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

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fast Facts: Dogwood Park

Wooster Pike and Pleasant St
Mariemont, OH  45227

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Kids Will Like
  • Playground
  • Open Fields for Running, Playing Ball, etc.
  • Taking the Concrete Steps Down to the Boathouse
  • Hiking in the Woods
  • Throwing Stones and Wading in the Creek
  • Picking Up Sticks
  • Hunting for Fossils
  • Examining and Climbing on Fallen Trees
  • Possible Deer Sightings
Good to Know
  • No Admission Fees
  • Parking Lot and On-Street Parking Available
  • Playground Area
    • Restroom Rating: A+  (RR Located Beneath Bell Tower)
    • Picnic Shelter
    • Designed with Tots in Mind
    • Tall Trees Provide Shade
    • Next to Ball Fields
    • No Water Fountain On-Site
  • Hiking Trail
    • From Playground, Must Descend 30+ Concrete Steps
    • Trail Head Located Beyond Small Meadow
    • Trail Access From Wooster Pike Sidewalk Also (no steps)
    • Strollers Not Recommended
    • A Couple Short, Steep Spots--Assist Small Tykes
    • Access to Creek
    • Trail Is In a Ravine
    • May Be Muddy After Heavy Rain
The playground and ball fields at Dogwood Park get plenty of action.  There are always other kids around to play with.  With a picnic shelter, A+ restrooms, and location just off Wooster Pike, it's a great place to take young kids.  The trail is not too long and can be combined with a picnic and some playground time.  Since it sits in a ravine lined with fairly thick woods, you can barely hear the traffic from above and you can have a wilderness experience without trekking too far from the playground.  Naturalists and Historians will find these woods intriguing as well.   

Further Information
Mariemont History:
Article about the Boathouse (Cincinnati Enquirer, 07/19/2000):

Trail Tale: Dogwood Park, September 2010

Playground at Dogwood Park, Mariemont

This one is known as the "Green" Park to my boys since there are so many trees and plenty of grass surrounding the playground.  Or, it could be because the equipment is painted green.  Dogwood Park is within walking distance of our home, so it's kind of our go-to park when the kids get bored of the basement or backyard.  Plus, there is a Starbucks along the way.  We have hiked the trail which is tucked away in a ravine behind the playground a few times and once, savoring a couple hours to myself while the boys hung out at Grandma's house, I walked the creek bed beyond the trail and freaked myself out on the way back when I had trouble picking my way through the fallen trees and portions of the creek that were over ankle deep.  It didn't help that I stumbled across a leg bone of some kind. Deer? Probably.  Human? Nah. Dinosaur?  Maybe?!?  I also found myself face-to-face with a huge buck, antlers and all, who stared me down for several terrifying minutes despite my stomps, claps, and whistles before he ran away up the hillside.  Whew!

This is what I love about the woods at Dogwood--a literal slice of adventure cut from the thriving Village above.  These are like the woods of my youth, where at the age of 10, I once got lost for three hours.  I felt like I'd travelled to the end of the earth, but when I finally stepped out of the woods with tear-stricken cheeks, I was only in the neighborhood adjacent to my street and a (very) short walk back to the front door of our townhouse.

I think my boys found a little sense of that adventure during our hike today.  Come on, I'll show you.  From the playground, we descended the concrete steps...

 ...and arrived at the historic boathouse where Miles was thrilled to find a patch of gravel.

Walking away from the boathouse, there is a wide patch of grass lined with prairie plants and trees growing on the hillsides.

Along the way, there are a couple of paths to the right which lead up to the sidewalk along Wooster Pike in Mariemont.  When you encounter a cross path, take the trail to the left to enter the woods.

The trail will start to descend into the ravine and may be a little steep for the youngest toddlers.  The picture above gives you an idea.  Miles, at 23 months handled it well, with only a slip or two on the dry dirt. A few months ago, I simply carried him down the brief declines.  One of my impressions as we tromped along was that these woods are messy! 

Limbs Along the Trail

Everywhere you looked there were trees down and many limbs piled up along the trail.  The trails are kept clear, it's just that it looks like the wood is not removed.  This is good, I think, in maintaining the naturalness of the place.  Because it's quite a narrow ravine, all the hillside trees fall toward the center, crowding the bottom.  So, it's messy.  But it's a great place to strike up a conversation with the kids and observe how trees decay.  My two had fun looking for bugs

Can you find the little wormlike creature?

and grabbing handfuls of the brittle bark worn to dust. 

They even helped clear the path of some fallen branches.

After all the hard work, it was time to cool off in the creek.


I wasn't planning on letting the boys get all wet and I'm not so sure about the pollution levels in this creek, but stopping them was pretty impossible.  I have to say, it was fun to just let them go and explore and do what they were going to do.  I remember the freedom I used to feel exploring the woods this way as a child, with no regard for wet feet or possible poisoning from yucky water.  I, myself, though kept my shoes perched on the stones and a very careful eye on the boys.

My careful eye could do nothing about what happened next, however.  All of a sudden, I heard a rustle of leaves way up high.  Looking up, I saw the top of a tall tree beginning to fall and a scary wood crackling sound.  Although it was far away, this tree was tall enough that it could come close to crashing down on my older son.  "Marshall, do not move!"  He was kind of protected by the trunk of a tree that had fallen previously.  I was breathless for at least five seconds until I realized it was only a large branch breaking.  I could see the leaves of the tree trembling as the branch made its way to the ground.  We were no where near danger after all, but for a moment...ugh.

So now these woods had spooked me a second time.  I looked around at the "messy" forest floor and thought about the drought a few years back and how it seems we are still seeing results of that in dying trees all over the city.  In my neighborhood, it's common to see tree removal--and usually big, old trees that have rotted away.

The boys were wet, it was getting dangerously close to lunch time and after the tree incident, I decided we'd had plenty of adventure for the day.  So we made our way out, but not before finding some fossils in rocks along the way.

I'm no expert, but I believe this one is called a Crinoid.  Mariemont is full of fossilized rocks, in its woods and in structures built throughout the village.  Look for a future post on this topic, as it is one that has interested me in recent times.

After an adventure on the Dogwood Park trails, you can make your way back up the concrete steps by the boat house and have a snack at the picnic shelter

 and visit the restrooms located inside the lovely Bell Tower.

Since we did all that before our hike, I plopped the boys and their wet feet into the stroller and headed home!  The trails at Dogwood do not go very far, but you can still spend a couple hours having a big adventure in the woods.  Then, hit the Starbucks on your way home.                       

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trail Tale: Otto Armleder Memorial Park, September 2010

Today we decided to take in the cool breeze and sunny skies while investigating the nature trail at Otto Armleder Memorial Park.  Usually we head straight to the playground and on the last two visits, we walked the paved trails, played in the Little Miami River, and threw stones in a small fishing pond which is tucked in at the base of a hillside beyond the soccer fields.  This time, I passed by the playground--promising my protesting boys a visit after our hike--and drove beyond the dog park to the Little Miami Access area and the trail head.  Parking is permitted in the grass. Somehow I persuaded the kids to skip the river this time around and let Marshall choose the direction of our hike, either to the Left or the Right.  He chose Right.

So, off we went.  At first, it seemed like a perfect path for the boys with plenty of room and only grass growing on the edge of the trail.  But after about 2 minutes in, the trail became overgrown enough that I decided to turn back and try the other direction.

 Again, it began as a lovely little hike...

We made it about 8 minutes before encountering the same problem, except this time there was plenty of poison ivy reaching it's threatening leaves into the pathway.  I have a huge fear of the three-leaved plant since I've had horrible experiences with rashes in the past.  I wish it wasn't such a deterrent and I could just barrel through.  But, I find it too difficult to keep myself and the two boys from brushing against the stuff when it's growing over the trail.

Leaves of Three--XXX!
I suppose overgrown trails are a given when hiking in the height of summer, but it is still a disappointment to have to turn back so soon.  All was not lost, though.  The boys still had fun finding a stick... 

Miles with Stick
...and a feather.

Marshall with Feather
Even fifteen minutes on a trail with a river view and tall trees reaching into a clear blue sky is better than nothing.

I'm not giving up on this trail just yet--I'll be back in the fall.  But, at this time, my favorite part of Otto Armleder Memorial are the paved paths that run along restored prairie land and the chance to wade  and skip stones in the Little Miami River.  As a whole--this is a great place to encounter nature with the boys.  (See my August 2010 post for more information).  And they really love the playground.