Shades of the season
Although the summer of 2012 featured a record-setting drought, it appears central Ohio’s woodlands and landscapes have recovered and should be ablaze with the glorious colors of autumn any day now.
“Overall the weather in September has been good with lots of sunny days, and the evenings are beginning to cool,” said Casey Burdick of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry. “The cooler nights should enhance the onset of good fall color and add more variety to the landscape in the coming weeks.”
Peg Hanley, spokeswoman for Metro Parks, said their arborist/forest ecologist is encouraging people to get out early to see fall foliage this year.
“Some of the trees suffered severe damage because of the drought, which means they might lose their leaves early,” Hanley said. “Typically we predict mid- to late-October will be the best time to see leaves in central Ohio, but it might be earlier this year.”
Now that autumn has officially arrived, the conditions are prime for seeing bright yellow, red, brown and orange hues soon, Hanley said.
“We’ve been getting sunny days and cold nights, and that’s what makes the perfect fall color,” she said. “In Ohio we have more than 100 varieties of trees, each presenting with a different shade of color in the fall.”
For central Ohio residents interested in seeing fall foliage without trekking all the way to Hocking Hills, Hanley suggests visiting Clear Creek Metro Park, located at 185 Clear Creek Road in Rockbridge.
“One of our best kept secrets is Clear Creek,” Hanley said. Located seven miles south of Lancaster on U.S. 33, it is one of the less visited Metro Parks, making it perfect for picnics or hiking. “It’s our most remote, with some more rugged trails.”
She suggests hiking the two-mile Creekside Meadow trail, which goes through fields and woods, to see asters and goldenrod. For a more rugged trail, there is the 4.5-mile Cemetery Ridge Trail featuring a forest of oak, beech and maple.
“You could easily spend a whole day down there,” she said. “But my favorite time is to go in the early morning. The sun is at your back, and you can see more of a panorama of colors.”
Located a little closer in the Southeast portion of Franklin County is Slate Run Farm and Park, 1375 S.R. 374 North in Canal Winchester. In addition to nice trails, the park will feature some fun fall events, including a fall fest from 2 to 5 p.m. Oct. 21. It will include games, crafts and activities that celebrate the season.
“There will be all kinds of fun things going on there,” she said. “A pumpkin patch, snacks, music – great fall fun for all ages.”
Even if you can’t visit on that day, Hanley said, “It’s a good time to get out and see the farm. They’re getting the crops in, drying meats, putting up fruits. You can actually watch them prepare for the winter.”
Looking to the west, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, 1775 Darby Creek Drive in Galloway, will soon be awash in color as well.
“I like to park at the canoe access and go on the Indian Ridge trail, which connects you to the Ancient Trail,” Hanley said. This is part of a bike trail connecting Columbus to Cincinnati following old railway lines, she said.
“This is a really great time of year for watching wildlife,” she said. “If you listen, you will hear the sounds of fall – birds chirping, leaves crunching, acorns dropping – everything is very busy scurrying about, making sure they are ready to winter.”
Although Blacklick Woods at 6975 and 7309 E. Livingston Ave. in Reynoldsburg is one of the busiest parks in the Metro Parks system, being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of city life doesn’t stop park-goers from enjoying a beautiful fall.
“You can easily hike the Maple Trail and the Button Bush trail – each are about half a mile and are ADA accessible,” Hanley said.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, Hanley encourages all to slow down and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of autumn.
“I haven’t smelled that smell yet, that sharp, crisp smell where you just know that fall is here,” she said. “But it’s coming, and there’s nothing like it.”
For more information on the area’s Metro Parks and events, visit www.metroparks.net or call 891-0700.