Ohio Dreamin’ in California: I miss my Metro Parks


Blogger Melissa Gebauer hikes on the Appalachian Trail.

After what felt like a continuous 30-hour day and counting I finally landed in Columbus after an overnight flight from California. I was coming home for a family visit, and to renew my acquaintance with some of the Metro Parks. A visit to Highbanks was on the agenda for the following morning.

I’ve moved around a lot in my life, but Columbus has always been special to me. I was born in Kentucky, lived in Iowa aged two to five, then Wisconsin till I turned 18, when I moved to Columbus to go to The Ohio State University and studied Business. After a wonderful decade in Columbus I was on the move again and for the past two years I’ve lived in San Diego.

It didn’t take long for me to become a Buckeye football fan when I came to Columbus. Similarly, once I discovered the Metro Parks the more I was drawn to them—which holds true for many locals and visitors to Columbus. Although my surroundings have changed from Buckeye Scarlet and Gray to ocean blue, I would not trade the memories and influence Columbus and the people here have had on me during the ten years I called it home.

My parents live in Columbus now, my aunt in Worthington, so Columbus will also seem like home to me, and the Metro Parks will always be my go-to places.

As the park system evolved and developed and I discovered more of the parks, I experienced personal growth by using them. I hiked loops of the Dripping Rock Trail at Highbanks, occasionally spotting deer as the sun began to set, to train for a multi-day “section hike” of the Appalachian Trail near the Tennessee-North Carolina border. When Scioto Audubon Metro Park emerged from a former car impound lot, I marveled and daydreamed about rock climbing on the new artificial climbing wall. The new park became even more special for me when I had my engagement photos taken there.

I felt a part of the rich horse-racing history while walking the Darby Dan Training Loop at Battelle Darby Creek and later spotted bison from the LEED Certified Nature Center that opened in 2012. From practicing photography while strolling through the beautiful flower gardens at Inniswood to discovering a new way to take in the beauty of winter while cross-country skiing at Blendon Woods, I always came up with a reason to visit the parks.

The author’s business partner, Brina, on the nature center deck at Highbanks. Brina was born and raised in Columbus and is pursuing videography and short film. (Melissa Gebauer)

On my latest visit, I arrived at Highbanks that next morning and took in the vibrant greens of leaves, damp scent of rain and quiet chirps of birds. I witnessed yellow leaves falling to the ground indicating the beginning of the season change on a warm rainy October morning.

Accompanying the gentle rain was a low fog, similar to what I have become accustomed to while living about a mile from the Pacific Coast for the past two years in San Diego. Many mornings I wake up to a Marine Layer, low foggy clouds that evaporate mid-morning to reveal a cloudless blue sky and sunshine on 266 days in a year.

The rain is a treat in itself, since there are so few rainy days in Southern California. I frequently reminisce on the sounds and smells that were once so familiar in Columbus, now that I am more likely to hear the crashing of the waves, squawks of wild parrots, and smell the salty breeze of a beach.

I moved across the country to San Diego to pursue my dream as a photographer, to live a carefree life on the beach, get married, progress my career, and push myself on my personal journey. But Columbus, the Buckeyes, and the Metro Parks will always call to me.

A few days into my trip this October, I inevitably found myself at another Metro Park prior to watching the Buckeyes football game against Maryland with family. I discovered the new Natural Play Area at Blendon Woods. Seeing the kids play brought back the joy of childhood and memories of playing outside with friends. The Metro Parks are truly a rich resource that allows locals and visitors to create and cherish memories for years to come. I am proud to be a Buckeye and these parks will always hold a place in my heart no matter where my travels take me next.