Mill Creek Park: Lanterman’s Mill and Mill Creek Gorge

Lanterman's Mill.

Mill Creek Park occupies 2,882 acres in Mahoning County. It is a green oasis bordering Mill Creek in the midst of the Youngstown metro-area. Lanterman’s Mill is located within Mill Creek Park. The mill is a fully-operational historic grist mill. Nearby the mill is a waterfall, a covered bridged, and trails that will take you along both sides of the gorge created by the creek. It was a sunny September day when we visited the park, perfect for hiking and seeing the sights.

Lanterman's Mill.

Lanterman’s Mill.

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Old Woman Creek State Nature Preserve

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), photgraphed from the observation deck.

The full name of this preserve is the Old Woman Creek State Nature Preserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve. The research center studies the local “estuary,” a word that usually refers to the region where fresh-water in a river mixes with the salt-water of an ocean. However in this case it is referring to a region where the fresh-water of a creek mixes with the fresh-water of Lake Erie.

The preserve is 572 acres in size, and it features hiking trails, an observation deck, and a handicap-accessible visitor center. The site is highly recommended for bird watching. Our hike last September was about 1.8 miles in length, but we didn’t hike every portion of every trail. I’m guessing that the total trail length is between 2 and 2.25 miles.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), photgraphed from the observation deck.

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), photgraphed from the observation deck.

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Earth Science Resources for Homeschoolers in Ohio’s Parks & Preserves

Mastodon skeleton at Ohio History Center

Ohio’s Parks & Preserves offer many excellent educational opportunities for homeschoolers and for parents seeking educational enrichment for their public school students. To locate parks and preserves near you, TrekOhio offers an on-line guide currently listing details of over 900 parks and preserves around the state. The guide is divided into five geographic zones that are listed in the tabs on the top of each of our pages.

In this article I’ll discuss resources for the academic areas of geology, paleontology, and astronomy. If there is sufficient interest, I’ll publish follow ups covering additional academic disciplines.

Balanced Rock - created by differential erosion

Balanced Rock – created by differential erosion

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Mothapalooza 2016: Learning about moths

Promethea moth (Callosamia promethea); a more normal-sized moth appears to its right to provide scale.

Mothapalooza is an annual conference sponsored by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. As its name suggests, the focus on the conference is on moths. Just like people who go bird-watching are said to go “birding,” people who are on the lookout for moths are said to go “mothing.” The conference is geared both toward the mothing enthusiast and the beginner. Activities included daytime field trips, in-house talks, and night-time moth viewings. Some of the daytime field-trips delved into other topics besides moths. This year Mothapalooza was held at the Shawnee State Park Lodge.

Bob and I had considered going to Mothapalooza the previous year, but when we tried to register a couple months ahead of time, they were already sold out! This just goes to show how popular this event has become. So this year we signed up extra-early. Previous to Mothapalooza Bob and I had attended one other mothing event (described here), so we consider ourselves to be beginners.

Tulip Tree Silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera) a more normal-sized moth appears to its right.

Tulip Tree Silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera); a more normal-sized moth appears to its right.

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Summer Wildflowers 2016

Yellow-fringed orchid (Platanthera-ciliaris), photographed at Shawnee State Forest

The photos below are a sample of some of the wildflowers we’ve seen in June, July, and August. All were photographed in Ohio.

Native Orchids

I had the good fortune of seeing two, new species of native orchid for the first time while we were attending Mothapalooza. Mothapalooza is an annual conference held in Ohio that focuses on moths, but also deals with nature more generally. The most colorful of the two was the Yellow-fringed orchid.

Yellow-fringed orchid (Platanthera-ciliaris), photographed at Shawnee State Forest

Yellow-fringed orchid (Platanthera-ciliaris), photographed at Shawnee State Forest

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Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve

New England Aster

Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve is a remnant of the Darby Plains prairie. While most of Ohio’s prairies were converted into farmland, its status as a 19th-century pioneer cemetery meant that the land was never cultivated. Fortunately this has allowed it to preserve the original prairie grasses and wildflowers. The is a one acre preserve is located in Madison County.

We visited three prairie remnants west of Columbus on the same day: Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve, Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve, and Milford Center Prairie State Natural Area. These three can be seen in a single half-day trip. Other nearby prairie remnants include Prairie Oaks Metropark, and Battelle Darby Creek Metropark which features bison. These are remnants of a prairie that once covered 5% of Ohio.

New England Aster, photographed in September.

New England Aster, photographed in September.

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Ledges Trail

Large boulder at the foot of the cliffs.

The Ledge Trail is located in the Virginia Kendall Unit of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The trail follows along the sandstone cliffs that make up Ritchie Ledges. The trail map at the kiosk says that the Ledges trail is a 1.8-mile loop. However, I have seen numerous other sites on the web say the trail is 2.2 miles. According to park officials it is a moderately difficult trail to hike. If the loop isn’t enough of a work-out, there are connector trails leading to other, nearby trails, so you can lengthen your hike to suit your available time and physical ability.

Large boulder at the foot of the cliffs.

Large boulder at the foot of the cliffs.

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Early Summer Evening at Char-Mar Ridge Preserve

Hot-air balloon over the trail

Yesterday we went on an early evening walk at Char-Mar Ridge Preserve. We were half-way around the loop trail when we heard a strange sound. It sounded like a fire-breathing dragon (if there were such things) and it was getting closer. I immediately recognized it and we started watching the sky. Deb was ready with her camera as the hot-air balloon flew over still fairly close to the ground. It drifted overhead, firing its burners to gain more altitude. Then it vanished over the tree line, the roar of the burners fading in the distance.

Hot-air balloon over the trail

Hot-air balloon over the trail

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Boch Hollow State Nature Preserve: Robinson Falls

Robinson Falls (telephoto shot from overlook)

We recently visited Robinson Falls (aka “Corkscrew Falls”) at Boch Hollow State Nature Preserve. The waterfall is located off-trail at the preserve, so we obtained a free permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to visit the falls. Along with the permit, they sent us a map showing the falls, where to park, directions, and preserve rules.

Robinson Falls

Robinson Falls

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