Siegenthaler – Kaestner Esker SNP is located near West Liberty, Ohio, at 5505 Couchman Road and consists of 37-acres which contains an esker, kame and kettle which are glacial landforms which I had never heard of or learned in school and completely forgot.
Some definitions as per the ODNR site:
Esker – long, winding ridge of stratified sand and gravel deposited in layers according to grain size by running water with steep sides and a sinuous shape. Or to me, a long narrow hill.
Kame – Knolls formed by piles of gravel that were dropped into pits and crevices in the glacier when meltwater streams flowing on top of the ice. Or as I would call them, small hills. Often associated with kettles.
Kettle – A pond formed when a block of ice remained and surrounded by till. When the ice melted, a depression was left and filled with ground water. Or to me, simply a pond.
Black sandy, silty soil at base of esker
In other words, geology buffs will love this glacial area or simply nature lovers who like a gentle stroll in a quiet area. We literally drove right by this preserve and had to turn around and go back. The parking area is a grassy area which you can easily miss for a field. You park in the grassy area, driving through a narrow former gate area between two fence posts, where there is a sign and kiosk for the preserve. Like most preserves, there are no facilities. Remember to bring water, bug spray, sunscreen and pack out any trash. Don’t remove any natural materials. Pretty much the same instructions for most nature preserves. Oh and no pets.
The trail is like a lollipop and approximately 1 mile long depending on if you decide to also traverse the summit of eskers as well. The initial part of the trail is much like walking along a narrow, grassy country road with fence on both sides. One side during our hike was a crop field (soybeans) and the other side appeared to be a livestock field, probably cattle. There are mature trees on one side and then you slip into a more wooded area, make a sharp right turn and down a hill to where the trail tees at the first esker. You can go either left or right, the trail will loop around to itself. The day we visited, the trail had been recently mowed but be cautious of the poison ivy if you go during the late spring to fall months. I am beginning to think the state plant should be poison ivy.
Start of trail from parking area
We turned right initially, choosing to walk in the more open sunny area first followed by what seemed would be more shady. The day was hot but not unbearable as there was a nice breeze most of the time. One we rounded the first bend in the loop, we took the trail that went up to the summit of the first esker or hill to me. You can see larger rocks where they have mowed a trail among the grass meaning that the heavy rock was deposited on top. Again, be cautious of the poison ivy. The hills are narrow and long and there are two of them with old trees, such as oaks growing there as well as many wild raspberry bushes. When we went down the first esker, and came around to the trail going up the second one, we decided it looked too overgrown with poison ivy to chance walking the top so we chose the lower trail that went between the base of the hill and the fence.
Mowed trail taverses top of esker
As we walked, we noticed the dirt that was exposed was black and sandy different from the brown dirt we saw on the other portion of the trail. Curious, we bent down to touch it and it was soft and silty which means the finer till was deposited on the bottom of the esker. Admist the thick growth we saw wild delphinium, a white phlox and a red bell type flower growing on a vine. When we rounded the far side of the furthest esker, the trail became more overgrown with thistles and a grass (and poison ivy) so we had to be careful to step around the plants otherwise the thistles would have scratched us. You return to the start of the loop and turn back right to return to the parking area.
Vining flower, unidentified
Due to the overgrowth of poison ivy, this may be better an early spring, late fall or winter hike or if you are brave like us, you just go and dance around the poison ivy. This is a pretty area, open and peaceful. If you have an interest in glaciers and/or geology, this is also a good place to visit. It could be an easy stroll with kids though again, poison ivy might be a concern, maybe older children. The trail is about half shad and half sun so if it’s extremely hot, you may want an earlier morning hike or later evening. Open dawn to dusk.