Plains Conservation Center

The Plains Conservation Center is an 1,100 acre nature preserve in Aurora, Colorado. There’s a nature center and hiking trails with views of the Rocky Mountains.

I visited back in August when my pal Johnna and I met for a whirlwind road-tripping adventure around the state. We stopped here for a walk on the way to the airport. It was exactly the right choice.

A red-tailed hawk played above us while prairie dogs scurried to avoid us on the ground.

There’s a homestead village with a handful of buildings and animals.

And a tipi camp that caught my eye.

There’s a collection of old farm equipment too.

Want to visit? Check out their website for more!

Seasons

Ohioans are fortunate because we have four distinct seasons. Of these, spring is gentle and delicate. Winter is a harsh time of hibernation. Summer’s humidity and heat are brutally oppressive. I hibernate a lot then too.

But fall, oh fall! It’s deliciously beautiful. It’s cinnamon rolls, wood smoke, denim jackets and fresh apples. It’s pumpkin carving, long hikes and picnics under the maple trees.

Fresh air, blue skies and vibrant leaves in unexpected colors are hallmarks of this amazing season.

It’s the best season. It’s also ridiculously short.

Since it will soon be dark at 4:30 p.m. and the cold will soon move in, I have decided to make hay while the sun shines. I have been out for hikes and quick walks as much as possible this month and am grateful for each and every day this was possible.

Soon, I’ll have to work a little harder to be outdoors and keep thinking I need to buy better hiking clothes to make winter adventures more comfortable.

Fall is fleeting but so is life. As in nature, we all experience seasons in life. They aren’t always happy or beautiful times. It often feels like the happy moments pass in the blink of an eye while challenging periods seem to drag on forever.

Enjoy those beautiful, happy days to their fullest. Take the hike, pick the apples, breathe that crisp autumn air. And when the skies turn dark as winter settles in, look for ways to enjoy those days too.

These pictures are from my hike at Buzzard’s Roost after work last night. It was a quick 2.25 miles for exercise rather than for the near spiritual outdoor experience I described earlier this week.

Yet, I found myself occasionally coming around a bend to stop dead in my tracks. It was just that beautiful.

Someday, I’m going to pack a picnic and a book and linger on this bench. doesn’t that sound like a great way to enjoy a season?

Today is supposed to be gorgeous here in southern Ohio and I intend to enjoy every minute. Wherever you are, please go do the same.

Musings On A Hike

I abandoned my household chores yesterday in favor of a stroll at Lake Katherine State Nature Preserve.

I hiked the Salt Creek Trail and a short section of another trail. Starting down the path to the Salt Creek trail makes you feel like you’re about to do something truly special. I always have the sensation that I’m walking into a storybook.

It starts out wide, gradually becoming a bit more narrow as you begin a gradual descent. It’s still wide enough to walk beside someone but the trees appear to be leaning in to see who is coming down the path.

Then a sharp turn sends you further down where you glimpse a concourse of these incredible boulders on which hemlock grow.

In this spot, you will have the feeling that you are the first to discover it and the only one to hold the secret of its mystique. It feels like a place where you might encounter elves or trolls or maybe a centaur.

This time of year, leaves release their grasp on the limbs overhead, floating down to return to the earth from which they came.

If you are paying attention at all, as you reluctantly leave this spot, you will turn and look back. I promise.

Down, down, down you will go, enjoying a slight decrease in the temperature while catching glimpses of Salt Creek along the way.

You’ll follow a rock face and, in one particularly spectacular place, go under an outcropping of rock. The leaves fell in earnest here yesterday. I saw a butterfly here, heard the insistent buzz of a bee, listened to a distant woodpecker, and enjoyed the cry of a far off train whistle. If I have to hear civilization in nature, the mighty whistle of a train is pretty nice.

I always marvel at how nature bends to the will of its surroundings and you’ll see a lot of that along this trail. Trees grow from meager patches of soil on a rock, not as strong as some of the neighbors but, with a will to live that cannot be denied. Others will grow in ample earth in the shadow of that same rock, leaning to follow the contours of the stone while reaching skyward.

Others will stand alone in a place with no cover, growing increasingly twisted and gnarled by the wind. But they’re still trying and I admire that about them.

It is on a short spur off this trail that you will arrive at a flood plain filled with Paw Paw, Maple and Sycamore trees.

In this space, you will begin to feel very small – in the best possible way.

When you find a place in nature that makes you feel small, you will realize that your life and problems, your joys and mere existence in this grandly designed Universe are minuscule.

If you have never experienced this, I suggest you stop reading now and go find a place like Lake Katherine. You need to know what it is to be both alone and accompanied, at the same time, through the wilderness we call life.

Remember Michelangelo’s painting The Creation of Adam?

This is nature’s rendition.

It looks like they are reaching toward each other. Can you see it? You won’t find this kind of amazement in any manmade place.

Remember, a hike isn’t a footrace. Get the exercise, enjoy your quickened pulse but stop and look around – look up, down and behind you. There are untold joys and blessings to be found along the journey.

Calamus Swamp Preserve

After taking my dream ride on the Ford Tri-Motor airplane Saturday, I headed up to Circleville for some lunch and a walk at a place I had never been.

Calamus Swamp Preserve is located just outside of Circleville and is a Columbus Audubon Preserve of about 19 acres.

This is not a difficult walk but it is lovely. The trail winds through meadow, boardwalk and woods. Dragonflies, birds and squirrels accompanied me along the way.

This stretch of trail was shaded and especially pleasant.

There were several varieties of fungi and some interesting wildflowers to inspect.

Calamus is convenient to access and peaceful. I would absolutely stop here again when in the neighborhood. Click here to learn more. Take note, there’s also a paved bike path that goes right by this property.

A Perfect Birthday Eve

Today is my birthday.

I believe that it is as important to say adieu to the old year in a positive manner as it is to start the new year off on the right foot.

Last year’s birthday eve was an utter disaster. Since I have no interest in reliving it, I’ll let you just click this link and read about it here.

I usually like to reflect on accomplishments and lessons learned during the last year. Honestly, I don’t know what I learned this year other than how to adapt, make do and survive. Changes at work and a major hiccup in my physical well being have dominated these last several months.

I’m tired and I’m tired of feeling like I’m living in a fog while fighting to figure out my new life. The issues that come with hypothyroidism are surprisingly difficult to shake.

It’s not all bad though. My health has improved and things have settled down at work. I’m hopeful that I’m headed in the right direction because survival mode is no place to dwell for too long. Once it becomes a way of life, it’s hard to get back to something better.

But I did get to travel some and explored a good bit in my own area this last year. Sunflower fields, a real life haunted house, fall in Denver, a trip down the river and a whirlwind trip through our nation’s Capitol are among my favorite memories. I even saw Old Glory and the only DaVinci in America during that DC trip. Of course, most of those things occurred before my thyroid diagnosis.

So there was a lot of good amidst the sad, the frustrating and the exhausting. It wasn’t all bad but it was still vital that the last day of my 44th trip around the sun be a good one.

And so I made it that way.

First up, I met a friend for a biplane ride at the James A. Rhodes Airport in Jackson County. My friend Dewey had brought his biplane Ace – a 1929 Travel Air – for some good old fashioned Barnstorming. I never pass up an opportunity to ride with him and it was a bucket list item for my friend too!

I had actually met Dewey at this airport a few years ago. You can also read about that experience – still one of my favorite memories. Learn more about him and his planes at his website.

The airport was hosting a fly-in so there were other aircraft including an incredible B-25 Mitchell Bomber from the Tri State Warbirds Museum.

And this nice Stearman which I believe was a World War II era training plane.

It was a gorgeous day. At eighty degrees, it was much cooler than we’ve seen lately and the sky was a brilliant blue. So after the airport event, I swung by Lake Katherine Nature Preserve for a peaceful hike.

It was wonderful having a moment in the woods to reflect, move and simply breathe. Sometimes you need to just breathe and do nothing else.

All told, this was a perfect day. Planes and nature. What more can a gal want?

Fun With Fungi

This tree near Cedar Falls in the Hocking Hills has been down for a while. I stopped to examine what’s happening with it on my hike Monday night and was delighted to find that it is serving an all new purpose.

There are several varieties of fungi growing on and around it now. This one is kind of fancy.

The red looks a little scary.

By the way, my apologies for the headline. I couldn’t resist the pun!