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

Monday, July 11, 2011

Trail Tale: Blue Ash Nature Park

Recently we visited the Blue Ash public library since there was a Reference Only book in their holdings that I wanted to see.  Since we were already in the area, I took the opportunity to check out a new trail for the blog (and let the kids use up some energy before heading home).  The Blue Ash Nature Park was the perfect spot.  The trail was long enough to be interesting, but allowed plenty of time for the boys to play on the nearby playgrounds as well.

After parking the car, we found a trail map just off the parking lot.

We started our hike to the right where the trail begins to loop around the outside edge of the park.

In the picture above you can see signs with the usual park guidelines and on the left, one of several small, covered picnic shelters within the park.  After a short jaunt on the paved entry way, we found the trail head, again to the right.  

There was plenty of greenery to greet us on the wide gravel path.  I noticed a vine ground cover planted on the edges of the path, keeping weeds at bay, making for a more relaxing walk since I didn't have to watch so closely for poison ivy!  Soon, we came to a wooden bridge crossing a small stream--always a point of interest for the boys.

Across the bridge, the path changes to mulch and is still nicely maintained.  Next, we find a bench, one of Marshall's favorite things.  He shouts:  "Look, a bench, a bench!" and acts as if we've been walking for hours, when it's only been about 10 minutes.  

From here, we continue right again, even though the boys have spotted one of the playgrounds.  Somehow I coax them to keep hiking with promises to play at the end.  I'm sure I mention a cookie or something like that too.  While we are "discussing" the matter, I notice a pretty painted bird house on a nearby tree.

And at least two more, throughout the park:

If I had known these were around, it would have been a fun scavenger hunt to seek these little works of art during the hike.  

We continued along the trail.

There are a couple of small side paths from the main trail, but one led to an empty space along the main road (Reed Hartman Highway) and another to someone's home.  It is best to stay on the main trail.  At one of these, we paused long enough to find some pretty moss growing at the base of a tree.

The kids took time to touch, smell, and yes, taste this tiny little carpet of green.  I love it when they get a hands-on experience with nature!  It was a patch of coolness on the hot day.  A little more hiking and we finally came upon the PLAYGROUND!!!!!!!!

The two play areas below lie on either side of the path.

They share space with a large picnic shelter.

Can you say Birthday Party?  This is the perfect set-up, with restrooms close by.  This and other park shelters can be rented by residents or businesses within the city of Blue Ash only.  However, I'll bet anyone can use them if they are not reserved, especially during the week.  Contact the city's parks department to be sure.

On this day, only a couple other people were around, so the boys had the place  mostly to themselves...unless you count the cool green dinosaur hanging out by the play set:

If you continue past the playgrounds shown, you will come to the park's amphitheater.  It is here that free concerts in the park are held as well as other special, family friendly performances.

We continued our walk in the other direction, toward the restrooms and water fountains.  We located another reservable shelter:

and another, smaller playground where Miles practiced his climbing skills:

This is actually the area the boys spotted as we began our hike.  There are a couple small covered picnic shelters here, perfect for someone on a lunch break from work or a small, casual gathering.  

After playing, we completed the loop and found ourselves back in the parking lot.  We ventured down the other trail head a short way just to cross a bridge and view a water feature:

This is a man made structure that is possibly used to control water runoff from the recreation center and other buildings just beyond it.  That didn't stop M&M from tossing stones into the water.

If we had continued down this trail, it would have led to another shelter, play area and the amphitheater.  But, it was time to go!  The heat, the time, and our rumbling bellies said so.  Next time I'm in the Blue Ash area, I'll be sure to pack a picnic and visit this park again.  But maybe I'll follow in the footsteps of the other Mom I saw while visiting and bring a book to read while the kids play!

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