Venture: Winter hikes
A few weeks back you read my tips for staying warm and happy on a winter hike - then realized you weren't exactly sure where to try them out.
I haven't forgotten about you, hiker friends. Here's where those rubber soles can meet the road.
To warm up (athletically, that is), hit Mount Gilead State Park, a small, quiet preserve that many overlook en route to bigger Ohio expanses at Alum Creek and Mohican.
Your starting point will be the 1.7-mile Lakeside Trail, which tracks the shore of a picturesque pond before heading into the woods. Side loops branch from this main path and rejoin it farther down - a great design for those unsure how much distance they want to do when heading out.
The Piney Woods and Sam's Creek loops both venture into great hardwood tracts that you'll have to yourself.
Those looking for more challenging elevation change should look no further than Chestnut Ridge Metro Park.
The park was named because that mightiest of hardwoods once thrived on the 4,500-foot-long ridge, which geologists consider the first foothill of the Appalachians. On the mile-long Ridge Trail, you'll see plenty of other fantastic trees along a 150-foot climb that's among the steepest and most rewarding in the Metro Parks system.
On a clear winter day, leafy cover long fallen to the ground, the observation deck will showcase the Downtown skyline standing 20 miles away.
Finally, once you have your winter legs, use that last half-day of vacation time for a trip down to A.W. Marion State Park, a small lake resort that's delightfully deserted in the cold.
The five-mile Hargus Lake Trail gives broad views of the lake but also wanders into natural nooks and crannies: backwater inlets shaded by pines, marshes lined with cattails and sapling rows arched over small feeder streams.
Beneath a layer of snow, there's no prettier place in the state.
Tubing, skiing, sledding and other winter activities abound at the Ohio Adventure Map, available at columbusalive.com/venture.
Mount Gilead State Park
4119 State Rte. 95, Mt. Gilead
Chestnut Ridge Metro Park
8445 Winchester Rd. NW, Carroll
A.W. Marion State Park
7317 Warner Huffer Rd., Circleville