September 2, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
69°F

Winter walks: Hibernate? No way. Here’s where to take a hike in Northeast Ohio

By JOHN BENSON

Special to The Gazette

Take a hike. While most folks may agree to such an excursion during the warmer months, the truth is wintertime — despite the cold and the snow — offers nature lovers plenty of unique hiking experiences with various Northeast Ohio parks providing specialized programming.

“I think as far as after the holidays and shopping, what I get from my people that come to my programs is that it’s so refreshing to get out of the mall, out of the traffic and just get out and breathe the fresh air and get the exercise,” said Dan Bertsch, chief naturalist with the Medina County Park District. “I think two things they do enjoy are the pointing out of animals signs and tracks, which you can see in the snow and you can’t see in the summer. There’s also the exercise, fresh air and just learning a little bit more about animal behavior in winter: what animals are still with us, which ones hibernate.”

While some folks may think winter hiking is, well, um, crazy, Bertsch said there is no better way to shake off any hint of cabin fever than by taking a walk through Mother Nature.

“There’s going to be a certain group of people that don’t mind getting out in cold weather,” Bertsch said. “They know how to dress for it, and they enjoy it. Also, something to remember is walking off the holiday calories. After Christmas and New Year’s Eve, I think a lot of people do want to get out.

“After the holidays there’s that big surge of people wanting to get into a health spa. And often right after the holidays you can’t even get into a recreation center. It’s that, ‘Let’s get rid of these pounds’ attitude, and hiking is one way of doing that.”
Here is a list of area hikes scheduled in our neck of the Buckeye State woods:

Medina County Park District

For more information, call 330-722-9364 or visit www.medinacountyparks.com.

“Nature Thru the Seasons Hike” series

Plum Creek Park, Brunswick

10 a.m. Jan. 21

This series consists of easy walks that explore different parks while observing the unfolding of nature from the first spring wildflowers to the onset of winter.

“Groundhog Hike”

Wolf Creek Environmental Center, Sharon Township

2 p.m. Feb. 1

Celebrate Groundhog Day early by learning more about the life and lore of groundhogs. This will be followed up with a hike to search for signs of the furry animals.

“Sweetheart Hike”

Wolf Creek Environmental Center, Sharon Township

7 p.m. Feb. 14

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic, self-led, moonlit stroll along the snow-covered trails of the tall grass prairie and through the enchanting pine forest. Afterward, come inside to warm up with some hot beverages and a cozy fire. Adults only please.

“Searching for Animal Signs Hike”

Wolf Creek Environmental Center, Sharon Township

3 p.m. Feb. 15

Here’s a chance to see how many different animals are active in winter. Hikers will look for tracks, scat, browsed shrubs and other signs of their presence while talking about the life histories of some of our common species.

Cleveland Metroparks

For more information, call 216-635-3200 or visit www.clemet
parks.com.

“New Year, New You Hike”

Mill Stream Run Reservation, Berea, Middleburg Heights, North Royalton and Strongsville

11 a.m. Jan. 10

Join Naturalist Bethany Majeski for a three-mile hike through the lovely trees of Mill Stream Run Reservation. The idea is you won’t even notice you are exercising.

“Hiking For The Young At Heart”

Hinckley Reservation, Hinckley Township

9:30 p.m. Feb. 24

Enjoy the beauty of winter with a hike around the perimeter of this 100-acre lake.

Metroparks, Serving Summit County
For more information, call 330-867-5511 or visit www.summitmetroparks.org.

“Hikes & Breakfast”

Goodyear Heights Metro Park, Akron

8 a.m. Jan. 10

Enjoy a winter morning with this hike and breakfast around the campfire. Participants will be asked to contribute to the feast. Meet at the pavilion.

“Cabin Fever Hike”

O’Neil Woods Metro Park, Bath Township

2 p.m. Jan. 18

Hike the 1.8-mile Deer Run Trail with Naturalist Mike Greene and search for signs of wildlife activity. Expect difficult terrain.

“Coffee Hike”

Goodyear Heights Metro Park, Akron

9 a.m. Jan. 31

Join Naturalist Meghan Doran for this easy, early walk around Alder Pond to look for birds, tracks and other signs of wildlife. Bring a mug of your favorite cup of coffee.

“Winter Tree I.D. Hike”

Furnace Run Metro Park, Richfield

2 p.m. Feb. 1

Trees don’t have leaves for half the year. Join Naturalist Danusia Casteel for this one-mile walk to learn how to identify trees by their bark and buds. Expect easy terrain.

“Winter Birds Hike”

Firestone Metro Park, Akron

1 p.m. Feb. 8

Join Naturalist Pat Rydquist for this 1.6-mile hike along the Willow Trail to discover which birds stay for the winter and what they eat. Expect easy terrain.

Lorain County Metro Parks

For more information, call 440-458-5121 or visit www.loraincounty
metroparks.com

“Winter Wanderings Hiking Series”

Carlisle Visitor Center, LaGrange

2 p.m. Jan. 31, Feb. 7 and Feb. 15

Enjoy this hiking series as you learn more about nature during the winter months. Each hike will include a discussion about a different topic. Topics include secrets of snow, winter survival, winter birds and signs of spring. Afterwards, hikers can warm up with some hot chocolate in the Wildlife Observation Area.

“Weekly Walkers”

Columbia Reservation, Columbia Township

8:30 a.m. the first Monday, second Tuesday, third Wednesday and fourth Thursday of each month

This is designed for hikers meeting new hikers with a focus on walking (and little talking). Plus, if you complete two hikes in a month, you get a free mug.

— John Benson