Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~Robert Frost

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fast Facts: Otto Armleder Memorial Park

5057 Wooster Pike
Cincinnati, OH  45226

View Larger Map

Kids Will Like
  • Playground
  • Seeing Airplanes from Lunken Airport Flying Overhead
  • Running, Playing Ball or Frisbee, Flying Kites in Open Fields
  • Riding Bikes or Walking on Paved Bike Trail
  • Spotting Wildlife in the Prairies/Meadows and Along Hiking Trails
  • Wading and Throwing Stones in the Little Miami River (when water level is low)
  • Watching Dogs Romp Around Dog Park
Good to Know
  • No Admission Fees
  • Paved Parking Lot
  • Stroller Friendly Paved Path-1.9 miles
  • Playground Area
    • Designed for Ages 2-5
    • Water Fountain
    • Shelter with Picnic Tables
    • Restroom Rating:  A+
    • Playground is Not Shaded
  • Little Miami River Access Area
    • Parking Allowed in Grass
    • Bike Rack Available
    • No Restrooms or Water Fountain
  • Hiking Trails
    • Trail Head Located Near River--Follow Park Signs
    • Trails Run Beside River
    • Overgrown in Late Summer
    • Poison Ivy Present 
  • Dog Park On Site
  • Small Fishing Pond On Site
  • Park Closes if Flooding Occurs
  • Soccer Fields
This park seems most commonly known for it's dog park, playground, and paved trails--all excellent facilities that see plenty of use, but are never overcrowded.  There is a nice hiking trail that runs along the Little Miami River as well as an access point to the river that deserves more attention.  At this summertime writing, I have only hiked a very small portion of the trail since it was too overgrown to continue with kids in tow. I look forward to a fall or winter hike--especially if the river freezes.  Now, that would be neat!

Historical Information
Otto Armleder:

Informational Sign about Otto Armleder at the Playground Area

Paved Trail

Hiking Trail

Little Miami River in August

    Trail Tale: Otto Armleder Memorial Park, August 2010

    My son, Marshall, simply calls it "The Otto Park."  We have been visiting the playground at Otto Armleder Memorial for well over a year now.  I think the first time I was there, Miles (now a month away from two years old) was still hanging out in the Baby Bjorn.  The playground, designed for ages 2-5, is just the right size for my two tykes.  The facilities are fairly new, with playground, restrooms, water fountain, and picnic shelter just off the parking lot.  Huge open fields surround this area, allowing caregivers to ease their minds about traffic and just let the kids run, run, run.  It's never crowded, but there are plenty of people utilizing the paved bike trail so you don't feel deserted:  runners, hikers, and dog walkers.  The dog park at Otto Armleder gets good reviews.  My golden retriever neighbor enjoys it too.



    Beyond the playground, the paved trail beckons.

    As many times as I've taken the boys to the Otto Park, it was only recently, that I struck out with the double stroller and went exploring.  Wow!  The boys and I found ourselves immersed in a vibrant Prairie.  In this late summer, the grasses and flowering plants were growing high above our heads.  How nice to explore it from the comfort of a paved trail.  In recent years, I've become more and more interested in native plants, secretly hoping to turn the big, sun-drenched, weed-filled side yard of my house into a beautiful wildflower garden.  Maybe when the boys are a little bigger.  I wonder if anyone would notice a big patch of missing prairie out here?  Hmmmmm...  Probably not a good idea.  But, the camera captures a few patches pretty well:

    The boys and I slowly made our way down the path,

    checking the plants,

    the butterflies,

    the vultures...

    This bold bird took some time out of his busy day to make our acquaintance (or he was eyeing Miles as his next big feast--he was awfully close--eek)!

    From behind the playground, we had walked down the path to the right (heading south, I believe) and come to a place where the Little Miami River can be accessed for fishing, canoeing, and tossing stones.  Here, there is a large grass patch reserved for cars to park, and a bike rack.  There are no restrooms or water fountains, though.  You can also access a hiking trail here.  If only I had known!  Since we had already spent quite a bit of our morning at the playground and on the bike path, I knew hiking would be pushing the limits of the all important nap-time and I wanted plenty of time to explore.  So, next time I will make it a point to park near the trail head for a hike.  (Look for another post in the near future). 

    I did let the boys spend some time at the river.  The water here is shallow enough that we could walk out into the middle of the river with only our ankles getting wet.  What a neat feeling!  Of course, the boys stooped down to collect stones and little shells for throwing, so they ended up with wet butts too--one of these days, I'll remember to bring extra clothes.  Oh, well.

    Looking down river, I could see cars moving along the Beechmont Levy bridge.  Just beyond the bridge is Lunken Airport.  The airplanes come and go continuously overhead, entertaining the kids, and reminding that we're not as far into the wild as it may seem.  With all the hustle and bustle of our little city, it's easy to forget how many natural places do exist here.  The Otto Armleder Park is a great place to bring the kids or the dogs, the roller blades or the running shoes.  But, I encourage you to look beyond the nice, new facilities and take some time to explore the natural wonders beyond.  I'm glad we did and can't wait to try the hiking trail next time!

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Fast Facts: Avoca Trailhead

    8063 Wooster Pike
    Cincinnati, OH  45227

    View Larger Map

    Kids Will Like
    • Close-up view of the Little Miami River
    • Throwing Stones into the Water
    • Riding Bikes on the Little Miami Scenic Trail
    • Playing Ball or Frisbee in Field Nearby
    • Spotting Butterflies Along the Trail
    Good to Know
    • Hamilton County Parks Sticker Required
    • Paved Parking Lot--Plenty of Spaces
    • Small Covered Shelter with Picnic Tables
    • Water Fountains Available
    • Bathroom Rating:  A
    • Bike Trail is Busy in Summer
    • Strollers Welcome on Bike Trail / Possible on Hiking Trail

    [August, 2010]  The Avoca Trailhead Park is a small, but very busy place with cyclists, runners, and walkers starting out on a trip from the paved parking lot or making a pit-stop to utilize the restrooms, water fountains, and small shaded picnic area.  With a big enough grassy field, people playing soccer, baseball, frisbee, and such can easily utilize this park as well.  The hiking trail is fairly short, about a 15 minute hike one-way, and ends at the banks of the Little Miami River.  Caution should be taken after rain as the water may be high.  I recommend holding hands!  If the water is low, however, there is a large "beach" of smooth stones to wander upon while getting a good look at this lovely State and National Scenic River as it rounds a bend. 

    Further Information

    Little Miami State Scenic River:
    Little Miami Bike Trail:
    Armstrong Family Mills: 
    Armstrong Family Mills:

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Trail Tale: Avoca Trailhead, August 2010

    I usually think of cabin fever as a wintertime occurrence, but the stifling August heat can also do the trick.  To avoid a scene like a WWF-style cage match in our basement / playroom--yikes, I decided to take an early, short hike at Hamilton County Parks' Avoca Trailhead off Wooster Pike between Mariemont and Terrace Park.  From the parking lot, he trailhead is located across the Little Miami Bike Trail and behind a small picnic shelter.  You can see it in the very center of the photo below between the two tall trees.

    An informational sign provided by Hamilton County Parks marks the beginning of the trail which ends at the edge of the Little Miami River.

    [A little Google searching led me to some historical information about the Armstrong family.  I placed a couple links at the bottom of the blog entry 'Fast Facts: Avoca Trailhead.' if interested.]

    The trail starts with plenty of room and even terrain and turns into what looks like an old driveway for a few feet before narrowing down again. 

    Along the way, we spotted a few splashes of wildflowers among the green, green understory.  Looking through the sun-dappled woods, I caught glimpses of some small, open prairies with patches of tall yellow flowers that could have been Wingstem or Brown-Eyed Susan.  If the boys weren't trudging along ahead, I may have been tempted to venture off the trail a bit to get a closer look, but then I would be breaking the code of conduct to stay on the marked trail and not disturb the wilderness!  I think, instead, I'll remember to bring my binoculars next time I hike (and some plant identification guides).  It would be fun to have the boys use the binoculars and try to find the plant in a book--if I could get them to stop long enough! 

    About halfway into the short hike, I found a cool tree to add to my collection of cool tree photos.  Check it out:

    It almost looks like an eye is peering at you from the bark--kind of eerie.  But no, it's a street sign lodged in the tree with the bark growing over most of the letters.  I wonder how it got there?  A person, most likely.  Or perhaps the river flooded after a storm and the rushing water hurtled the sign into the tree!  Okay, probably not.  Hiking always stirs my imagination...

    Getting toward the end of the trail, the path becomes more congested and the plants tower above our heads.  You can tell you are quite close to the river when you reach a fork in the trail, as seen in the picture below.

    Either one leads to the river, but the one to the left is a bit easier to navigate, even though the plants close in on you quite a bit.  There is a little patch of poison ivy stretching into the path as well.  And, it dips down just enough so that you have to watch your footing.  If I had a stroller, I'd probably park it near the fork in the path.  I ended up carrying my youngest, Miles (in football hold, of course) and grabbed Marshall's hand to steer him through the ivy. 

    We suddenly encountered another hiker at the dip and she graciously stood back into the tall plants to let us bumble our way past.  The last time I hiked this trail, in the spring, the river was high and I'd say, dangerous if you are not careful.  But on this sweltering August day, I was delighted to find plenty of space to let the boys roam.  Their eyes were big at the wide beach of smooth stones before them and they each set out to toss as many of the stones as possible into the river lazing by.

    In the olden days of cabrewing (ahem--canoeing!), this would have made a perfect spot for the crew to put down the oars and take a little "snack" break.  But today, I just enjoyed the beautiful scene, so deserving of it's status as a State and National Scenic River.  And, tried to keep Miles from getting too close to the flowing water. 

    It was still before noon, but the humidity had already wet our brows and the boys were getting red-cheeked.  The hardest part of our hike was coaxing poor Miles to leave his beloved rocks.  He ended up in the football hold once more and we made our way back along the trail.  I noticed the canopy to this patch of woods and realized there were quite a few massive Sycamore trees providing our shade.  If my camera had not run out of batteries at the river, I would have snapped a few shots of their tall, wide trunks and papery bark--next time.

    We ended our hike at the small picnic shelter, used the water pump to cool our faces, and gobbled up a quick snack while chatting with a friendly Biker...I mean, Cyclist--sorry guy, next time I'll get it right!  All in all a quick, enjoyable hike that I can come back to anytime I need to deter the boys from duking it out in the basement during a hot summer spell.