Ariel Foundation Park; Mount Vernon Ohio

Today Emma and I ran a 5 mile race at this park. The race was called Brokeman’s Classic and we only paid $12 to run! I’ve been following this running company for a while and looking at their races. They always have really cheap ones in comparison to everything else which is super nice, especially for a really broke college student.

The race venue/ Park was so nice. The park is the ruins of an old glass factory and has some super neat architecture structures preserved from the old factory. The park had a wooded section, a section with lakes, and a section with a neat grass terrace. I didn’t get many pictures since I was running the whole time but here is what I did get afterwards.

Observation tower. The picture of myself above is take near the top of the tower. It was very foggy today so I couldn’t see much at the top.

The spider webs we saw on the observation tower looked so cool in the morning dew.

This park was a very neat discovery. I’d recommend it to anyone driving through the area. It’s very big so if you’re a runner it’s a great place to run!

Ohio Caverns 5/2/18

Jeff and I visited Ohio Caverns in May as part of a staycation in Columbus. These caverns, located in West Liberty Ohio, are known as America’s most colorful caverns and rightly so. We did both the historic tour and the natural wonder tour. If you take the time to visit this place I definitely recommend doing both tours. The historic tour explained the history of the caves discovery and how it came to be the business that it is today. This part of the cavern doesn’t contain stalactites or stalagmites since most of them were removed by the early explorers and they take years to regrow. The natural wonder tour contained beautiful cave features and thousands of colorful cave formations including Ohio’s largest stalactite. I’m quite happy with how some of the pictures turned out I think they could go on a post card! The tour guides were very friendly and quite knowledgeable.

Ohio’s Largest Stalactite.This cave formation is known as the old town pump I believe.

Olentangy Indian Caverns 9/16/18

I’ve always been interested in going to see these caverns since I was looking up all the caves in Ohio this past spring but I just hadn’t had a chance to until this weekend. My friend Ester brought up the caverns in conversation one day and she has been the only person who’s ever mentioned them to me before so we decided to go together! These caverns are located on the Northwest side of Columbus a ten minute drive from Highbanks metro park.

The caverns are regularly open from 9:30-5pm April 1st to October 31. The first and last two months they are open you can pay $10 for an adult to do a self guided tour. During the middle of that time period the tours are guided. Ester and I did a self guided tour.

When I arrived I was shocked to see that the place was busier than I had expected it to be. There were about 20-30 other people at the park on a Sunday afternoon. We checked in at the very nice gift shop. I also found out that they offer many other activities such as a petting zoo for $3, gem mining, and some outdoor games including a maze. This would be such a great location to take kids who are visiting Columbus to!

After paying for our tickets we were given a map with information and we walked a short distance to a small brick building. The building contained a Museum and the entrance to the cave.

The museum was pretty interesting. It gave details of the caverns time line and held Indian artifacts and cave formations with special rocks.

As with most caves the entrance to the cavern had a long set of steep stairs.

The cave it’s self was much larger than I had expected. There was plenty of room to walk around and the ceilings were pretty high. I should have anticipated this given the fact that Indians actually inhabited the cave at some point. Because of this the cavern didn’t have much natural features such as crystallized stalactites and stalagmites. All of the nicer images were taken by Ester on her camera! This particular formation is called the Indian lover’s bench and is shaped like an arrow head. We spent about 40 minutes in the cave. As with any cave I recommend brining a jacket as the temperature is about 50 degrees all year long. This cave has a large crack in the ceiling that allows new air to circulate the cave regularly. Compared to other caves I have been in this one lacked many typical cave features and had much much more moss and greenery growing around the light fixtures in it. After we explored the cave we checked out the petting zoo from the outside and saw some goats, chickens, and deer. I’ve never seen deer at a petting zoo before. With high banks metro park a short drive away we finished the day by roller blading their paved multi purpose trail.

Little Miami National Scenic River

This past weekend Jeff and I had plans to go see a sunflower field in Deerfield township Ohio. Because we were driving an hour and a half to the Cincinnati area we decided to do a kayaking trip while we were there. We made reservations the day of at Loveland Canoe and Kayak. We paid $30 each to go on the “Castle” trip. It’s called the castle trip because it passes by a historic castle in Loveland which you can also take a tour of. The kayak company shuttled us to the beginning and after that we were on our own and kayaked 5 miles back to the outfitter. It was a very laid back trip! We could barely see the castle from the river but that was okay! It would’ve been cool to tour it but we didn’t have time. Turns out the sunflower field was no longer there but the kayaking was worth it! There were a few very small rapids along the river that were fun as well.

Here are some pictures.

Backpacking at Raccoon Creek State Park (PA) 8/9-8/10

I had been begging Emma to go on some sort of camping trip with me all summer. I was very happy when she told me she’d like to try backpacking for a night! She doesn’t have any of her own equipment so in order for this to be possible she borrowed Jeff’s backpack and sleeping bag. Thanks Jeff! I was looking at various different places to go and found Raccoon Creek State Park in PA. It was probably the closest place we could’ve gone. The drive was only 1.5 hours from our house in Bolivar, OH.

Raccoon Creek has a designated backpacking loop that is 19.5 miles long (we definitely did 20 by the end). I knew this would be kind of long of a trip for us but Emma was willing to do it. I had to reserve us a backpacking campsite on the loop. Our options were between Sioux or the Pioneer backpacking campgrounds. I chose the Pioneer campground since it was located way closer to the half way point on the loop than the Sioux campground was. Camping fees were $5 a person per night for us out of state people ($4 in state) plus a $6 reservation fee (Annoying!) so I paid a total of $16 for our site. When we got to the state park we stopped by the office and on the outside they had a map, our permit, a car hangtag for overnight parking, and a little campsite reservation paper all ready to go for us.

We parked our car at the Heritage Trail trailhead. Our route was hiking the perimeter of the park clockwise starting with the Heritage Tail (9.5 miles), then the Appaloosa Trail, and lastly the Forrest Trail (6.2 miles). We started hiking at 12:50 pm.

The Heritage trail is considered “most difficult hiking” by the park. I can agree that it was difficult hiking. It started out an an uphill climb. I wish I had an elevation map of it. The first 4.5 miles of the trail to mineral springs was great. Emma and I both felt good, the trail was very nice and taken care of. We passed through a super cool area with tall skinny pine trees. When we got to mineral springs I really wanted to go see the spring but knew we could afford the time it takes to hike the extra miles.

Some interesting plants I saw along the heritage trail.

Emma on the Heritage trail in the cool pine tree area.

Mineral Springs also had some cool ruins of an old building.

Ruins at mineral springs.

Emma on the Heritage trail.

Me on the heritage trail.

After mineral springs we continued hiking on nice trail for another mile; at five miles the trail became really over grown. At 5.5ish miles Emma’s GPS watch died so we based all our milage from here on on time. For the first five miles all of our mile times were between 20 and 25 minutes each. The overgrowth on the last half of the Heritage trail was really bad. It made sense because the trail went around the back side of the park where there aren’t as many places to go. Emma and I were both DYING by the time we got to mile 8ish. We still had four more miles to go to camp and it was getting darker out. I was hiking pretty fast to get there in time. When we finally got to the Appaloosa Trail we found that it wasn’t as overgrown anymore. We think this is because it is also used as an equine trail. For being a horse trail it was narrower than I had expected.

We arrived at camp at 6:30 pm. The first day was roughly 12 miles and took 5.5 hours. At camp we had reserved tent site #2. After looking at the other tent sites we took tent site #1 because it seemed flatter and had a bench by the fire ring. We knew that no one else would be coming to camp tonight because we saw only one other reservation ready at the camp office and we got to the camp so late there was no way anyone who was ahead of us wouldn’t be there yet. The park also offers some nice Adirondack shelters to rent out as well. They were very nice looking but I wouldn’t like to stay with one wall open.

One of the Adirondack shelters available to rent.

We set up our tent and began to cook dinner. We made Velveeta mac and cheese and used the let over cheese to add to some dehydrated hash brown mix. This was the first time I had used these potatoes for camping food and they tasted great!

After dinner I surprisingly found a sign that said there was water and restrooms! I was excited because I didn’t think we would be able to get more water until we made it to the Sioux camp. I wish the park was more clear about there being water at the pioneer campground. We had to hike about a quarter mile to some group tenting sites to get to a water pump. I had to pump the water really hard and it took a while to get some out. I’m glad there were two of us because I don’t know how someone could have pumped and filled up alone. The water came out with a brown tint so we used my sawyer squeeze to filter it before drinking.

When we were filtering our water back at camp around 8:30 another lady arrived. She was alone and camped in a hammock. She said she came from the same way we did. She found our little sloth that we had been carrying with us. We had no idea that we had even lost him! He had to of fallen off Emma’s backpack in the last mile to camp.

Emma carrying the sloth.

How many steps I had from our first day according to my Fitbit.

We got into the tent around 8:30-9pm. The food was kept inside the tent but we had our packs sitting right outside with their rain covers on. I was using my new blow up pillow I just bought for the first time but I was still getting a really bad headache. I found out that if I put the pillow on top of the food bag it was high enough to be comfortable but the pillow was very slippery. I barely slept all night. The nearby road was VERY loud until 1am and there were also many airplanes flying over as well. I thought we heard so many airplanes because of how close the Pittsburgh we were. I was listening to the forrest sounds all night and I swear I’ve never camped and heard a louder forrest. I was really paranoid again about food being in the tent and our packs being outside. At 5:30 am Emma wanted to get up to go to the bathroom and then we finally started getting breakfast ready around 6:30am. For breakfast we ate some hardboiled eggs we made at home and boiled water for oatmeal. It started raining as we packed up and we hit the trail again at 7:30am.

This is a picture of Emma in her rain gear.

The second day we hiked about a mile on the Appaloosa trail until we got to the Forrest trail for the last leg of the trip.

Some of the Forrest trail was really nice but other parts were extremely over grown.

The last four miles of our trip were very very hard and somewhat miserable for me because I had no idea how far we had left, my body was just done, and the ups and downs were really really hard. I thought the section of the Forrest trail that runs along the lake was the hardest part of the hike. It is considered “more difficult” by the park but I would call is most difficult. It was so much harder than the heritage trail. Finally we reached the dam on the lake and we knew we had less than a mile to go.

This was the dam.

The last half mile of the trip was the worst part ever. We saw a sign that said Forrest trail detour indicating a route that was walking the road back to our car from the dam. We had hiked the entire trail so far so we didn’t want to take the road back and the sign didn’t say it was closed. It was an awful idea to finish the trail and It should’ve had a closed sign on it. The trail was so overgrown you could barely see where it was. We were walking though weeds that were taller than our heads.

A picture of the overgrowth.

We just kept going because we were SO CLOSE to our car. Finally we came to a spot where there was supposed to be a bridge but there wasn’t one. I even walked down the small creek to find one but it did not exist. The Forrest was so thick we couldn’t continue to our car on the other side of the creek so we had to turn around and take the road. The overgrowth was so bad we couldn’t even tell where we had come from but after a few minutes we found it. As we were walking to the road Emma started to break out in very painful red hives and she was screaming and crying. I knew there was nothing else we could do other than make it back to the car to get her wiped off with baby wipes. I started pouring all of my water all over her and she started feeling better. At the car I poured even more water on her and had her wipe down with some baby wipes I had and the hives slowly went away. I assume she touched something poison or itchy in the tall weeds. She said she was in so much pain.

The creek where the bridge was supposed to be and I was flipping out because we had already walked through so many tall weeds to get there.

All in all we had a great trip except for the last 1/4 mile. Emma really liked backpacking and was asking when we could go again. It was a really long trip for the both of us who don’t hike much especially with a 30lb bag on our back.

Recommendations:

For a shorter trip I would park at the park office and do the mineral springs-trail, the Heritage trail, the Appaloosa trail and then the Forrest trail back to the park office.

At the pioneer camp site choose site number 1 or one of the shelters they are very nice.

Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site 8/3/18

I stopped at this NHS on my way home to Columbus coming from Dallas PA. My main motivation for stopping here was because I purchased a National Parks Passport that I can get stamped and I have yet to use it since the day I bought it. This post is more of a picture dump than anything. The place is maintained by the national parks system and is a historical landmark because it was a major transportation system that helped open the west more to trade access. It was a railroad that ran from Philadelphia PA to Pittsburg PA. The railroad had several hilly inclines over mountains that were ran by stationary engines in engine houses that helped pull the train cars up the hill. This historic site is a preservation/ recreation of the 6th incline and its engine house which was also the highest point on the rail trail.

Picture of the visitor center.

Topographical map of the railroad terrain.

Boardwalk to the incline, engine house, and lemon house.

A section of the incline restored. It doesn’t look like much of an incline until you walk up and down it. (I did a trail that ran parallel.)

These are all pictures of the engine house the train went in one side and out the other. Men operated the engine on the inside.

I walked a small trail to the Skew Arch bridge it crossed a highway which I didn’t enjoy at all but I guess this is the history of how our transportation systems keep building themselves around each other.

Skew Arch Bridge.

On top of the bridge, horses and buggy’s used to cross the bridge over the rail road, the current highway 22 was constructed around this to preserve the landmark.

It was the 6 to 10 trail I hiked, the numbers correspond to the numbered incline.

The lemon house was a tavern the Lemon’s built right next to the tracks and it had as many as 50 horses and buggies come to stay at a time.

Pictures of inside the lemon house.

Lastly my passport stamps!

Ricketts Glen State Park (PA), Falls Trail 8/2/18

This state park was thirty minutes away from my friend Emily’s college house. I drove through it on the way there and wanted to go really bad. Emily, Michaela and I planned to hike the falls trail and we thought we would be going about seven miles. Instead we only ended up hiking three miles because we only did the loop part of the trail that went by all the water falls and not the rest of it, the last three waterfalls at the end of the Y were closed. Everything we read online said it was a seven mile hike but looking at the sign and our own tracked mileage it’s about 3-4.

Map of our hike.

Elevation and distance stats of our hike thanks to Emily’s Garmin watch. As it shows the first half of the loop beginning at Mohawk Falls is a downhill hike and then you start going back uphill at the turn around point. We all said we would rate this hike as difficult due to the terrain but it wasn’t hard on our bodies. There were just tons of slick, wet, steep steps and rocks. I would definitely not recommend taking a dog on this trail I don’t know how you could walk it unless the dog were carried for some of it. We did see one dog but it was small so I assume it’s owner tried carrying it down some of the super narrow and steep parts.

The hike in to the first falls.

First view of the creek that feeds all the falls.

Mohawk Falls.

I loved the way that little streams of water dropped off the moss/rocks.

I don’t know the names of all the falls but I tired to get a picture of every one. Some of the falls had plaques with their names next to them so I know those ones, this may have been my favorite fall. I like the shorter ones that show water streams from many different levels.

This is an example of an easy part of trail that goes right beside the falls.

This is a picture of Ganoga falls from far away it was the biggest waterfall at 94 feet.

Ganoga falls from the bottom, it doesn’t look very big in this picture but in person it is very tall and lots of mist was coming off the falls which felt great.

I definitely missed pictures of some of the falls, there was SO MUCH falling water I honestly couldn’t tell if some of the water was considered a small fall or not.

The last three pictures above are from the spot we stopped to sit and have a snack, I was playing with my moms old camera she let me borrow. I was trying to take a picture of the water with a longer shutter speed to get the streaming water effect some cool waterfall pictures have but I was very unsuccessful. After “lunch” we began the hike back up in elevation because the trail was closed for the last three falls.

Reynolds falls.

Picture from behind Reynolds falls.

Carin someone built.

It doesn’t look too bad in the picture but this is an example of some of the steep steps. There were some that were plenty steeper and narrower. When we went on a Thursday morning there were barely any people there. I can’t imagine trying to make this hike with tons of people on the trail let alone to take a dog.

This cool crevasse was called midway crevasse and was located halfway down the highlands trail we took back to the parking lot. Since it was going to rain that’s all we explored of the park but if you love waterfalls this is the trail for you.

Frances Slocum State Park (PA), Lake Shore Trail

Yesterday I drove to see my two childhood best friends Emily and Michaela at Emily’s college lake house on Harvey’s Lake. After checking out Misercordia University where Emily goes to school we decided to go on a small hike at a close by state park.

We went to Frances Slocum State Park and decided to hike the Lake Shore Trail since it was right were we parked. The park didn’t have any trail maps that we could find so we just went to the trail we first saw. We started at the parking lot on one side of the lake and hiked to the parking lot on the other side and back. At the other end of the trail was an environmental educational building with bathrooms but it was closed. I bet they had the trail maps we wanted inside.

As the name of the trail indicates it runs right along side the lake. Our hike was only two miles long. Some parts of the trail were overgrown with berry bushes but since it was black berry season and we got to eat some it was okay.

Another part of the trail was more shady and wooded with some pines. Here we saw some interesting rock formations and neat fungus. I took along an old camera my mom gave me but I gave up on using it. I can’t tell if the photo quality is great yet and I think I need to take some time to sit down alone and figure out the camera functions. At the moment I have no way to get the photos from an old flash card to my computer but I plan on buying an adapter after I figure out how to work the camera.

I was really happy with these neat fungus pictures I took with my phone. All of these pictures on my blog so far are taken with my phone. Michaela pointed out the reflection of the clouds on the lake and she was able to get a great picture of it (below).

Rock formation along side the trail.

Emily getting GPS signal on her running watch to track our mileage.

Michaela leading the way.

Zaleski State Forrest Backpacking Trip July 25th-26th

I went on my first backpacking trip ever to Zaleski State Forrest in South Eastern Ohio. It is located directly next to Lake Hope State Park. I got a backpack for my birthday back in February but plans with friends kept falling through and I was dying to go. I found a women’s outdoor group online called “Mountain Chicks” and they had an upcoming backpacking trip that I could make so I decided to go! I didn’t have to pay a dime other than show up and bring my own gear.

I drove 1.5 hours from Columbus and on my way I ended up hitting a squirrel. I was pretty upset but I quickly redeemed myself by stopping my car and helping a small turtle cross the road a few miles later.

Notice he was stuck in the middle right on the yellow line.

Moved to a safer place!

A total of seven people showed up for the trip including myself. Ages ranged from a retired older lady (maybe 60? But she was in GREAT shape) to myself who was definitely the youngest at 20. People drove from Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana. This Mountain Chicks chapter was the Midwest chapter and it was cool that there were people from three different states! I was definitely the least experienced but it was also one other girls first time backpacking too.

We started hiking around 10am and took about 4 hours to go seven miles and arrived at our camp around 2:30. My shoulders and neck were killing me but I didn’t want to complain so I didn’t say anything. When we got to camp I asked everyone else if my pain was normal and one of the girls helped me adjust my pack. I had so much of the weight sitting on my shoulder straps when I could’ve adjusted it to balance more on my hips. The backpack felt so much more comfortable after I had it adjusted right. We got to camp so early and we had time to kill. I’m glad we only hiked seven miles because my legs and shoulders were badly hurting. Backpacking is way harder than I thought it would be.

This is a picture of the wetlands that we hiked by on the first day.

On the first day the wetlands were the most scenic view the trail had to offer. I didn’t have high expectations since we were in Ohio but one thing I didn’t expect was how often I found my self staring at the person’s shoes in front of me. I was doing this so that I could watch where I was stepping. Even if I was in front I think I still would spend a lot of time looking at the ground.

For dinner I made some ramen noodles in my camp stove. It was cool to see what everyone else chose to make and cook their food in. Quite a few people had mountain house premise meals where they just poured boiling water into their bag and ate. I don’t think I could justify spending the money on them myself and I doubt that they tasted much better than my ramen. I might try them one day but I think it will be fun to make and pack all my own food too.

At night I stayed alone in my two person tent. It was the first time I’ve ever stayed alone in a tent before but there were still six others in tents somewhat close to me. I didn’t bring a pillow on purpose because I planned on using my clothes stuffed in a sack but it didn’t work very well at all. I got a really bad headache from laying down with my head practically flat on the ground. I saw another girl had a blow up pillow, next time I go camping or backpacking I definitely plan on getting one of these because I had a miserable time sleeping. I remember being up until 3am trying to get my headache to go away. I heard some coyotes howling over the hill which really had me scared. I kept moving around in my sleeping bag to make some noise to distract me. I probably slept about three hours because I woke up at six am. The outhouse was a three minute walk down the trail, so being the chicken I was I held my bladder all night and went as soon as it was light out.

in the morning I made some oatmeal and we hiked 6.5 miles back. This time my backpack felt so much better but I had it super tight around my hips. There were lots of ups and downhills but hiking with six others made me keep going. I enjoy hiking up hill much more than down but if I were on my own or with one other person I could see us stopping to take more breaks. The scenery for the second day I enjoyed much better.

Here is a view of an area that had been through a selective tree harvest.

We got back to our cars around 11:30 and I was home by 1:30 which I was very happy with. My hips aches so bad and it felt like I had giant bruises on them. I was walking very slow almost limping. I’m glad we only hiked as far as we did. I don’t know how people are able to hike much further but I hope I can one day.

We did the small southern loop of the park on our trip but I want to return to do the much larger northern loop starting at the iron furnace trail head.

Here is a picture of some ledges we saw on our second day apparently this part was an old stone quarry.

A bad picture of some interesting flora.

We started at point A and camped at point I.

Pickerington Ponds Metro Park

I visited this park immediately after Blacklick woods since they are in the same area. They were about a 15 minute drive apart.

The park has several areas that are just for viewing different wildlife and birds. There were provided telescopes but my phone camera can’t zoom in enough to get a good picture. The telescopes are great for watching the birds through.

This is a picture of a mural made by some elementary kids for the park near one of the wild life viewing areas.

My best attempt at getting a picture of some birds through the telescope.

Osprey viewing area.

Blacklick Woods Metro Park

I visited this park on my own and was happy to find it is probably my second favorite metro park now. The trail I walked on was gravel and some dirt and super shady the whole time. The trail it’s self was comparable to high banks without the hills. I did a small 2-3 mile loop but the rest of the park trails are mostly paved multipurpose paths. There was plenty of area for picnicking as well.

Walk to the nature center

Beginning of the wetlands nature preserve

Boardwalk in the nature preserve

Ashton pond, had some large goldfish in it that someone was feeding when I walked in

Boardwalk in the nature preserve again.

Walnut Woods Metro Park 7/23/18

This morning I picked up Diana at 8:30 and we drove about 30 minutes to walnut woods metro park despite my many wrong turns. We parked at the buckeye area and started our day on the buckeye trail. Diana has never hiked before but she walks really far all the time so I was excited to take her to this park. 90% of the trail at this park was paved so it’s not what I was hoping for but it was still nice to spend time out in nature. We walked the perimeter of the park and 90% of all the trails.

View of Walnut Creek from the buckeye trail.

Bridge on the monarch trail over “Big Run”

“Big Run”… not very big

The tall pines area along the sweet gum trail was what I was looking forward to the most about this park. All of the trees are planted in a line and it looks like something from a fairy trail.

Some interesting and pretty trees leaning to make an arch.

These might be sweet gum trees?

We finished the day on the kestrel trail

A small pond along the kestrel trail.

Dawes Arboretum 7/4/18

Jeff and I stopped and spent about two hours here on the way to Columbus, it was way bigger than I was expecting. We did the auto tour and stopped and all the points of interest and walked around.

This garden can be viewed from the nature center

Japanese Garden

Jeff on Holly Hill

Dawes Memorial

Observation tower, the hedges spell out ” Dawes Arboretum” unfortunately drones are not allowed here.

Hedge lettering

Dawes Lake

Last but not least, a butterfly we saw at the Japanese gardens.

Prairie Oaks Metro Park 6/20

Visited this metro park for an afternoon hike with Ashley. The lakes were really pretty, wish we had a kayak or paddle board to enjoy them more. The water levels in Big Darby creek were high but it looks like a nice river to kayak down as well.

Big Darby Creek

Bridge over the creek

Cone Flower Trail

Where Darby bend lake flows into Big Darby Creek

Homestead and Heritage Trail Metro Park 6/19

Visited these two parks alone today for some quiet reading time in my hammock. Homestead is a quiet and small little park, it would be really nice to have a wedding or special event at. The field of wild flowers and my secluded hammock spot was my favorite part. I just drove through the heritage trail park because it is a dog park with a trail head parking lot for bicycles but nothing else is there. I can’t wait to get my bike I can fit in my car to take to the parks.

Wildflower field