Since the inception of the Nearby Nature column, we have strived to enlighten our readers with what is going on in the natural world around us.– trying to point out why certain events happen, what to watch for during the various seasons, how to identify what you see with useful references or field guides, and interesting bits of trivia or facts that might surprise most people. Hopefully we have done our job as educators and you can now venture out on your own. Similar to a birds fledgling flight…we are going to push you out of the nest and this summer we are encouraging you go out and enjoy Nearby Nature. With this thought in mind, the next several articles will be focused on what we are calling “one tank trips.” Our center is the Weekly Villager office and we drew a circle with a 150 mile radius figuring most cars get at least 300 miles to one tank of gas. Many of these destinations we have been to and we recommend them highly. Each has its own unique geologic features, plants, animals, or unbelievable scenic views. Remember to take plenty of water, a light snack, map of the area, and compass. Don’t rely on your Smartphone for GPS heading; some areas do not have service. Most areas feature hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing or power boating. Most of the descriptions are taken from the individual web sites and we have added caveats from personal experiences. We hope you go out and enjoy Nearby Nature!
We live in an area blessed with a plethora of natural areas. The Geauga Park District for instance has some fantastic areas to explore. They are close and would be a good first experience. If you visit http://www.geaugaparkdistrict.org/ you can choose one of several areas to visit on your first flight. As your wings get stronger you might want to venture out to some of the following:
Moraine State Park (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/moraine/) – 225 Pleasant Valley Road Portersville, PA 16051-9650 724-368-8811
The gently rolling hills, lush forests and sparkling waters disguise a land that has endured the effects of continental glaciers and massive mineral extraction. Each year over one million boaters, hikers, bikers and swimmers visit the 16,725-acre park, yet never realize that many people helped restore the park from prior coal mining and oil and gas drilling practices. Today, the park is an outstanding example of environmental engineering achievement. The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset, unless otherwise posted. Park information, launch permits, cabin information and assistance can be obtained at the park office near the entrance to the South Shore. It is open year-round, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and weekends during the summer. The Davis Hollow Marina office on the North Shore provides marina applications, launch permits and general park information. It is open from April 15 to October 30. There are 28 miles of trails in the park. The hiking trails of Moraine State Park wander through forests and grassy areas, along lake edges and past wetlands. Some are rather difficult but worth the hike. Most are loop trails marked by “blazes” of varying colors. The north shore trails are some of the best hiking around.
Wayne National Forest (http://www.fs.usda.gov/attmain/wayne/specialplaces) 13700 US Highway 33 Nelsonville, Ohio 45764 (740-753-0101)
The Wayne National Forest is within a few hours’ drive of several metropolitan areas such as Columbus, Akron, Cleveland, Dayton, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Pittsburgh. Yet it retains an air of nostalgia, with covered bridges, rock shelters, springs and rugged hills covered with hardwood and pine. Visitors to the Wayne are welcome to camp, hike, hunt, and fish. Our boundaries surround a checkerboard pattern of ownership, with public and private ownership interspersed. Care must be taken to stay on Wayne National Forest lands and respect private property. There are over 300 miles of trails on the forest for hiking, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding, mountain biking, or horseback riding; however these trails are closed from December 16-April 14 each year. Trails for hiking are open year round. Trail systems may be open to more than one type of use, so please yield to other users. The “Archers Fork Trail” is a 9.3 mile loop trail, a great hike featuring Irish run natural land bridge, caves, ridges, streams, and hollows. The trail is marked by a white diamond with a blue dot blaze.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (http://www.nps.gov/cuva/index.htm) – 1550 Boston Mills Rd. Peninsula, Ohio 44264
The park is a refuge for native plants and wildlife, and provides routes of discovery for visitors. The winding Cuyahoga River gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. Walk or ride the Towpath Trail to follow the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal. Over 125 miles of hiking trails are available for your hiking pleasure in CVNP. These trails range from nearly level to challenging, and pass through various habitats including woodlands, wetlands, and old fields. Some trails require you to cross streams with stepping stones or log bridges, while others, including the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, are nearly level and are accessible to all visitors. Descriptions of some easy family hikes are provided on the website. A portion of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail also passes through the park at Blue Hen Falls.
Allegheny Gorge – 543 Dewoody Rd. Polk, Pennsylvania 16342
The trail starts from the state game land parking lot and is an 8 mile loop trail. The highlight of this hike is standing on a viewing platform 480 feet above the Allegheny River. The trail follows an old wagon road to the ruins of a 19th-century iron furnace, and then leads you across a plateau to the viewing platform. From there it descends another gorge to a stream with four cable bridges. Terrain: Abandoned roads groomed for cross-country skiing, forest footpaths, and rocky washouts lead you through a mixed hardwood forest on a high plateau to the edge of a river gorge. Keep an eye out for Johnny Appleseed, he was seen in the area!
McConnells Mills State Park – 2697 McConnells Mill Road Portersville, PA 16051. (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/mcconnellsmill/index.htm#hiking)
The natural character of McConnells Mill State Park, the scenic gorge, waterfalls, rugged hiking trails and whitewater creek, are all directly caused by the geology of the area. The bedrock formed over 300 million years ago as layers of sand, mud and peat in what was a coastal area. After becoming rock, these different layers were lifted to the surface in several mountain-building events. The different strengths of these rocks cause them to erode differently, helping to make the varied landscape of the park. The gorge and the dramatic topography of the park were created by glaciers over the past two million years. There are 9 miles of trails with two that stand out; Slippery Rock George Trail is a 12.4 out and back trail with some amazing waterfalls and Hells Hollow Trail a 1 mile out and back trail with some very interesting scenery and a nice waterfall.