Athens adventures: Plenty of places to explore in southeast Ohio

During your four years on campus, you’re bound to get bored milling up and down Court Street every night, but Athens has plenty more to offer. In the surrounding area, there are an abundance of locations to explore.

The Ridges

Students who are brave of heart can take a trek up to The Ridges, a piece of land purchased by Ohio University in the late 20th century that used to serve as a mental health center.

The Athens Lunatic Asylum, as it was named when it opened in 1874, housed patients with mental health issues. The state and federal government purchased more than 1,000 acres of land to construct the hospital. Since the piece of land was so large, patients could roam the complex, tend to the orchards, take walks and attend plays.

As the number of patients dwindled — when practices such as shock therapy and lobotomies became more controversial — the main hospital building became abandoned. The bulk of the hospital is still uninhabited, although the Kennedy Museum of Art is housed inside the main building. OU houses offices in The Ridges as well.

Nearby the mostly-abandoned main building lies a cemetery with nameless graves. There are also other spooky tales, one of which involved a stain inside the hospital from a decomposed body. Because of the ambiance, many have dubbed The Ridges as haunted.

The Ridges also has several scenic hiking trails for those who are more faint of heart.

“If you go past the graveyard and up the hill, there’s a trail to this awesome meadow during springtime, which is beautiful,” •Amanda Poll, an OU alumna, said. “I love to run up to Radar Hill.”

Strouds Run

Strouds Run State Park is roughly a 15 minute drive from campus. The park is comprised of more than 2,000 acres, including a 161-acre artificial lake. In the late summer and early spring, students flock to Dow Lake to rent canoes, kayaks and pontoon boats to soak up the sun and explore the lake. There is even a small beach with sand and access to swimming.

“(When I went last week), there was a nice sunset over the water,” Jillian Sosnak, a rising sophomore studying biology, said. “There wasn’t a lot of people walking around either, which was nice.”

There are also hiking paths and campgrounds.

“We went on a hike around the entire lake last week,” Lillian Cahill, a rising sophomore studying biology, said. “We went about eight miles. … It was really secluded.”

Hocking Hills

If you’re looking for a day trip, Hocking Hills State Park is the perfect location. The park is located in Hocking County, about an hour’s drive from Athens. The park is chock-full of scenic trails that include waterfalls, streams and more.

“I’m a photographer, so I go to a lot of places like Hocking Hills,” Evan Schmidt, an OU alumnus, said. “If you take more of the unknown trails, you can find some really cool vantage points of the lakes around here.”

The most popular trail is Old Man’s Cave, which derives its name from a hermit who lived in the large cave on the trail.

“I didn’t go to Old Man’s Cave until (my senior) year and I now regret life because it’s so awesome,” Schmidt said.

Originally published in The Post‘s Orientation Guide on May 25, 2017. The orientation guide is on the stands at Ohio University during summer months to welcome freshman to campus life.

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