Nature Escape

Blendon Woods Metro Park

Are you craving a trip to a national park? If you said yes, I am with you. I am an avid traveler and for the last few years, I had many great adventures at a lot of our national parks. I love hiking on different trials and seeing all varieties of terrain. When Covid hit and long-distance travel was no longer an option, I started to explore what parks the Columbus area had to offer. Now it feels like I am traveling again and it helps me discover all the hidden treasure around me. Today I want to share with you one of my favorite parks: Blendon Woods metro park.

Blendon Woods is located on the east side of Columbus, about 10min drive from Easton. You can find many playgrounds for kids, picnic areas for families, miles of shaded easy walking trails and designated trails for your furry friends. Surrounded by tall trees and the sounds of a babbling stream it feels like an escape from the stress of the new normal. If you are lucky, you may even run into several wild turkeys roaming around the woods. Don’t forget to check out the observation shelters near Thoreau Pond, it is the best spot to watch waterfowl.

Not being able to travel can be hard, but this metro park would be a perfect alternative to reconnect with nature. Put on your sneakers and grab a bottle of water because your new adventure awaits at Blendon Woods metro park! 

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Yi Han

In the previous newsletter, I introduced you to Blendon Woods Metro Park. Did you run into any wild turkeys during your visit? If not, don’t worry, you still have plenty of time to see them since they will not migrate during the cold season. But if you want to try something new, let me share another one of my favorite parks with you: Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

three bison grazing in the grass next to a fence, trees, and yellow flowers

Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is located on the southwest side of Columbus with more than 7,000 acres of forest, prairies and wetlands. Stretching along 13 miles of the Big and Little Darby Creeks, it offers a variety of activities:

  • If you love to hike, make sure to check out the Ancient Trial. This 1.9 mile, easy-to-moderate hike through grass and gravel has a reconstructed Fort Ancient mound along the way.
  • Love to bike? There are almost 12 miles of paved trail waiting for you to explore.
  • What about kayak and canoeing? Yes! It even has a designated launching location for you.
  • Your furry friend may also need some outdoor fun. Bring them along for almost 11 miles of pet trails.

If all the above can’t get you off of your couch, what about some Bison? Looking at those giant creatures roaming around, I almost feel like I am in Yellowstone again. Along the Darby Creek Greenway Trail, there are two bison pastures. You won’t miss them!

Being able to find joy in ordinary life seems even more important than it did before this pandemic. The metro parks always provide me a mental escape from the pressing reality. They calm my mind and make me more mindful of the present moment. Also, they let me focus more on the positive side of daily life because you can always find a hidden treasure in each park. Don’t wait! Start to find your own hidden treasure in Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

gravel path winding through a field of yellow flowers under a clear blue sky
gravel path in a bright green forest
bridge leading through a green forest
one lone bison walking through long grass

Deer Haven Park

Yi Han

Deer Haven Park has a special place in my heart because it is home to the bird sanctuary where I started my bird watching journey.

You would never guess how I got into bird watching. It all started with a documentary, not about birds, but the famous Canadian author Margaret Atwood. The documentary is about her life, how she grew up spending time in Canada’s woods, where her entomologist father worked, how she was impacted by the feminist movement that inspired her to create numerous poems and the awarding-winning novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” and also how she devoted herself to bird conservation. She traveled to many countries chasing after all kinds of exotic birds. Just from those few clips of birds in that documentary, I was hooked. I never imagined that birds could be so colorful and fascinating.

Amy Clark-Bader Bird Sanctuary at Deer Haven Park offered me my first wonderful bird watching experience. There are bird feeders, nesting boxes, and even chimney swift towers. Through the magical lenses of my binoculars, I saw a whole new world.  The brilliant red Northern Cardinals with its black mask and throat that always catches your eye amid the green leaves. The Blue Jay with its exquisite pattern of blue and white feathers reminding me of the decorations on Chinese blue and white porcelain. The Red-bellied Woodpecker with its striking striped back and gleaming red cap make them a stunning sight. These are just a small number of the birds I saw along the trail. Even though these are fairly common birds around Ohio, this was the first time I really took notice. I never tried to hear their songs or watch how they are peeking, tweeting, and darting off.

Bird watching allowed me to practice gratitude to appreciate the small things in life that are always so easily missed. Especially during the new normal, finding the small joys and being thankful for what we have right now is fundamental to our emotional and mental health.

looking over an algae covered lake surrounded by trees

If you have never been to Deer Haven Park, please go and take a look. You will fall in love with this wonderful park. Deer Haven is located north of Columbus with 3 miles of trials. It offers a variety of educational opportunities for kids including knowledge about pollinator garden, wetland, and prairie.

If you are already a fan of this park, why not go back and explore it again? Be mindful of the nature around you and try to find your own small joy.

An open wooden shelter in the forest made to watch wildlife
A deer and a fawn in the woods looking directly at the camera
A close up photo of a blue bird in a tree
A structure in a prairie field holding many white bird houses

Virtually Tour Our National Parks

Mat Hargett

Of course we should have expected 2020 to end like this: a stay-at-home advisory AND a Level 4/Purple Emergency for Franklin County preventing us from advocating a visit to our beautiful local parks!

Quick, newsletter team, “What should we do?” 😮

One of our clever contributors immediately suggested virtual park tours! We can still enjoy the beautiful outdoors even while staying safe inside our homes. As a bonus, we can venture much further than our Metro Park system - our National Parks.

Fortunately, many of our national parks have virtual tours plus fun and educational activities for families and kids!

Some even have live webcams like Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park.
Photo by NPS.
Some of the virtual tours are amazing! You can move your cursor 360 degrees to immerse yourself in the surroundings as you would if actually present - while the video continues to play! I highly recommend checking out that feature. Here is an example from Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the US.
Longing to get outside and enjoy nature? Immerse yourself in these interactive videos and webcams at our National Parks!

Glacier Ridge Metro Park

Yi Han

2021 is finally here, and I can’t wait to start fresh with a New Year’s resolution!

I know a lot of people would say that making a New Year's resolution never works. I feel you. So, my strategy is to create multiple small, achievable goals. Imagine the goals are like apples on a tree. I don’t want the apple on top of the tree that requires a ladder, rather I want the apple that I can’t reach when I am standing up on my toes, but I can reach when I make a small jump. For example, going to a new park every month. Going to the park may be easy, but going to a new park every month may require some planning and research. If you want to make this your 2021 New Year’s resolution, make sure you check out our monthly Emotional Health newsletter, which will give you some inspiration! If you are busy, we got your back. Beginning with this newsletter, we will include a virtual tour of each park we review.

This month, I want to introduce you to Glacier Ridge metro park. Over the years, a lot of improvements have been made to the park. If you haven’t been there for some time, it is a great idea to make another visit. Besides the nice, smooth paved trail stretching over six miles, it also has a five-mile-long horse-riding trail and a new dog park, offering your pets the perfect place to run around and make new friends. Additionally, the natural play area with cedar structures with towers, ramps, ropes, and ladders is great fun for kids. When I saw the zipline, I wish I was a kid again. But don’t worry. The four-acre obstacle course could be the play zone for adults. Crawling through tunnels, climbing up poles, ropes, and over logs made for challenging exercise opportunities all year long. The number of people playing disc golf has been surging during the pandemic and Glacier Ridge has a full 18-hole course with six holes in the woods and 12 in open fields.

Don’t forget to check out the park video. I hope it will help you get out of the house and take your first step in meeting your first goal of 2021!
Glacier Ridge Metro Park Virtual Tour

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