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

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trail Tale: Withrow Nature Preserve, Old Farm Loop

[Please read the previous post about the Hepatica Hill Loop trail first for more complete coverage of Withrow Nature Preserve].

The Old Farm Loop trail at Withrow can be reached from both ends of the Preserve's parking lot.  The boys and I began at the trail head at the end of the lot closest to the Highland Lodge.  From this point you may access the Hepatica Hill Loop as well.  To find Old Farm Loop, turn left at the fork just a few yards onto the trails and cross a wooden bridge.

The boys wasted no time and ran ahead on the trail in search of stumps and puddles and fallen trees.

Along the way, we found some informational signs about the flora and fauna of the woods.  

I've been noticing a pattern with the boys--Marshall always looks for something to climb on and Miles can't get enough of puddles.  Soon they found a perfect spot for their favorite activities.

And another:

The trail winds through a stand of trees.  The young tree in the foreground is a buckeye--one of the first to leaf out in early spring.  Withrow is full of these small trees.

By the time we've reached this part of the park, it's early afternoon and we start meeting more people and dogs on the trail.  Withrow is probably more well known to residents in nearby Anderson Township than people in other communitites since it is somewhat removed from the well-traveled routes to and from restaurants and shopping areas.  Our fellow hikers seemed to be frequent visitors--walkers, runners, and small groups walking together.

We came across a large fallen pine tree with a puddle occupying the place where the root ball once lived.  Marshall bravely climbed way up the trunk of the pine while I tried not to freak out!  Can you spot him?  

Miles got busy throwing twigs and small stones into the puddle.

I sat on one of the logs lining the trail and we all had some quiet time in this peaceful spot.  This should have been an indication that everyone was getting tired and I probably should have taken the path to the parking lot which we had just passed...

But, we forged on.  But not before checking an old log for creatures:

Soon we reached a fork in the trail.

To the left is a meadow and to the right, the path continues through the woods to an overlook.  We hiked to the right.  Although the boys and I were getting a little worn out, I'm glad we kept going because we came across something I've never seen in the wild before:

Morels!!  Well, maybe.  After doing a little research, it looks as though these could actually be False Morels, the kind that can cause a violent reaction if eaten.  Since I'm not a mycologist, I can only guess at which type these are.  Still, it was a very cool sight and good opportunity to talk to the boys about fungi and why we can look, but not touch.  Not only for the possibility of being poisoned, but also because we were in a nature preserve.

After the excitement over the fungi, we headed toward the overlook and were grateful to find a bench to rest, while gazing at the Ohio river.

After the rest, we continued back into the woods, again.

And finally, we came to the meadow!!

Both kids celebrated by leaping from the trail into the tallish grass, over and over and over again--delirium was setting in.

Another fork in the trail.  The view below shows the trail looping around another meadow.  To my back, the trail heads toward the parking lot.  

Going any further would have been plain ridiculous, so we did not take this final loop.  However, we will pay another visit in the summer when all the meadow will be in bloom.

Back to the car we go:

And finally, victory! (And a much needed Porta-potty).

Withrow Nature Preserve is much larger than I remember.  Of course, last time I visited, I had no children and was a few years younger.  Doing both trails in one day was almost too much for my pre-schoolers as we hiked for a solid two hours.  If you are here in the spring, the Hepatica Hill Loop is the way to go for  the spring wildflowers.  In summer, the meadows on the Old Farm Loop is a must-see.

All-in-all, this out of the way nature preserve is well worth the trip!  

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