Get off-the grid and chill out


By Ron Brohm

Contributing writer

Hiking is a great way to get outdoors in the winter and get some fresh air and exercise. Start a new holiday tradition this year and take a hike this winter!

There are many advantages to hiking in the winter. First off, the trails are not crowded and it’s definitely not too hot or humid. Most importantly, though, the views and vistas are unobstructed and more discoverable. In fact the same trail that you hiked in the summer is a completely different trail in the winter. Without leaves on the trees, blocking your views, you will see more wide open vistas, streams, ponds and even lake views that you couldn’t see in the summer. And on a snowy day the views can be stunning. But best of all, there are no mosquitoes.

Many even feel that getting out in the wilderness relieves stress and gets us “off the grid” and away from cell phones, computers and our busy lives. Some call this process “Forest Bathing.”

Forest Bathing 101 – What is it? Forest bathing is a relatively new trend” and it is the practice of soaking up the sights, sounds, and feel of our natural environment. Otherwise traditionally known “Shinrin-yoku,” forest bathing helps to wash out the noise from constant daily stressors. It provides therapeutic benefits such as physical, mental, and emotional healing by surrendering to nature.

Spending time in nature, with its perfect balance of sights, sounds, smells, and a peaceful environment can sometimes be just the right break you need to reset your day or week.

Champaign County has some great places to get away from it all this winter and just chill out. So, give yourself a gift this Holiday season a take a hike!

Here are my top Top 4 hiking areas:

Davey Woods – (The Little Smokies of Champaign County)

Davey Woods Nature Preserve is located on Lonesome Road just outside of St. Paris, seven miles west of Urbana.

To access the trailhead, take U.S. Route 36 and proceed 1 mile north on Neal Road, then one-half mile west on Smith Road, and then northwest on Lonesome Road (Township Highway 66) to the preserve entrance.

Davey Woods encompasses 103 acres of scenic trails, beautiful vistas and unique features. The park has a small parking lot and two well maintained looped trails, the Conrad Trail, which is a 1.4 mile loop and the Short Loop Trail which is 0.6 miles.

This old growth forest has many large tulip trees, ash, oak and sugar maple and is one of the best wood lots still remaining in this part of Ohio.

The preserve was named in honor Davey Tree Expert Company, which through The Nature Conservancy provided half the funding to acquire the site in 1989.

The terrain is very hilly for this part of Ohio. The heavily wooded area has many switchback trails to smooth out the hills, though. It’s a true hidden gem that I like to call Champaign County’s “Little Smokies.”

Siegenthaler–Kaestner Esker State Nature Preserve (Champaign County’s hidden geological treasure)

This state nature preserve is located about 10 miles east of Rosewood. To access the trailhead, from Rosewood follow state Route 29 east 8 miles to Calland Road, proceed north on Calland Road 2.5 miles, then east on Couchman Road 0.5 miles to the preserve entrance. The site encompasses 37 acres.

The hiking trail is over a mile long but it is not actually a loop. It is more off a “T-shape” so you will have to double back at least part of the way, making the total hike close to 2 miles. The trail is relatively flat with a few hills (eskers) which actually resemble Indian mounds.

The path has some interesting geology. The terrain of this preserve was shaped during the Ice Age and has a number of Ice Age rocky glacier deposits including the following glacial landforms: eskers (hills), an outwash valley and a kettle pond. The Preserve has a grassy parking area and an information kiosk. Siegenthaler-Esker’s 37 acres were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn L. Siegenthaler.

This site is virtually unknown and in a very remote location of Champaign County. You can really “get off the grid” here. It is truly a “hidden” gem.

Kiser Lake State Park & Wetlands – (Champaign County’s flagship hiking destination)

The state park is located at 4889 N. state Route 235 in Conover. The park encompasses 531 acres with a total of 4 miles of hiking trails. There are seven hiking trails to explore at this popular state park:

•North Bay Trail – 1.5 miles – Moderate

•Rabbit Run Trail – 0.6 mile – Moderate

•Possum Hollow Trail – 0.7 mile – Easy

•Pine Tree Trail – 0.5 mile – Moderate

•Red Oak Trail – 0.7 mile – Moderate

•Marina Trail – 0.11 mile – Easy

•Wetland Trail (Nature Preserve Boardwalk trail) – 0.7 mile – Moderate

Cedar Bog Preserve (Crown Jewel)

Cedar Bog is an Ohio Historical Society site located at 980 Woodburn Road, Urbana. Just drive 4 miles south of Urbana on U.S. Rte 68, then go west on Woodburn Road for 1 mile to arrive at the signed entrance and parking lot. The preserve encompasses 427 acres with a 1.5 boardwalk hiking trail and a short interactive “Tallgrass Prairie” trail.

Cedar Bog is not actually a bog, but instead is a fen and is truly one of the most exemplary fens in the whole state of Ohio (including both prairies and woods).

Hike along the beautiful 1.5-mile boardwalk for fantastic up-close views of nature. Also see endangered spotted turtles and over 45 endangered plant species and many endangered animals.

Enjoy the spectacular views of this 450-acre habitat for many rare plants and animals. A fee is charged to access the preserve and tours are available seasonally.

Ron Brohm is an Outdoors, Tourism, Parks, Automotive & Aviation Journalist/Author and writes for the Urbana Daily Citizen and other AIM Media Midwest newspapers and several national magazines. He is also a Certified Parks & Recreation Professional (CPRP), serves as the Park Commissioner for the City of Riverside & is the Executive Director of the Great Ohio Outback Wilderness Regional Authority.

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