the loudonville photos

Virtual version of my works from the M.A.D.E. in Ashland Pop Up Art Exhibit


After taking the Loundonville Public Library exhibit down early in connection with the Coronavirus epidemic, some of those who didn’t make it there in time requested a virtual exhibition. Here it is, along with the photos displayed in Copper Top Gallery.


alwaysthebridesmaid copy

Always the Bridesmaid



Murray Hill


Gothic Meets Gehry

outsidepville copy

A Tree Outside of Perrysville (B&W Version) — on loan from Susan Lime



PH Sunset

Pleasant Hill Lake

bigporcupinemorn copy

Morning on Big Porcupine Lake — on loan from Susan Lime

watercolor-2 copy

The View from Mohican Lodge




Time Travel

wetmorning810 copy

Morning at Malabar — on loan from Lisa A. Miller Newcomer


Because of a last-minute request for more photos to cover two venues, I had to borrow some of my framed prints. Thanks to Susan Lime and Lisa A. Miller Newcomer. Also thanks to Neos Dance Theatre for producing the M.A.D.E. in Ashland event. Hope to see it back next year, after the epidemic subsides. And thanks to the Loudonville Public Library and Copper Top Gallery. 




Sub Alpine Club and Wolf Pen Springs – Sojourners through Time

Wolf Pen Springs then and now. The photo on the left was taken around 1930, the other on the Feb. 15, 2020, on the Sub Alpine Club’s 90th anniversary hike. (Not all of those on the 2020 hike are in the photo.)


Jim Buchwald, the oldest living member of the Sub Alpine Club of America, described Wolf Pen Springs as seen from a plane he was flying.

“It was like a fairy castle in the woods,” Buchwald said.

His description proved to be spot on — even when seen from the ground. Buchwald, 92, was among those present Feb. 15, when I joined the Sub Alpine Club on its 90th anniversary hike. (These days he makes partial hikes.) To commemorate the occasion, the club took the same hike the founders did on Feb. 15, 1930.

After wending our way a mile so up forested hills, we found ourselves in a clearing. At the center of the clearing, a modest sandstone mansion rose from the grounds of the estate.

Over the years, Wolf Pen Springs has seen better days. These are among them. Now refurbished, the French Gothic structure looks a lot better than it did when Sub Alpine founders Frank Van Voorhis, Dr. James B. Nelson, and Dr. L.B. Walton first hiked there. It was abandoned and run-down then.

Van Voorhis wrote a brief history of Wolf Pen Springs in his journal. Eli Nichols built the house around 1840. It was made of sandstone quarried on the property and cut by hand by Charles Timm. Nichols imported Timm and the window glass from England. The house and springhouse took six years to build. Nichols and his wife were outspoken abolitionists and the house served as a haven for runaway slaves.

From time to time, Wolf Pen Springs was abandoned and fell into disrepair. As Buchwald observed on our 90th anniversary hike, “It has consumed three fortunes.”

Another hiker that day, Dennis Tuttle, described his first trek to Wolf Pen Springs in the early 1980s.

“The first time I went on that hike, it had not been lived in for quite a few years and sheep were running through the house,” Tuttle said. “The inside was pretty well trashed but the magnificent stonework was still in mint condition.”

Among those who restored the house over the years was Mary Staats, who died in 1994. Tuttle recalled that, on one hike to Wolf Pen Springs, Staats invited Sub Alpine members to come inside.

“Mary invited all of the hikers to the basement where she showed us pictures of the glory days, where the runaway slaves would stop for food and water while on the underground railroad,” Tuttle said.

On the Feb. 15 hike, I had the opportunity to speak with Wolf Pen Springs’ current owner, who has gone to great lengths to refurbish it. He asked that I not publish his name. One of my shortcomings as a journalist has been my respect for people’s privacy, so I’ll honor his request.

He described the project not as a restoration but a “repurposing.” (Few mortals could afford to undertake a full historical restoration.) It was a huge undertaking that required stripping the house down to a sandstone shell. The result is a hybrid of form and function. The exterior has been restored to its former glory while the interior serves as a residence.

We can all be grateful to the current and past owners for resurrecting Wolf Pen Springs. This “fairy castle in the woods” will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Sub Alpine Club members, those who lived and toiled there, descendants of the slaves it sheltered, and all who value history.

This originally was published in the Ashland Times-Gazette and online GateHouse Media outlets.

Postscript courtesy of Ann Laudeman:

The house was actually restored by my uncle George Kahrl in the ’70s where they lived for 10 years before he sold it to Mary Staats. George’s father Fred Kahrl was one of the original hikers and George was a great admirer of the Sub Alpine Club, also how he knew about the house and learned it was available when he and his wife Faith were considering retirement to Knox County. My father Allin Kahrl brokered the deal for Uncle George to purchase the house and land. Jim Beam was contracted to do most of the work, including the addition of an elevator and a new kitchen. He glassed in the back porch and made a library in the basement with paneling and bookcases out of butternut wood.

Sub Alpine Club has evolved, but remains true to its roots


The Sub Alpine Club has bridged the gender gap.

Had I encountered the Sub Alpine Club of America earlier in its 90-year history, it would have been a far different scenario than what I witnessed 10-15 years ago. On my first encounter with the club, I looked across a field to see a happy band of hikers — men and women — coming toward me. In the club’s early days, there likely would have been no women.

The hikers would have been dressed differently, more like country gentlemen. Their pace would have been slower. They would have paused to marvel at the flora and fauna. They would have stopped for lunch, cooking a leisurely meal over an open fire.

As the club turned 50, all that began to change. More and more women joined, the pace quickened and the cookouts turned into short snack breaks.

Ann Laudeman witnessed those changes firsthand. Her grandfathers, Mount Vernon businessmen Fred Kahrl and Clyde Conley, were among the original Sub Alpine members. As was her father, Allin Kahrl. She was among the roughly 25 members on the club’s 90th anniversary hike in February.

“The hikes are more like power walks now,” Laudeman wrote in an email. “In the past, the hikers would take the pace more as a stroll, where people would mingle, visit, identify some of the flora, and relate local history and stories. We always used to stop and build a little cooking fire so that anyone could heat a pot of soup, a hot dog, or cheese on a stick. Now we are lucky to stop for half an hour at the most.”

She also commented on the makeup of the club.

“Some of the original ‘rules’ of the group were that husbands and wives couldn’t both hike, either one or the other, because they didn’t want any marital squabbling,” Laudeman wrote. “That rule was broken sometime around 1980 but occasionally it has been a problem. Some of the original women were my cousins, who would come to visit our grandparents and hike with our grandfather. Occasionally, in the last five years, there have been more women hiking than men. Once there were more dogs than people because some people brought more than one dog.”

Dennis Tuttle also witnessed the Sub Alpine Club’s evolution. He joined in the 1980s.

“I was asked by one of the old members who I used to see when swimming at the YMCA in Mount Vernon if I was interested in hiking with this group,” Tuttle wrote in an email. “I thought to myself that it was probably just some old geezers that did simple walks. The gentleman kept after me and offered to pick me up to do one of the Saturday hikes. All it took was one hike and I realized what I had been missing.”

He and his wife played a role in the club’s evolution.

“The rules at that time were to allow women to hike only during Christmas and New Year’s, when many brought their children and some grandchildren,” Tuttle wrote. “I enjoyed the hikes so much that I would do the hikes on Saturday with the men, then do the same hike Sunday afternoon with my wife Pat.”

Finally, Pat asked to join the Saturday hikes.

“I told her we could see what they had to say about that,” Tuttle wrote. “The first hike she did with the group she made a big batch of homemade cookies, which were very well received by the hikers. The rest is history. She was the first female to hike on a regular basis with the club. Over the years, women heard about the group and began coming until today there are just as many women as men.”

An informal organization, the Sub Alpine Club of America remains true to its roots — the enjoyment of winter hiking in Knox and surrounding counties. The club has little in the way of formal rules or structure, nor does it have a website. Information on hikes and photos can been seen on the Facebook page Sub-Alpine Hiking Club of Knox County Ohio.


This originally was published in the Ashland Times-Gazette and on other GateHouse Media newspaper websites.

Sub Alpine Club – trekking through time


Jim Buchwald, left, waits to sign Sub Alpine Club book. Fellow club member Mike Nugent adds his signature.

My first hike with the Sub Alpine Club of America covered nearly four miles — and 90 years. If not more.

As mentioned in a previous column, about 25 people — their ages spanning seven decades — came out on Feb. 15 for the club’s 90th anniversary hike. It was essentially the same hike the founding fathers took 90 years ago to the day to an enchanting place called Wolf Pen Springs.

Wolf Pen Springs is a stone mansion dating back to the 1840s. A place rich in history, it once served as a safe haven on the underground railroad. On the day we saw it, the house was in much better shape than it was in 1930, when Frank Van Voorhis, Dr. James B. Nelson, and Dr. L.B. Walton took the club’s inaugural hike.

Van Voorhis described the abandoned house in his journal: “The building was open and we spent some time wandering through the vacant rooms and looking through old books and papers, which littered the floor. There was an old grand piano, falling apart, and I gathered some of the ivory keys, which I still have.”

The mansion was renovated starting in the late 1990s. The building and grounds sit atop a high hill, surrounded by mature forest, towering above the Kokosing River. I’ll dedicate a future column to the wonder that is Wolf Pen Springs.

For now, I’ll dwell on another marvel — the Sub Alpine Hiking Club of America. Over the past 90 years, the club has evolved and adapted. However, its mission has remained constant — the enjoyment of fellowship and winter treks through the rugged terrain of Knox and surrounding counties.

On the Feb. 15th hike, I met people who experienced the transitions from the club’s earliest days through modern times. Among them was Jim Buchwald. He’ll be 92 this month. He and Bobby Harold are members of the club’s exclusive Nelson Reed Society. A third member, Eugene Agin, will join their ranks this month. The society derives its name from the first Sub Alpine member to still be hiking past the age of 90. They don’t do full hikes but join in for part of them.

“There are hikes where I can bang along, have a good time, and believe that I’m younger,” Buchwald said.

The years have not deprived him of his enjoyment of the outdoors and his sense of humor. During the 90th anniversary hike, the group stopped for a snack. When it came time to press on, someone asked Buchwald if he was ready to press on.

“I’m ready as I’ll ever be,” he responded. “Which isn’t very much.”

Buchwald first hiked with the Sub Alpine Club in 1958. Club member James R. Israel invited him.

“I was honored,” Buchwald said. “The club at the time was a small group of the town’s (Mt. Vernon) leading citizens.”

Like Buchwald, the founding members and those who followed in for the first 50 years were primarily local businessmen, attorneys, and academics from Kenyon College. Buchwald, a Cleveland native, was an engineer who worked at Cooper-Bessemer and later founded the Ariel Corporation.

He lived out of town for several years but kept in touch with club members and returned for some of the hikes.

“I later realized how lucky I was to have hiked with the founders,” Buchwald said. “The original members were from back in the 1930s but were still active. They were alive and kicking and making some pretty long hikes.”

He recalled that, after Van Voorhis moved to Florida in the early 1960s, no one kept a journal anymore.

“Ralph Workman took over and the club continued with little communication,” Buchwald said.

However, the loose-knit — and now more diverse —Sub Alpine Club keeps on going. One thing members still have in common is their love of rigorous walks in the countryside and cold weather.

Buchwald embodies that spirit.

“It’s no fun otherwise,” he said. “I remember walking across an open field. It was 20 degrees out with 20-knot winds, and I don’t think I could have felt any happier. A long walk across an exposed meadow — you knew you were outdoors and it felt great.”


(This column first ran in the March 5, 2020, Ashland Times-Gazette.)

Sub Alpine Club of America – Funny name, serious about hiking


Doug McLarnan waits on the bank while Sue Siegel crosses a stream on Doug’s plank bridge.


I first encountered hikers from the Sub Alpine Club of America years ago. I thought it was a joke.

I was canoeing on the Mohican River and stopped at a spring near Brinkhaven to replenish my water supply. A long line of hikers emerged from a pasture and I said hello.

“We’re the Sub Alpine Hiking Club of America,” a man at the front of the line announced.

I thought he was kidding.

I later came to know one of the members, Doug McLarnan. Doug has long been active with the Knox County Park District. He and I serve on the Mohican Scenic River Steering Committee. Through him, I learned that there is indeed such a thing as the Sub Alpine Club of America. Doug joined in 2005 for the physical and mental health benefits that rigorous hiking and good company provide. He invited me to come along on the club’s 90th anniversary hike. How could I refuse?

Doug gave me directions: Meet at noon, Feb. 15, on the 600 block of East High Street in Mount Vernon.

“On the 600 block” said it all. Despite its longevity, the Sub Alpine Club of America has no clubhouse, no charter, no meetings, no formal rules. Don’t bother Googling it; the club has no website. The only online presence is a Facebook page.

“No internet,” McLarnan said. “Word of hikes spreads gradually. We show up at High Street and go, that’s it.”

To remain a member in good standing, just show up for hikes. And be willing to hike in the winter. That’s when the club traditionally hikes, from mid-November to mid-March. (From time to time, club members have hiked in the “off season.”) They generally trek in the hills and valleys around the Kokosing, Mohican and Walhonding rivers and Wakatomika Creek.

I arrived in Mount Vernon a little before noon on Feb. 15. I was the first one there, parking on a street lined with well-maintained Victorian houses. Doug pulled up in a minivan with a wooden plank strapped to the top. He explained that we’d need that to cross a stream.

By 12:30 p.m., East High Street was lined with vehicles. About 25 people showed up for the hike — men and women, their ages spanning seven decades. We car-pooled to a site along the Kokosing River near Newcastle.

In honor of the club’s 90th anniversary, we hiked to Wolf Pen Springs, the same hike founding members took 90 years ago to the day — Feb. 15, 1930. It’s documented in the book “The Journal of the Sub Alpine Club of America.” (The founders came up with the name in jest. It’s easy to see why I thought the Sub Alpine hikers were joking when I first met them. They probably got a kick out of the look on my face when one of them announced the name of the group.)

The book, compiled from journals of founding member Frank Van Voorhis, chronicles the club’s hikes from February 1930 to September 1963.

More on that and Wolf Pen Springs in a future column.

At the start of our hike, we crossed a small stream on Doug’s plank bridge — which didn’t quite span the full width. A few well-placed stones braced the plank just shy of the bank and allowed hikers to cross without getting their boots soaked. Not long after that, we found ourselves making a grueling climb up an impossibly steep hill.

It was clear that members of the Sub Alpine Club of America took hiking seriously.

To be continued.

A reference copy of “The Journal of the Sub Alpine Club of America” is available in the local history room at the Loudonville Public Library.

Enjoy solo paddling trips? You’re not alone

Screen Shot 2020-01-20 at 07.26.47

My friend and mentor Bill Conrad patiently awaiting my book report – 10 months and counting.

Months ago, my friend and mentor Bill Conrad gave me a copy of Calvin Rutstrum’s “North American Canoe Country.” Bill told me he expected a book report. Here it is — better late than never.

Written in 1964, the book speaks to the timeless truths of canoe tripping.

For me, what really hit home were Rutstrum’s observations about going alone and equipment. I’ll split my book report into two parts. This week I’ll cover solo canoe camping. In a future column, I’ll compare notes with Rutstrum on camping and paddling gear.

In the chapter “Going Alone,” Rutstrum writes: “I have … labored in solitude for weeks over portage and water routes when a simple invitation would have secured a pleasant companion for the bow or stern of my canoe. Why, then, do we go alone? My experience has convinced me that, to feel profoundly the enchantment of the wilderness, we must go in complete solitude at one time or another.”

I agree wholeheartedly; I thoroughly enjoy my solo canoe trips.

All my life, solitude has been a welcome companion. I can be as gregarious as the next guy. But — in heavy doses — people annoy me. Especially as I get older. I’ve found a kindred spirit in Rutstrum. His observations on the psychology of solo canoeing serve as a reminder that, when I paddle solo, I am not alone.

He touches on the inevitable feelings of loneliness. He warns that a solo camper will miss the stories around the campfire, the shared adventures, or that one individual whose company you treasure. But, as Rutstrum points out, even that can become repetitive and tedious.

When sitting alone at my campfire, I can still hear peals of laughter from those group trips back in the day. Warm thoughts of my campmates bring a smile. But knowing I’m still out there — still canoeing and camping — brings an even bigger smile.

Rutstrum speaks of the circumstances that bring us to go it alone. For Rutstrum, it might be a lack of companions free to commit to his elaborate wilderness journeys. For me, I’ve simply outlived most my canoeing buddies — some literally, others in terms of ambition, ability or desire.

Rutstrum advises against seeking out companions just for the sake of companionship. “Barnacle attachments” he calls them. That’s a polite way of putting it.

There is much to be said for solo canoe camping. As a writer, I’m reluctant to admit this, but Rutstrum says it better than I ever could.

“There are … mixed emotions, but you have a great sense of relief,” he writes. “For you have been travelling by the methods of others; camping and eating their way, not yours.”

Solo canoeing frees you to travel at your own pace. You can pick your own campsite. A few times of trying to pitch a tent on boulder-strewn islands or mainland moonscapes convinced me not to allow my friends to pick our campsites. On group trips it can also be a challenge to find an area vast enough to accommodate several tents and a campfire.

Above all, as Rutstrum points out, solo tripping allows you to more deeply experience the wilderness. Not only are you free to explore more, but your senses are heightened and you become less threatening to wildlife.

“Life of the solitary man by its very nature becomes subjective,” he writes. “You are not the intruder; you feel yourself an integral part of the composite natural scheme.”

He concludes that, once you experience this, you’ll find it hard to resist the allure of solo canoe tripping. Amen.

I expect that my friend Bill Conrad will give me an incomplete grade on this book report. We’ll see what he says when I finish it in a future column.


(This is one of my columns, which ran in Gatehouse Media publications.)

Poetic Injustice

The intrigue behind Santa’s reindeer

Being born and raised in the inner city, I was disappointed to learn that chipmunks were not monkeys at all. They are, in fact, mice with racing stripes.

Funny how our perceptions of wildlife evolve.

Take reindeer, for instance. As children growing up in the Lower Forty-eight, we first learned about reindeer through Christmas lore. I suspect that many of us never gave them a second thought. At least not until we watched film footage of actual reindeer on nature shows or saw them in a zoo.

For our first impressions of reindeer, we have one of two men to thank: Clement Clark Moore or Henry Livingston Jr. Both claimed to have written the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” You might know it as “The Night before Christmas.” It was first published in 1823 in the Troy Sentinel, a newspaper in eastern New York State.

This iconic poem introduced the notion of Santa’s flying sleigh towed by “eight tiny reindeer.” The addition of Rudolph in 1939 made it nine. Robert Lewis May gets credit for that; Rudolph was his creation. As far as I know, no one has ever challenged May’s claim that he wrote “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Although there’s been some speculation that May based his story on an old joke about a Russian couple arguing over the weather — the one with the punch line “Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.”

However, the controversy over the authorship of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” drags on. The Moore and Livingston families are locked in a literary feud to this day. (In a previous column, my parody of “The Night before Christmas,” I mentioned both men with apologies — lest I find myself dragged into the fray.)

Moore, a poet and professor, was the first to take credit for “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” That was 13 years after it appeared in the Sentinel. Then, in 1844, he included it in a book of his poetry.

It probably didn’t help Moore’s case that — before claiming authorship in 1836 — he had contacted the newspaper asking whether anyone had taken credit for writing the poem.

Livingston was a judge and poet. His progeny — and at least one academic — pointed out that Moore wasn’t known for being a light-hearted chap, not the sort of guy who would write a whimsical children’s poem. They also claimed the reindeer’s names were of Dutch lineage — like Livingston himself.

Furthermore, Livingston’s children claimed that he had recited the poem to them in the early 1800s.

Legions of scholars — or a handful, at least — have been enlisted in the fight. In their arguments for or against Moore and Livingston, they have delved into the minutiae of each man’s writing style. Which poet preferred the anapestic meter used in “A Visit from St. Nick?” Which author tended to use “all” as an adverb? Which one dotted his “i’s” with tiny circles?

The whole affair conjures up images of a Mafia-style family feud. I can picture drive-by poetry slams on urban street corners in which members of the Moore or Livingston camp crumple to the pavement in a hail of iambic pentameters.

To avoid being dragged into the feud, in my parody I opted to go with carp pulling the sleigh. I, for one, don’t want to wake up some night to find a reindeer head in my bed.

This was originally written as one of my weekly outdoors columns for GateHouse Media.