Columbus Metro Parks – A Local Perspective

Columbus, Ohio has been my home for nearly 17 years and has changed considerably in that short amount of time. The city is currently the 15th largest in the country, though I’m sure that can fluctuate from time to time, and we are growing rapidly. With new buildings going up all over town, one of the largest Universities in the country, a vibrant arts scene, numerous Fortune 500 companies, and a rising star in the fashion world, it is easy to get carried away with city life. However, we have been blessed with enough forward-thinking power players who also see the value in green space and keeping an eye on the environment.

 

To that end, the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks were established in 1945. In the years following, the park system has grown to 19 parks covering approximately 27,000 acres with plans to add more parks and expand existing parks in the years to come.

 

I’ve been to 16.5 of the 19 so far. I add the .5 because I’ve only driven through Pickerington Ponds but haven’t spent time exploring on foot. I had Meli with me and being a State Nature Preserve, she was not allowed out of the car where we were. Somehow, I haven’t made it to Inniswood, though being on the other side of town and only a short half mile loop of four-legged friendly trail probably contributes. The farthest park, Clear Creek, is also a Nature Preserve. It is close to Hocking Hills though so I’m surprised on one of my trips down there we haven’t yet added a this to the list of stops.

 

Technically the Heritage Trail and Homestead Park are closest to us but we consider Prairie Oaks to be our “home” park. It is on the edge of the county, surrounded by lots of horse farms and pastures. Almost every trail is dog friendly and there is a horse trail too! There are plenty of options here which is a large part of the appeal. Trails wind around old quarry lakes and along the Big Darby State and National Scenic River. There are open prairies, as the name suggests, when you’re looking for open spaces and sunny skies. When you’re ready for some shade there are ample opportunities to wander down a trail under cover from Sycamore, Buckeye, Pawpaw (our State fruit), and Oak trees. If you don’t feel like checking out a trail, you can relax at one of the covered picnic areas, take your dog to the dog beach for a swim, cast a line for some fishing, or head out on the water in a canoe. The Sycamore Trail is our favorite. It is usually the least populated and it is dog friendly. It’s Meli’s favorite trail because there is a spot where we pop on her long leash and play fetch in the river for a while.

 

Battelle Darby is just a little bit farther away and is where we like to go for a change of pace. About half of the trails are dog friendly, though most lack shade so we don’t go there much in the heat of summer. The cool feature at Battelle Darby is the herd of bison! They have three large pastures to rotate through depending on the season and you can get fairly close to them most of the time. When you tire of watching the herd, there are sand volleyball courts, playgrounds for the kids, and plenty of picnic pavilions. The lesser known feature is tucked away at the northernmost end of the park. An old horse barn and race track that were part of the original Darby Dan Farms. The story behind the track and its creator, John Galbreath is worth Googling. If you’re a baseball fan, you might recognize him as the former owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Only one of our metro parks currently offers camping. The newest addition to the park system, Scioto Grove. Nothing fancy or strenuous about this park. Instead you’ll find an easy going, relaxing park with 5 tent sites you can backpack into for free and by reservation. There are canoe access points at the northern and southern ends if you want to float down the Scioto River, and every trail is pet friendly.

 

Highbanks on the northern end of town is by far the most popular park, but our favorite is to the southeast, Walnut Woods. There isn’t as much variety of activities but the trails are pet friendly and offer a variety of shade and sun. The Sweetgum Trail is awesome any time of year thanks to the mix of tall pines and sweetgum trees. Gorgeous fall colors, wonderful summer shade, and when the snow falls it is a winter wonderland. The added bonus for this park is the enormous dog park complete with mini agility course and a separate swimming hole for the big dogs to enjoy during the summer. Since it is one of Meli’s favorite places, we spent her first birthday here.

 

The beauty of Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks is that they each offer something a little unique. A wonderfully wide variety of terrain, activities, and amenities. Last year was a bit of a traveling drought for me so I endeavored to travel more locally to quench my thirst for something new. Our parks did not disappoint and I still have more to explore!

 

For more information about Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, please visit their website: http://www.metroparks.net/

If you would like to read about my visit to historic Slate Run Living Historical Farm, please visit my earlier post: https://goo.gl/jtPGhe

 

***Previously posted by my friends at Campstake. Please check out their wonderfully compiled field guide and do a bit of shopping while you’re there. 🙂

****Exciting park update since originally drafting this post back in May! The Metro Parks are going to add another, bigger, badder park to the list and I can’t wait! https://keepitontheqt.com/home

#MonumentsForAll

Yesterday, on the anniversary of the Antiquities Act, lovers of our public lands used their voice via blog posts to express their feelings on President Trump’s Executive Order for Secretary of the Interior Zinke to review 27 of our National Monuments. These monuments protect one of a kind artifacts of human history, endangered species, and unique flora found nowhere else. Whether you’ve visited them or not, they have played a role in the shaping of our past and the country we are today. These lands are for EVERYONE, regardless of race, religion, sex, or economic standing.

I struggled to write my post and I still struggle to write now. I’m angry and I’m hurt. I’m stressed out that these monuments may be dramatically altered, if not worse, before I have had a chance to visit most of them. I’m terrified where this review could lead. Why stop with these 27? Does this open up ALL of our treasured public lands to scrutiny and peril?

Luckily, many of the thoughts and feelings that are jumbled around in my head and heart have been expressed more eloquently than I am currently capable of by my fellow public land loving bloggers. Please enjoy their perspectives by visiting their sites at the links below. Special Thank You to Scott of Just Get Out More for organizing this effort. We implore you all to make your voice heard. Monuments For All.

 

Just Get Out More http://justgetoutmore.com/deeply-personal-care-national-monuments/
Nightborn Travel https://nightborntravel.com/2017/06/08/love_national_monuments/
AZ Day Hiker http://jasoncleghorn.wixsite.com/azdayhiker/single-post/2017/06/07/A-Monumental-Fight
Nature Tech Family http://www.naturetechfam.com/2017/06/08/rio-grande-del-norte-national-monument/
Little Grunts http://www.littlegrunts.com/pro-tips-tommy-caldwell-talks-public-lands/
Mike Off The Map https://mikeoffthemap.com/2017/06/08/in-the-heart-of-the-creek/
Parks & Points http://www.parksandpoints.com/parksandpointsblog/monumentaldayofblogging
West Coast Hiker Girl https://www.westcoasthikergirl.com/a-monumental-day/
Campfire Guy http://www.campfireguy.com/national-monuments-for-all/
Val in Real Life http://valinreallife.com/2017/06/08/national-monuments/
InnerCompass http://innercompassblog.com/monumentsforall/
Sun Kissed Hiker http://www.sunkissedhiker.com/blog/national-monuments-the-bears-ears-debate-and-how-you-can-help/
Bearfoot Theory https://bearfoottheory.com/national-monument-review/
Terra Galleria http://www.terragalleria.com/blog/speak-out-for-our-national-monuments-under-review/
Wilderness Within Her https://wildernesswithinher.com/2017/05/26/dear-secretary-zinke/
Southwest Dude http://www.southwestdude.com/blog-and-trip-reviews/national-monuments-public-lands-wilderness
Modern Hiker https://modernhiker.com/public-comment-on-the-national-monument-review
Hikes Across America! http://fanclubdad.blogspot.com/2017/06/monumental-day-of-blogging.html
Backcountry Petite https://www.backcountrypetite.com/adventure/new-york-national-monuments/
G Who Travels https://gwhotravels.com/2017/06/08/monuments-for-all-help-save-our-national-monuments/
Explore With Heather http://www.explorewithheather.com/national-monuments-comments/
The Modern Outdoors https://www.modernoutdoors.net/blog/grand-staircase-bears-ears
Grayt Adventure https://graytadventure.com/2017/06/08/a-monumental-day-for-our-nation/
Illuminations from the Attic http://illuminationsfromtheattic.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-antiquities-act-monumental-success.html

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

 

Recently you signed an executive order threatening the existence of several of our beloved public lands. My heart instantly broke. There is no place I love to be more than in our Parks. I don’t remember what my first National Parks site visit was but since I grew up in Ohio it was somewhere east of the Mississippi. Family vacations were not only a time to get away from daily life for a week, but they also frequently were educational experiences around parks, monuments, and other historical sites.

 

I will never forget the trip we took to Gettysburg. My parents wanted to get on the road early. Early meant 4AM. I’m still not sure why so early! (I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination) My room and my brother’s room were almost directly across the hall from each other, so my Dad opened both of our doors, turned on the hall light and began reciting the Gettysburg address. I can’t recall if he made it all the way through, pretty sure I put the pillow over my head and tried to go back to sleep. It certainly helped to cement the memory in my mind though! I do remember driving through the battlefield, imagining what it must have been like in those moments of North vs. South. There is speculation that the area is haunted by the many men who lost their lives. Whether or not that is true, I won’t debate here, but will say that there is a feeling that is inexplicably unsettling. In a time when the divide in our country seems to be growing again, I am glad we have places to remind us of the pain and hardships of civil war so that we hopefully can find amicable ways of coming back together.

 

We made several trips to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, including our most recent trip complete with a freak early season and unexpected snowstorm during peak fall leaf color! While most of the Park was closed for most of our visit, the unexpected lead to beautiful scenes and even more interesting hiking. We also went to Washington DC and since that first visit, I’ve returned countless times. The National Mall is one of my all-time favorite places to explore and reflect.

I remember the wonder and awe of walking into Mammoth Cave for the first time; amazement at the ceremonial creations of the Hopewell Culture; and hometown pride while visiting the William Howard Taft National Historic Site. Each vastly different from the other, and yet each plays a vital role in the fabric of our culture. These units of the National Park Service combine with the rest to show us where we have been as a country, creating a compass of where we need to go. Whether naturally made, manmade, or simply symbolic, each of the 417 units are vital to our health and happiness as a Nation.

 

As an adult, I am slowly churning my way through more and more National Park sites across the country. My boyfriend and I took our first vacation together as a road trip from Vegas. We ventured out first to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, spent a night exploring the southern rim of Grand Canyon National Park, drove through Kaibab National Forest, gawked at the Vermillion Cliffs, and fell in love with Zion National Park. Since then we’ve ventured to many more Parks, Monuments, and Historical Sites. We have no intention of stopping now.

I would love to elaborate on each of the National Park sites I have visited thus far, but that would turn into a book. That book would have blank pages for all the places I’ve yet to see. Maybe one day I will write that book. I know I’m not alone in my passion for our public lands, and hope you take the time to read what others have written about their experiences.

 

The addition of new monuments in the last 20 years has been thrilling. Witnessing the living history of the United States of America. I fear an action against the Antiquities Act of this nature will open the door to further pillage other beloved monuments in the future. If you truly want to “Make America Great Again” I implore you to halt any reduction of these sites. These are places that can bring us together no matter our upbringing and social standing. There are so many wonderful, unique places in this country of ours that deserve to be preserved for generations to come.

 

Respectfully,

 

Danielle

aka TheZestyTraveler

 

#MonumentsForAll

To those of you looking to have your voice heard, please write and call your Representatives. You can also head here to submit your comments for public review: http://monumentsforall.org/.

Farm Life, Then Now

It might seem a little strange to be writing about farms on a travel blog, but I did travel nearly an hour to get to them! How our food is raised, the traditions surrounding the raising of crops and livestock, and the bond of farmer to animal, crop, and consumer are also something I have a deep interest in and seek out to some degree on my travels near and far.

Our day started simply enough. We got up, took care of Meli, and headed out the door to pick up our final CSA share of the season. If you’re unfamiliar with what a CSA is, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In a nutshell, you pay a local farmer a number of months in advance for all of the produce they will provide you for the upcoming growing season. You are essentially investing in the farm and the return on your investment is fresh local food!

Back to our day:  Today was our CSAs customer appreciation day at their farm. We arrived to a warm welcome from the owners of Paige’s Produce, were provided a shopping list, and a wheelbarrow. Based on our list we were able to roam around and hand select our produce. Different CSAs provide different options. For the two of us, we pay for a half share of vegetables and as an add on, a half share of fruit. There was a great variety this year and the growing season rewarded all of us nicely! We have tons of butternut squash which is one of my favorite foods, particularly when Ed turns it into soup. Drool.

After working up a small appetite collecting our produce, roaming the farm, and checking out two impressive orb weavers on the side of a barn, we ventured over to their house for soup, mac & cheese, homemade cookies, and fresh apple cider. Such a great treat! Not every CSA holds an event at their farm for their customers, but in my opinion they should. CSAs encourage you to not only support local, but to really see where your food is coming from and get to know the people who make it possible.

As we were making our way back home, we passed one of our metro parks and made a u-turn. We haven’t been to this park before. Part of the reason we hadn’t made the journey is because there are only three short pet friendly trails and they aren’t allowed at the Living Historic Farm at all. I feel guilty having fun in nature while Meli sits at home. Today was serendipitous though as we were already in the area. I made it up to her by taking her for a walk at the park closer to home after dinner. 🙂

Slate Run Living Historical Farm is really cool. It must have been wonderful living there as an original home owner. The setting is idyllic. Lovely trees, wide open pastures, fields, a pond. I will say the lack of indoor plumbing would be the tough one for me. I could survive without electricity, I think, but am incredibly attached to a flushing toilet. The main barn is huge and beautifully maintained. The property is complete with the summer kitchen, root cellar, smoke house, outhouse, and a number of other out buildings. Around the farm we met the employees and volunteers who work the farm as if it were in a time capsule from the late 1800’s; as well as chickens, sheep, geese, ducks, cows, hogs, turkeys, guinea hens, and of course draft horses!

Having just come from a modern working farm, it was interesting to see the differences of small working farms then and now. The biggest difference, aside from indoor plumbing, is horse power. Literally. While some of the plows and other machinery are similar, now they are pulled by tractors instead of draft horses. Materials for many storage structures have shifted from wood to metal. If a part was needed, they needed to craft it themselves instead of going to the local hardware store or mechanic. Aside from that, it is remarkable how little has changed. I think that is a testament to how well the system works and the pride achieved in those who work the land.

I encourage you to learn more about the history where you live and anywhere you travel. If it doesn’t give you a deeper appreciation for the place you’re in and the people who live there, you’re doing it wrong.

I also would like to encourage you to look up your local farmers to see if they offer a CSA or similar program. If not, maybe reach out to ask if they would start one. Almost everyone used to raise at least some of their own produce. It is only in recent human history that we’ve begun to deviate farther away from our food sources. When we lose touch with our local farmers, we lose touch with ourselves.

Staycation in Ohio

As much as I love to travel the country and the world (and long to move to a warmer climate) there are so many different things to enjoy in Ohio. It is beyond time for the flyover mentality to be extinguished. Ohio has everything from lakes and rivers to mountains and prairie land to the 15th largest city in the country and tiny towns of less than 1000. (more…)

Redemption!

What better day to take steps towards redeeming myself for neglecting my nearest National Park than the National Park Services’ 100th Birthday?! On our last trip to Cuyahoga National Park, if I’m honest, I felt like we had hit all of the high points and there wasn’t any rush to get back. As nice as the idea was to revisit and explore, I just didn’t have a sense of urgency. That was horribly wrong of me! (more…)