As the sun’s rays melt the last of winter’s snow and flurries transform into spring showers, remember Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks for an immersive experience in nature. Go “forest bathing” (you’ll have to Google it), explore the variety of park trails and don’t forget your umbrella!
There’s an exhilaration that comes from jumping in puddles and seeing water droplets splash down all around you. I remember a rainy hike at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, surrounded by friends who agreed that we wouldn’t melt just because of a light rain.
It reminds me of a childhood full of simple adventures, fueled by imagination. If the trails are too muddy to hike down steep hills to walk along the creek, then consider this park. Its crushed limestone path from the nature center out to the old horse track is long enough to give you a bit of a workout, stretching your legs. It’s out and back, so you can turn back at any point.
On a dry day, when the sun is shining, consider the trails that wind through the woods at Slate Run Metro Park. The energy of early spring is expectant. There may not yet be leaves on the trees, but you can almost hear nature stirring. Tiny spring flowers will begin to poke through the fallen leaves on the forest floor.
Take some friends along, make an afternoon of it and maintain social distancing, of course. It will feel so good to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine!
In the spring the farm will be just beginning to come alive, awakening from a winter’s slumber. The animals – including horses, goats and chickens – will have some energy to burn off, so they are likely to be active. They have missed the sun too, living under the dark skies of an Ohio winter.
You might find yourselves treated to a surprise – the next generation of baby animals making their entrance into this wonderful world! A new beginning. Fresh hope. Cute little faces.
With Easter on Sunday, April 4 this year, you might consider bringing the family out to explore for a bit. In my family there was always a new drugstore kite in our Easter baskets – Sesame Street, Smurfs or Hello Kitty. There are plenty of open, grassy fields in the Metro Parks. See if you can catch the wind to soar high or earn some FitBit points by running alongside your kids.
If you’d rather go off-trail to explore a bit further on your own, look for natural play areas, like the ones at Glacier Ridge, Sharon Woods or Prairie Oaks Metro Parks. There are eight parks that have preserved these more rustic areas to explore. You can see a list of them here.
You can also check out “Tim Talks” like this one, with Executive Director Tim Moloney, encouraging the spirit of exploration.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of joining a group from Friends of Metro Parks, as a member, on a special guided hike through an undeveloped area just north of Blendon Woods. It was early April and it was a welcomed escape for a large group that had been cooped up all winter. We had fun climbing down into ravines, scrambling over fallen trees, then reaching a hand out to help one another scramble up the other side.
No matter where you end up, there is incredible diversity in wildlife and in experiences.
One of my favorite parks to bring visitors to Columbus to is Inniswood, with its beautifully landscaped gardens, educational play areas, ponds full of tadpoles and boardwalks through the woods. I’ve visited this park during every season: in the fall to do family photo shoots, on organized winter hikes, for summer strolls through the lush gardens and in the spring when everything is new again! You can hike or lounge on a park bench. Hold hands on a romantic stroll. Whatever suits you!
Come on out!
Kathleen O’Dowd is a Friends of Metro Parks member. Her work as a regional trainer at a national photography company has allowed her to travel throughout the country, working with local photographers and field trainers. She has turned this travel experience into the material for her blog, Accidental Wanderlust: The Art, Adventures, and Attitude of a Work Traveler. Come along on her next adventure or enjoy her many past adventures, here.