growing on those spoils, those spoils look like part of the terrain. But look at the area from a satellite image, and you can see the ridges of coal spoils. It looks like ridges of mountains on a map.

I had the opportunity to hike back into some “unreclaimed” mine land. The Norma Johnson Center is a conservation center east of Sugarcreek. It has large areas that have reclaimed mine land, and some areas that are “unreclaimed.” The trails back into the coal spoils give a close-up look into what the land is like now. Steep hills, acid lakes, thick tangles of undergrowth, and many trees that have been growing for 40 – 50 years. Quite a jungle.

The director of The Johnson Center, Marsha Zoller, was kind enough to to answer my questions and give me some history of the area. I even discovered she had grown up in my home town and I knew her mother. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ director for abandoned mine land, Tyson Lamielle, met with us and gave us a history lesson on the mining in Tuscarawas County. Wow. What a rich history. So much more to learn.

I came away with the realization of how little I knew of Ohio history. But I did find the perfect setting for my next book, a large area of coal spoils with few roads into the area, and right on the edge of Amish country. It will be the perfect place for the antagonist to have a seclusive health clinic where unusual things are happening that affect world peace.

So, where are your favorite vacation locations? What kinds of activities draw you there?