Put on your hiking boots!

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By Kristy Zurbrick
Madison County Editor

Some people naturally love winter. They see an iced-over puddle and take a running leap at it. They cheer for snow accumulation in the double digits so they can tromp, sled or ski through it. Miniature icicles hanging from the eyelashes or beards? Cool, they say.

Then there are the folks who need a little (or a lot) of incentive to forgo toasty indoor comfort for playtime in the white stuff.

Whether you belong to the first camp or the second, the Metro Parks annual Winter Hike Series offers not just the reward of time spent in nature when the mercury dips, but also the chance to earn patches, walking sticks and medallions for reaching certain hike tallies. And each participating park dishes up refreshments, ranging from soup to chicken and noodles.

This year’s series kicks off Jan. 7 at Blacklick Woods and continues each weekend through February. The schedule features 13 hikes at 13 parks in Franklin, Madison and other surrounding counties, including the system’s newest addition, Scioto Grove, a 620-acre park located along the Scioto River in Grove City.

Participants who complete at least seven hikes receive a decorative patch. Last year was the first time hikers could earn a walking stick for completing all of the hikes in the series. That offer still stands this year. For those who earned a stick last year, the incentive for a perfect 13 this year is a decorative medallion to affix to the stick. The medallion’s design denotes the 44th anniversary of the Winter Hike series.

Below is a list of this year’s hikes. Guided and self-guided options are offered at each. For more information, go to metroparks.net.

Blacklick Woods
6975 E. Livingston Ave., Reynoldsburg
10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 7
2 or 4 miles

Sharon Woods
6911 Cleveland Ave., Westerville
10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 14
2 or 4 miles

Prairie Oaks (Darby Bend Lakes)
2755 Amity Road, Hilliard
2 p.m., Jan. 15
1, 3 or 5 miles

Scioto Audubon
400 W. Whittier St., Columbus
10 a.m., Jan. 21
1 or 2 miles

Inniswood
940 S. Hempstead Road, Westerville
2 p.m., Jan. 22
2 miles

Clear Creek
185 Clear Creek Road, Rockbridge
10 a.m., Jan. 28
1, 2, 3, 5 or 7 miles

Blendon Woods
4265 E. Dublin-Granville Road, Westerville
10 a.m., Feb. 4
2, 4 or 6 miles

Scioto Grove
5172 Jackson Pike, Grove City
10 a.m., Feb. 5
1 or 2 miles

Highbanks
9466 U.S. Route 23 N., Lewis Center
10 a.m., Feb. 11
2.5 or 5 miles

Glacier Ridge
9801 Hyland Croy Road, Plain City
2 p.m., Feb. 12
2 miles

Three Creeks
3860 Bixby Road, Groveport
10 a.m., Feb. 18
1, 3 or 5.6 miles

Slate Run
1375 State Rte. 674 N., Canal Winchester
2 p.m., Feb. 19
2.5 or 5 miles

Battelle Darby Creek
1775 Darby Creek Drive, Galloway
10 a.m., Feb. 25
2, 4 or 6 miles

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