Field Trip – Henrietta Miller Memorial Pilgrimage
Miller State Nature Preserve
General Hike Location: Close to the Highlands Nature Sanctuary, Bainbridge, Ohio.
Driving Distance from the Appalachian Forest Museum: 10 minutes.
Time & Meeting Place: Park your cars at Miller State Nature Preserve at 9:15 am. Hike begins promptly at 9:30 am.
Bring: Be sure to pack a bottle of water and bring a day pack for your lunch which we be enjoyed along the trail. We recommend packing a piece of plastic to sit on in case the ground is wet.
Length and Difficulty: Approximately 2.25 miles. Relatively easy. Miller has well groomed trails with only short ascents and descents with gains and losses in elevation of roughly 50 feet. Bridges accommodate all water crossings.
Miller State Nature Preserve is adjacent to the Highlands Nature Sanctuary and is the oldest of any preserves on the Rocky Fork Gorge. Miller State Nature Preserve has a rich and compelling display of Appalachian flowers, with dense carpets of ginger, Solomon’s Seal, bellwort, bluebells, shooting stars and waterleaf. The preserve is dissected by pristine creeks and boasts beautiful limestone rock formations. The hiking paths are well designed, and make use of several small bridges to ford the preserve’s musical spring-swollen riffles. We will take one or two of the short loop trails from Henrietta MIller’s old house site and will be sure to pause in the woods below the stone archway, where we can rest on the long run of wooden stairs descending into the gorge.
Be sure to look for the furry clumps of red bats sleeping in the bare trees. This time of year red bat residents are not only waking up and feeding after spending most of the winter buried under the leaf litter, but red bats are also migrating through Ohio from the south, heading to the boreal country of Canada. Before the tree leaves unfurl, Miller is a great place to spot them. Look for red bats in young beech trees, 6-8 feet above the ground. Young beeches often hold onto little clumps of last year’s burnished leaves and it provides a bit of camouflage for the bats. This bat photo was taken at Miller by one of our pilgrimage participants.
A tribute to Henrietta Miller, a woman with a growing vision.
We dedicate this annual trek to Henrietta Miller, who once owned and loved the land that is today managed as the 85-acre Miller State Nature Preserve. A portion of the preserve was donated to the state back in the mid-1980’s by Henrietta and her husband, Eugene. In 1995, Henrietta Miller expanded her philanthropy to include the newly founded Highlands Nature Sanctuary, way before it became the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System. Considering at that time the Sanctuary was only a fragile idea and possessed neither money nor land, Henrietta’s initial donation of $20,000 was an immense act of faith. Her gift helped buy the Sanctuary’s first acquisition, a portion of 7 Caves, a cave theme park, and leveraged the Arc to be the successful and inspiring non-profit that it is today.
When Henrietta turned over her check to Arc Director, Nancy Stranahan, (which proved not be her last) she said, “Now you bring the Sanctuary of yours all the way up to Miller, okay?”Nancy nodded almost imperceptibly, so little was her confidence. Miller Preserve was nearly a mile away from 7 Caves and it was very hard to imagine the Sanctuary ever being so large as to join the two together. So Nancy blurted out the safest thing she could think of. “Henrietta, I’ll do my best.”
It turned out Henrietta’s faith was well-placed. The Highlands Nature Sanctuary was indeed destined to grow not only to the outer boundary of Miller State Nature Preserve, but around it and beyond. In 2007, when Henrietta passed from this earth, she left behind a mighty legacy. This you will see for yourself when you walk Henrietta’s beloved land in her footsteps, AND when you take the time to visit the Highlands Nature Sanctuary, a preserve that Henrietta’s gifts also helped establish.