Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve

Last summer we visited two of Ohio’s smallest state nature preserves: Bigelow Cemetery and Smith Cemetery. Within these two preserves are remnants of prairie that once extended over 5% of Ohio. Because both sites were 19th century cemeteries, they were undisturbed by the plowing that converted 99% of this rich, prairie soil into Ohio farmland. Today I will discuss the half-acre Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve, and I’ll save the nearby Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve for a later post. Both preserves are located in Madison County and are remnants of a prairie once known as the Darby Plains.

Tombstones and flowers

Tombstones and flowers

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Hell Hollow Wilderness Area

Bench near the top of the stairs... a welcome sight to those returning from the bottom of the gorge.

Hell Hollow Wilderness Area is one of the sites owned and operated by the Lake County park district (Lake Metroparks). It is 783 acres in size, with a total trail length of just 0.65 miles. However, it is nonetheless a strenuous hike due to the 262-step stairway that leads to the base of the ravine in Hell Hollow. On the return-trip that’s an impressive number of steps to climb. Hell Hollow got its name because of how challenging it is to climb out of the ravine. Another Lake County park, Penitentiary Glen, also received its name because of how difficult it is to leave its ravine.

Bench near the top of the stairs... a welcome sight to those returning from the bottom of the gorge.

Bench near the top of the stairs… a welcome sight to those returning from the bottom of the gorge.

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The TrekOhio Challenge – Summer 2016

We’d like to invite our readers to participate in the TrekOhio challenge. The challenge is to complete FIVE hikes during summer (June 21 – Sept 21) 2016 from the ANY of the parks and preserves listed below. The hikes are arranged by Ohio region for your convenience, but feel free to mix and match any five. We’ve provided links to TrekOhio articles to get more information about the hike. Once you’ve picked your five parks or preserves, you choose the trails and hike durations.

So what do you get from participating in the challenge? You’ll get the memories of some great hikes (and perhaps photos too, if you brought a camera).

You’ll also get fame, fortune, and glory!! OK, perhaps a little fame … kind of. We’ll publish a list of names of those who successfully completed the challenge. We’ll also randomly draw five names from the list and send them TrekOhio hats. Full rules are listed below.

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Cedar Bog in Late Spring

Bee emerging from Showy Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium reginae)

Cedar Bog is a State Nature Preserve located in Champaign County. We visited the preserve twice during the past several weeks to look at the spring wildflowers. Like many people our favorite bloom from this past weekend was the Showy Lady’s Slipper.

Bee emerging from Showy Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium reginae)

Bee emerging from Showy Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium reginae)

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Mt. Gilead State Park

Autumn shoreline at Mt. Gilead State Park

Mount Gilead is a 181 acre state park in central Ohio which offers some nice hiking trails as well as opportunities for fishing, camping, and horseback riding. The park is located in the town of the same name which is about 45 minutes north of Columbus.

Autumn shoreline at Mt. Gilead State Park

Autumn shoreline at Mt. Gilead State Park

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National Center for Nature Photography at Secor Metropark

National Center for Nature Photography

On our recent trip to northwest Ohio, we visited the National Center for Nature Photography. The center is located in Secor Metropark near Toledo. The center features exhibits of the works of nature photographers and occasionally offers classes on nature photography. The center is a small building in the middle of the metropark. It generally shows the works of one artist with the exhibit changing every few months. Admission is free and open to the public.

National Center for Nature Photography at Secor Metropark

National Center for Nature Photography at Secor Metropark

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Biggest Week in American Birding 2016

Yellow Warbler

The Biggest Week in American Birding is an annual event held in northwestern Ohio. This year it is being held from May 6 to May 15, 2016. Every spring many species of small birds in the warbler family migrate from South America to Canada. In order to store up energy for the flight across Lake Erie, the birds spend some time on the southwestern shore of Lake Erie fattening up on insects. While the birds look for insects, the people look for the birds. We’ve participated in two previous Biggest Weeks toward the tail end of the event. This year we decided to see what it was like at the beginning of the Biggest Week. We joined other birders on the 7th and 8th at Magee Marsh, the Ottawa Wildlife Refuge, and the Toussaint Wildlife Area.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

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Early Spring Wildflowers 2016

Pride of Ohio (Primula meadia), photographed April 23rd at Miller State Nature Preserve

Here a sampling of the wildflowers that I saw in March and April of this year. With each photo below, I’ve identified the flower and indicated when and where it was photographed. I’m leading off with a flower called Pride of Ohio out of Buckeye pride. 🙂 It is also known as Shooting Star.

Pride of Ohio (Primula meadia), photographed April 23rd at Miller Nature Sanctuary

Pride of Ohio (Primula meadia), photographed April 23rd at Miller Nature Sanctuary

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The Hummingbird Moth

Hummingbird clearwing moth sipping nectar from purple dead nettle.

This little creature is my favorite moth. It’s common name is actually the hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe). When I first saw one, I actually thought that I was seeing a hummingbird flitting about from flowers. But then I noticed the antenna.

Hummingbird clearwing moth sipping nectar from purple dead nettle.

Hummingbird clearwing moth sipping nectar from purple dead nettle.

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GPS Mapping Apps: MyTrails – a Replacement for Google MyTracks

One feature we often include with our articles is a map of our hike. Originally we used a handheld Magellan Explorist 310 to do the job of mapping our hike. But as we acquired more capable smart phones, we’d switched over to Google’s MyTracks application for Android phones. This app had a bit of a learning curve and some idiosyncrasies, but we became accustomed to it and it became our goto application for mapping. We used it for finding our way on the trail (or back to our car) and afterwards to view distance traveled and total elevation gain. For our web site, we could either do a screen capture from our phone or easily export the data to Google Maps (web app) and then embed the Google Map web page in our site.

MyTracks Map - GPS trace of our 8.4 mile October 31, 2015 hike at Shawnee State Forest

MyTracks Map – GPS trace of our 8.4 mile October 31, 2015 hike at Shawnee State Forest

All was good until a few weeks ago, we fired up MyTracks for a hike and it informed us that Google was discontinuing it and it would stop working on April 30, 2016!

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