Sep 17, 2010
For those who came for a poem, I must offer again Richard Wilbur's magnificent "Still, Citizen Sparrow." I cannot think of Salt Fork without remembering the abundance of
turkey vultures hovering over the lake there, and I cannot think of turkey vultures without amazement at their contradictions: their beauty in the sky, their creepy hideous heads once they light and dig in on carrion, and, as Wilbur illustrates, the benefit of their role as scavengers. If we don't share Wilbur's glorification of the buzzard, we must admit their functionality as cleaners of the wild. Perhaps like crows, they are one of our most misunderstood creatures.
Now, about Salt Fork . . . . Anyone taking yesterday’s post seriously might wonder about lodging in the area. The lodge at Salt Fork State Park is the first place I think of. Each of Ohio’s seven state parks consists of thousands of acres of woods, trails, a lake for boating and fishing, a golf course (sorry about that), cabins and tent sites, and a lodge with restaurant, pool, and the usual package of amenities.
For outdoor, hilly beauty, Salt Fork has been my favorite for a long time. However, I must caution that the beds are like elderly trampolines, and the springs jut through the mattress cover. The chairs are uncomfortable, straight-backed affairs. So if you’re prone to back problems or if you have trouble sleeping, you really, really might want to look elsewhere.
Also, Xanterra, which operates the Ohio state park lodges, finds it OK to charge $10/day for use of the internet—an insult as well as an inconvenience. I know these are hard times economically, but I question how much (important) revenue Xanterra is realizing from this bush-league policy. I suppose most people don’t go to these parks with Wired on their minds, but I do, and I’m annoyed, so get out of my way.
Fortunately, there is good news at Salt Fork too. Three years ago, the lodge was refurbished, and indeed, the rooms and halls feel brighter and cleaner than my last visit in 2003. The restaurant’s food is good at breakfast and not bad at lunch and dinner. The food service has improved over the last seven years, and the prices have held steady (entrees probably average around $16, sandwiches around $9).
About half the rooms face inward, toward the pool and restaurant, which some folks might like. I prefer the other half, the rooms looking out at the surrounding hills, trees, greenery, and wildlife. Deer visit regularly at dawn and dusk. This year, I saw my first Salt Fork coyote creeping around at about 10:00 a.m., looking for garbage. Turkey vultures are constantly soaring.
Do the plusses outweight the minuses? I doubt I’ll return unless I’m assured that the furnishings have been upgraded. I’ve had much better room and restaurant experiences at other Ohio State Park lodges: Deer Creek, SW of Columbus; Mohican in the hills around Mansfield, Loudonville and Amish country; and Maumee Bay, on Lake Erie, near Toledo—it’s pleasant and quiet, but pancake-flat, and not at all an illusion of wilderness, except for nearby Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and that birder-paradise, Magee Marsh.
Salt Fork ties Mohican for a sense of the wild (the nearest town of any size, is Cambridge, about 11,000 people, 15 winding, country miles away, and by the way, boyhood home of cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy). Indoors, the common areas in the lodge are quiet, light and airy, so the heavy, dark beams and north woods décor seem appropriate, not oppressive.
The price? It varies a lot according to season and day of the week, so I’ll just say my Sunday-Monday price tag in early September was $104. The other lodges always seem to have better prices, so you’ll have to be—dare I say it?—the, the . . . Decider.