It’s the end of an interesting year of exploring Ohio’s parks and preserves. So it’s time once agains for the 2016 edition of TrekOhio Highlights. When the two of us have different selections for a category, we will list both choices.
Deb: My favorite photo was from Mohican State Park in Winter. Like a lot of other people, I sometimes find it difficult to leave the cozy warmth of home in the winter time, but once I get outside, sites like this make it all worthwhile.
Bob: My favorite photo was taken while hiking the Morgan Sisters Trail in the Ironton Unit of Wayne National Forest. It was so cloudy during this hike, but just before we left the sun came out and lit up Kenton Lake.
Best Hike of the Year
Deb: My favorite hike of the year was at the Gorge Metro Park, part of the Summit County Park District. The terrain featured a lot of interesting rock outcroppings, including a recess cave and a tunnel. And despite all the rugged beauty, the park is actually in Akron, Ohio. If we lived in the vicinity, we’d be hiking this park all the time.
Bob: My favorite hike this year was a fall hike at Fort Hill. The fall foliage was just a little past peak, but still colorful. The weather was pleasant and the scenery was dramatic. The hike was followed by a hot pretzel at a nearby Amish bakery.
Deb: My favorite animal for the year was this bald eagle who was spotted at Magee Marsh during the Biggest Week in American Birding. Despite the fact that the area immediately around the nests are barricaded, eagles both in and out of their nests were close enough that it was easy to get a good look at them. I was also thrilled to get to see an eaglet in its nest (pictured here and here).
Bob: My favorite animal for the year was the buck that we spotted while hiking at Blue Heron Reserve in Sandusky County. Although we see a lot of deer while hiking, we seldom see bucks with a rack of antlers.
Lepidoptera refers to all the species of moths and butterflies. Having attended Mothapalooza 2016, these species were more on our mind than usual.
Deb: My favorite moth and/or butterfly ended up being a caterpillar that will develop into the spicebush swallowtail butterfly. What I like about it is its cute, little fake face. The photo below was taken during a day session workshop at Mothapalooza 2016.
Bob: My favorite moth and/or butterfly of the year was The Hummingbird Moth. Every time I see one, I’m amazed at how closely this insect resembles a hummingbird.
Deb: I love wildflowers, and I saw a lot of wildflower species that were new to me this year. However, my favorite has to be Bladderwort. It may not have been the most beautiful wildflower that I saw this year, but it is a fascinating carnivorous plant that captures its prey underwater by sucking them into little pouches (there’s more about them here if interested, including a photo of the pouches). I photographed it at Cedar Bog in Late Spring.
Bob: My favorite flower was a wild orchid that was new to both of us. It was so beautiful that it created a traffic jam in Shawnee Forest as cars lined up to photograph it at the conclusion of Mothapalooza. The flower below appeared in an article that we published on Summer Wildflowers 2016.
Deb: My favorite falls of the year was Cedar Cliff Falls at Indian Mound Reserve in Greene County. The water is actually falling over an arch-shaped dam built of stone. Besides being pretty, I like the fact that the dam had been engineered, so the in-coming water presses against the arch in a way that forces the stones in the dam closer together. For this reason the dam earns extra points for its steam-punk engineering.
Bob: My favorite falls of the year was Robinson Falls, newly acquired and added to Boch Hollow State Nature Preserve. Despite how it looks in the photo below, it is a small falls. However, I really liked both the surrounding, scenic cliffs and the fact that the water twists in a corkscrew manner as it falls. The photo below was taken with a telephoto lens since the falls can only be viewed from a distance.
Best Historical Site
Deb: For best historical site, I’m going to go with Lanterman’s Mill in Mill Creek Park in the Youngstown area. The mill has been restored to the point where it is fully operational. Besides the mill itself, other historical structures nearby include a wooden, covered bridge, plus an ornate, steel suspension bridge that was originally constructed in 1895 by the Dot Construction Corp. And it worth mentioning that mill is located at the edge of the scenic Mill Creek Gorge. There is a boardwalk that begins near the mill, and clings to the cliff side along the eastern side of the gorge.
Bob: My favoriet historical site for the year were the Belgian coke ovens at Vinton Furnace State Experimental Forest. They were a bit challenging to find, but worth it. These are the last remnants in the world of this particular technology, and I thought it was interesting that the bricks making up the oven were actually manufactured in Belgium, and that each brick was numbered so that the customer could assemble the structure at the site of their choice. And I thought putting together Ikea furniture was difficult!
Most Unusual Park
Deb and Bob both agree that Ariel Foundation Park in Knox County was the most unusual park that we visited this year. The ruins of former industrial structures have been preserved at this site in an artistic manner. Pictured below is Rastin Observation Tower; it is a former smokestack to which an observation deck has been added.
Best Geological Feature
Deb and Bob both agree that the Ledges Trail at Cuyahoga Valley National Park provided the best views of geological features of this year’s hikes. The western portion of this loop trail is right along along a dramatic cliff face.
Deb and Bob both agree that the tent campsites along the Maumee River in Toledo’s Farnsworth Metropark were our favorites. In addition to the beautiful view of the river, each campsite has its own picnic shelter. It is possible to rent kayaks to explore the Maumee River, and if you like cycling, the campsite is right off the bike path. It is a great site for fishing and birding, and there is also a nearby playground. If you get tired of cooking out, you can drive to a nearby restaurant in Toledo.
Well, 2016 was an great year for exploring Ohio. We look forward to bringing you more of the best of Ohio outdoors in 2017. Happy New Year and keep on trekking!
P.S. Check our Ohio Winter Hike Calendar to find organized winter hikes in your area.