Sep 17, 2010

Ohio’s State Parks. Salt Fork State Park. Richard Wilbur.

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.



Anonymous said...

I feel that way about the pelican. I happen to love them waddling on the ground or sitting on a pier; I think their faces are friendly and wise. They like to tell jokes. But some folks find them homely -- until they see them fly, beautifully fly.

Barbaro said...

I witnessed in the Serengeti WHY vultures have those creepy bald heads and necks--so they can plunge their hungry beaks shoulder-deep onto a dead animal!

Their lesson seems to be that nothing gets big or grand independently or "honestly"--all big raptors, even the illustrious eagle, will resort to carrion (another animal's rightful quarry) at times.

Banjo52 said...

AH, I'm getting there on pelicans--stand-up comics, to be sure. And yes, that flight . . .

Barbaro, so it's like a human having a shaved head? The buzzards don't have to spend so much on shampoo?

I think I've heard that about eagles, hawks and the like. There's at least a touch of democracy in the pecking order as is?

Every once in awhile it occurs to me to wonder about the evolutionary purpose of this or that detail in an animal--like buzzard heads. And male birds that are loud or brightly-colored, attracting both females and predators, apparently.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

While your staying in relative splendor you'll find me pitching a tent and cooking turkey dogs (unrelated to vultures) on a stick.

the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs (a favorite song)

the prettiest birds can't fly a block (peacocks)

the ugliest birds can and do (with grace)

Banjo52 said...

PA, and speaking of ukuleles . . . in the song you've attached.

I got to where I was OK with turkey dogs (and baloney), but I've backslid and need the real thing lately--maybe twice a year, plus the ball park a couple of times. But that's my absolutely only vice . . .

PJ said...

I think you could start assigning ratings like, "I give it 5 Banjos," or "It's a bit of a ukulele, but there's 4 good ones here."

PS Yes, bald eagles are carrion eaters but not as good as turkey vultures whose bald heads help prevent them from picking up icky critters and disease. The sun bakes and sanitizes them. Also, if you get a spaghetti stain, wash your clothing and then hang it out in full sun to dry. The stain will disappear, it's a true miracle of nature.

Banjo52 said...

Paula, 5 Banjos would be quite an ego trip--for both ratee and rater. I like it.

Were you trying to lose me at spaghetti? Oh, I get it, my shirt and the head of the turkey buzzard, it's all one . . . ? I'll try to spill soon. Wait, I'm the one who doesn't have to try.

PJ said...

I'm just saying the sun is more than light, much more.

Jean Spitzer said...

I love the banjo rating idea. And will have to try the sun stain remover (I've got plenty to experiment with).

Banjo, the photos are lovely. By the way, I just saw four deer mosey on by; they saw me watching them, but just kept about their business (munching choice bits of leaves and such).

Brenda's Arizona said...

After visiting Yellowstone, I know now Xanterra.
A necessary evil.
I have avoided them for years by camping in the woods that don't ask for my money. Common sense and decency cannot be bought.

In the poem, the vulture is listed as the best for many reasons. Even our sympathy is solicited.

I love nature, but survival techniques still hurt us who think too much. Barbaro's description is poetry and right on. OUCH.

jean said...

Came back and read the poem. Twice.

Lovers' Lane