A FOX IN THE SNOW: the challenge of conquering 19 winter hikes demands courage, commitment, and a bit of comedy

Guest Contributor

Kathleen with her Winter Hike Card and some friends. And, hmm, the fox has arrived to photo-bomb her!

Cunning and sly, intelligent and adaptable, the red-haired fox is known for its pointed snout and bushy tail. Don’t let his relatively small size fool you into thinking he’s as innocent as he looks — the fox is agile, stealthy, and generally up to something. You’ll find him in forests, grasslands, deserts and mountains. He knows how to hunt in the snow of a midwestern winter.

The fox brought a smile to many faces along the wooded trails, around the post-hike bonfires, and under the twinkling lights of the December evening hikes during Metro Parks’ Winter Hikes Series. Many visitors, surprised and pleased at his appearance, paused long enough to ask him what he had to say.

The fox seemingly blending in with its surroundings during a winter hike. Photo Kathleen O’Dowd

The best way to blend in, it seems, is to follow along and do all the things the other friends of the parks were doing, getting his own hiking card to tally his hikes and earn stamps from the park rangers. There’s nothing malicious about reading a children’s book along the storybook trail. What’s the harm in playing on the jungle gym, hugging a tree for Valentine’s Day, or posing for a picture in front of the forested or city landscapes? These are Metro Parks so anyone who makes it to all 19 can experience all these things.

The fox is on the trail, very late for a photo op with Kathleen, pictured left with her Friends of Metro Parks walking stick and two friends.

All are welcome, even our friend the fox. The fox did make it to all 19 parks this winter, covered in fur or bundled in a puffy coat from Eddie Bauer.

If you’re not familiar with the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks Winter Hikes Series, it’s 19 hikes over three months, from December to February, with a big celebration at the end. There were patches, hiking sticks, and medallions (to affix to the hiking stick) to be earned. The hikes are supported by volunteers and Friends of Metro Parks.

Each park has unique features, some with ponds to hike around, others with natural play areas or obstacle courses for kids and adults alike. The Greenway Trails cut through many of the parks, providing easy access. There are nature centers, outdoor educational areas, art exhibits, and scavenger hunts. The fox discovered a herd of bison, a flock of turkeys, bird blinds, waterfalls, and vernal pools. There are even opportunities to learn to play golf or to practice archery.

No, no, foxes aren’t allowed in the chicken coops at Slate Run Living Historical Farm. But he does better when he visits the farm horses. Photos Kathleen O’Dowd

Some parks allow dogs on the trails, and many have areas that are accessible to those with special mobility needs. Every park has a space (many spaces) where you can just sit and breathe in nature. The hikes happen rain or shine, ice or snowfall. If a hiker can’t make it to the organized, supported hikes, they are welcome to visit any time to “make up” a missed hike, seeking out a park ranger to stamp their winter hike card.

The fox poses with Blendon Woods staff. Photo Kathleen O’Dowd

Our friend the fox hopes to see you on the trails next winter!


This blog was edited by Kathleen from her original article on her website. The fox is none other than Craig Clark, who is also a Friends of Metro Parks member. Craig’s winter hike shenanigans began many years ago with a crazy Christmas suit he wore to every hike, Waldo (from “Where’s Waldo), Yukon Cornelius of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, Smokey Bear, and a bison. Craig is already planning his character for the next round of winter hikes, so if you see him out and about next winter, say hi!

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