(Posted Dec. 23, 2015)
By Christine Bryant, Staff Writer
As someone who doesn’t like to be chilly, Lori Dodge-Dorsey reluctantly agreed to join a friend for Franklin County Metro Parks’ winter hike series.
Despite the cold, she found it enjoyable—and she’s not alone.
Each year, thousands put on their winter coats and boots, and head outdoors for the annual series of hikes through the Metro Parks. The first hike will take place Jan. 2 at Blacklick Woods and the schedule will wrap up Feb. 27 at Battelle Darby Creek. Hikes are held on Saturdays or Sundays. A full schedule is available at metroparks.net.
“Most hikes you can do on your own, and a few parks have naturalist- and volunteer-led walks,” said Peg Hanley, public information manager for Metro Parks.
Now in its 43rd year, the series features hikes that range from one to seven miles, and most parks offer a couple of routes with different lengths. Completion of seven hikes will earn a hiker a decorative patch, and park representatives will be on hand to serve refreshments at the end of each hike.
The winter provides the perfect opportunity to see a side of the woods that is hidden during other times of the year, Hanley said.
“If there is snow on the ground, you can look for animal tracks such as deer and coyote,” she said. “With the leaves gone, you can see animal nests in the trees and spot birds such as woodpeckers and hawks more easily.”
Owl mating calls also are more frequent in the winter, making it easier to spot the creatures for those who enjoy searching by ear, she said.
“Great horned, barred and screech owls can be found in some Metro Parks,” Hanley said.
New this year, hikers who complete each of the walks and pay $10 will receive a wooden walking stick and a membership in the Friends of Metro Parks.
Over the last two years, a total of more than 19,000 people have participated in the hike series.
London resident Melissa Canney will participate for the third time this year. She became interested after her friend, Dodge-Dorsey, invited her to join a group of walkers.
“I’m a runner, so I run all year, so for me, I wouldn’t say I found it harder,” she said. “But it’s a different type of workout. When there’s snow on the ground you have to hike through, you work different muscles.”
She will again join Dodge-Dorsey this season, along with at least three others, to have fun, enjoy the outdoors and workout.
“My favorite part is hanging out with friends and the occasional lunch that we throw in after our hike,” said Dodge-Dorsey, who lives in Grove City and works as Madison County’s Job and Family Services director. “We are open to any friends who want to get in a good hike and have some fun.”
For more information, go to metroparks.net.
2016 Winter Hikes Series schedule
Blacklick Woods (6975 E. Livingston Ave., Reynoldsburg)—10 a.m., Jan. 2; 2 or 4 miles
Sharon Woods (6911 Cleveland Ave., Westerville)—10 a.m., Jan. 9; 2 or 4 miles
Prairie Oaks (3225 Plain City-Georgesville Road, West Jefferson)—2 p.m., Jan. 10; 1, 3 or 5 miles
Scioto Audubon (395 W. Whittier St., Columbus)—10 a.m., Jan. 16; 1 or 2 miles
Inniswood (940 S. Hempstead Road, Westerville)—2 p.m., Jan. 24; 2 miles
Clear Creek (185 Clear Creek Road, Rockbridge)—10 a.m., Jan. 30; 1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 miles
Blendon Woods (4265 E. Dublin-Granville Road, Westerville)—10 a.m., Feb. 6; 2, 4 or 6 miles
Highbanks (9466 Columbus Pike – U.S. Rte. 23 N., Lewis Center)—10 a.m., Feb. 13; 2.5 or 5 miles
Glacier Ridge (9801 Hyland Croy Road, Plain City)—2 p.m., Feb. 14; 2 miles
Three Creeks (3860 Bixby Road, Groveport)—10 a.m., Feb. 20; 1, 3 or 5.6 miles
Slate Run (1375 State Route 674 N., Canal Winchester)—2 p.m., Feb. 21; 2.5 or 5 miles
Battelle Darby Creek (1775 Darby Creek Dr., Galloway)—10 a.m., Feb. 27; 2, 4 or 6 miles.