Charles Alley Nature Park
"But I'll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you'll come to understand that you're connected with everything." ~ Alan Watts
Shallenberger State Nature Preserve
Another place we visit often is Shallenberger State Nature Preserve. It is never crowded and provides a great place to relax and get in a moderate hike. Our latest visit was in March. The temperature was decent, but the sky was Ohio’s unflattering winter gray.
There are 2 trails that meet up. Together they measure approximately 1.9 miles. The blue trail and the orange trail. They almost form a number 8. The blue trail heads to Allen Knob and the orange trail heads to Ruble Knob.
When walking the blue trail you will quickly come to a set of wooden steps. These steps take you to the top of Allen Knob. From Allen Knob you can see quite a distance. Walking around the top we spotted Beck’s Knob, the 33 bi-pass and downtown Lancaster.
The wooden steps that lead up to Allen Knob were also covered in leaves. This made them a little slippery. The steps are on the small side and climbing them is a little awkward. There is a handrail which makes it easier.
Before we visited the State Nature Preserve, it had been raining for some time. We were certain that it was going to be muddy. However, once you got past the preserve entrance the paths were not muddy at all.
The trails are narrow and made from dirt. They were covered in leaves yet were easy to see and navigate. The colored trail markers were clearly visible on the trees. Since this is a Nature preserve there are many large rocks and tree roots along the path. It is easy to trip or twist an ankle. But as long as you are careful you should be fine. There are some decent elevation changes. Nothing super crazy, though. Just enough to get your heart rate up.
History of the Preserve
Jay Shallenberger was the original owner. He wanted the area to be enjoyed by everyone. After his death, the Fairfield County Commissioner received the land as a gift. In 1973, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources took ownership of the property. It was dedicated as a scenic nature preserve on, May 15, 1973. The 88-acre park is now managed by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.
A large portion of Ohio was once cover by the Wisconsin Glacier. As it passed through Fairfield County, it flowed around Allen Knob and Ruble Knob. As it melted it left sand, gravel and rock around the bases. The tops of the blackhand sandstone knobs were left untouched.
Both knobs are located in Shallenberger State Nature preserve. Allen Knob is the largest of the two. Ruble Knob sits southeast of Allen Knob, approximately 860 ft.
There is a depression at the top of Allen Knob. It is not marked but is still visible. The depression is a result of a quarry that was in operation during the early 1800s. We spoke to a couple of gentlemen that were helping tend to the park. They told us it is believed the sandstone blocks used to build Stonewall Cemetery were quarried from Allen’s Knob.
Hermit on the Knob
Beck’s Knob is another knob just up the road from Shallenberger State Nature Preserve. It can be seen from the top of Allen Knob. Beck’s Knob is believed to be haunted by the “Hermit on the Knob.”
It is said that an old man used to live on the hill. He was a hermit that rarely traveled away from his home. He would sit and read his bible for hours. One day he decided to end it all. He dug his own grave and took his own life with a rifle. His neighbors found him with a note pinned to his chest. He wanted to be buried on the hill. They gave him a proper burial. There was a marker on his grave until vandals destroyed it in the 1960s.
Now, the “Hermit on the Knob” is said to haunt the area. His ghost walks from Beck’s Knob to Hunters Run Creek which flows against Shallenberger State Nature Preserve. He carries a lantern and disappears as soon as he reaches the bridge.
Shallenberger State Nature Preserve is a nice quiet place to get in a moderate hike. It is well-taken care and trash is picked up. This place is beautiful and has several blackhand sandstone outcroppings.
There is one drawback to this nature preserve. Riff-raff is known to hang out in the parking lot. It is not as bad as it used to be. The area is now more closely monitored.
What You Can Expect at Shallenberger State Nature Preserve
Please note that trail rules and regulations can change at any time. The following information was in effect for Shallenberger State Nature Preserve in Lancaster as of August 2020.
There are no bathrooms.
Bicycles are prohibited.
There wasn't much action when we were there. However, we were informed that you can find barred owls there.
Concealed carry is permitted.
Dogs are prohibbited.
Trail surfaces are natural. The trails are steep in places. The trails are easy to moderate.
Main parking lot is blacktop. There are 16 parking spaces.
No picnic tables.
A lot of shade.
No shelter house.
Trails are marked with paint on the trees.
No ADA parking spots.