Hike Ohio: Infirmary Mound Park

Yesterday the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon took over the downtown Columbus area. The road closures, crowds whooping and shouting encouragement, police sirens, and general commotion spurred us to hop in the car, find a way out of downtown, and head due east. Our goal was the Infirmary Mound Park in Licking County, near Granville.

The Infirmary Mound Park is part of the Licking County park system. It has lots of trail choices, as well as other amenities, including a number of shelter houses, open fields, and kid spaces. Some of the trails even permit riders on horseback. We chose a trail winding around a wildflower meadow for our initial hike. We didn’t see any equine friends, but we did see some happy dogs romping around with their human pals. The meadow trail was wide and made for an easygoing morning hike and an enjoyable ramble through the countryside on a cool, cloudy morning, with lots of interesting and colorful plants to examine.

And speaking of color, the trees were doing their part to remind us it is indeed fall. The classic autumnal palette of rust, tan, orange, and yellow had been liberally applied to the trees at the Infirmary Mound Park, as well as to the trees lining both sides of Route 161 as we drove east from Columbus and then headed west to return after our hikes were over. Yesterday was probably close to the peak fall foliage point in central Ohio, and there was beautiful color to enjoy everywhere you looked.

After we finished our stroll through the wildflower meadow loop, breathing in hearty gulps of fresh country air, we explored other parts of the park. The cloud cover started to break up, some blue skies contributed to the day’s color, and the temperature got warmer. We got a glimpse of Ohio’s agricultural heritage when we came across an old woodshed with a classic split-rail fence in the background.

We wandered along another trail that wound through some woodland and a small ravine. It was quiet and peaceful as we walked along, enjoyably shuffling through the leaves and smelling that high, somewhat spicy scent of leaves that have fallen to the ground and are just starting to crumble to dust. Our feet got another workout when we came across an area where the trail was covered with Osage oranges (technically, maclura pomifera, and also known as horse apples), which look like round green brains and weigh a few pounds. We booted them off to the side of the trail to clear the way for the walkers to follow, variously choosing the soccer-style and straight-on Lou Groza approaches to our kicking. It’s fun to kick Osage oranges–and toss them, too, if they’ve just fallen and you can do so without getting your hands sticky.

By the end of our hike the blue skies had appeared in earnest. As we walked back to our car, we passed an area where the grasses were permitted to grow to prairie length and were adding their subtle hues to the autumnal color fest. It was time to head back, but we enjoyed our visit to this pretty park and a chance to experience some more of the best season central Ohio has to offer.

Ferns Go First

Up above, the leaves are just starting to change. But on the forest floor, the ferns are giving us a blazing preview of the upcoming fall foliage show. Their colors are so bright you can see the ferns deeper in the forest, like glowing campfires dotting the ground and lighting up the fallen trees and logs nearby.

The fall foliage season is a big deal around here, and this week will be the start of prime autumn color viewing. But the rule in the forest is inviolate: when it comes to changing their colors, ferns go first.

When The Chlorophyll Flees

IMG_3373It’s autumn.  That means it’s time for you to once again reflect upon the many valuable things you learned during high school science class, in that smelly room with the stone-stopped tables and the Bunsen burner devices and the sinks with the odd curved faucets.  In addition to dissecting frogs and enduring that first whiff of formaldehyde, a smell that you will dread for the rest of your life, you learned about photosynthesis, and why leaves change color during the autumn.

Photosynthesis is the process by which our arboreal friends take water and carbon dioxide and convert them into oxygen and glucose.  The leaves have chlorophyll, a substance that is the crucial agent in the photosynthesis process and uses the power of sunshine to complete the chemical change that is essential to life on our planet.  You learned that chlorophyll is a deep, rich green, and during the height of spring and summer, when the chlorophyll is hard at work, its presence masks the other colors found in the leaves.

But when autumn comes, and winter approaches, and the supply of water and sunshine will decline, the chlorophyll decides that it’s time to take a vacation.  It leaves the leaves, and when it does the other hidden colors emerge — like the bright reds that you see in sugar maple leaves.  And sometimes you can see this process in action.  It’s the sort of thing your high school science teacher would enjoy.

Too Soon

IMG_3318Yikes!  The leaves on the trees on my street are already turning, and it’s not even October yet!  I’m not ready.

Please, weather gods — let us have a few weeks more of Indian summer!  I know it is a politically incorrect term, but it’s been unseasonably cool for months, and we could use some bright, clear days with temperatures in the 80s before the trees show their true colors, the autumn winds blow, and we feel the first breath of winter on our necks.

Orange You Glad It’s Autumn?

IMG_5306It’s been a beautiful fall color season in New Albany this year.  The maple tree in our backyard looked particularly radiant, with its blazing orange leaves.  Unfortunately, the inevitable autumn storms have come, and the wind and rain have knocked many of the leaves off the trees — as the carpet of color at the base of our maple tree indicates.  We’ll have a more days of the beautiful colors, then it will be time for the grim Skeletal Tree Season.

Fall Is Aptly Named

IMG_5026The leaves have started to fall from the trees fronting the Webner household.  Like little pellets of gold, they add a dash of color to the sidewalk and the front walk.  It’s fun to rustle the leaves as you walk to retrieve the mail.

I’m sorry that summer has ended, but I must confess that I love autumn.  As the leaves change color and drop to the ground, I acknowledge that fall is aptly named.

Starting To Turn

IMG_4975It’s been a very cool end of summer in New Albany, and now that autumn has officially arrived the leaves are starting to turn a bit earlier than normal.  It’s sad to see summer leave with a chilly morning whimper, but the first hints of rusty fall colors make me feel a bit better about the change of seasons.

Branches Aflame

Our fall colors are really starting to emerge in central Ohio; we’ll continue to have blazing arboreal beauty until a big storm knocks the leaves to the ground.

The sugar maples on the streets of our neighborhood are particularly striking right now, with leaves like tufts of flame burning brightly on the tree limbs.

Autumn Comes To The Buckeye State

Autumn is a beautiful season in the Midwest and Northeast, as the leaves change and the last seasonal blooms appear.  The average bit of Ohio woodland may not be as richly colorful as, say, a Vermont forest, but it is still a treat for the senses.  It is a time of year when a normally brisk walk slows down, so the walker can try, at least, to fully appreciate the surprisingly rich tapestry of colors found in that patch of trees that has been passed thousands of times before.