Venture: Wolf Run State Park
The water was cool and calm Saturday morning, save for a light breeze and the occasional passing of boats trolling for the sauger and panfish that populate this small eastern Ohio finger lake.
Tucked into the hills near the intersection of I-70 and I-77, Wolf Run State Park mostly keeps to itself. The 1,046-acre park includes only 5.5 miles of hiking trails, a somewhat disheveled swimming beach and a small backwoods airport with fly-in campsites.
And, of course, Wolf Run Lake.
A great body of water surrounded by a bare minimum of crowd-drawing amenities provides a delightful day trip for paddlers looking to escape summer's state-park bustle on and off the aqua.
Launching from the beach at the far end of the lake's eastern fork, you'll have a five-mile paddle out, up and back through long, relatively thin stretches bordered by woods and grassy hillsides.
Finger lakes are often easier to paddle because tree-lined banks block wind and smaller surface areas prevent waves or whitecaps from building. Boat motors are capped at 10 horsepower, so you won't have larger craft speeding by with brave but blundering skiers in tow.
The relatively short end-to-end distance and friendly conditions should leave plenty of time to explore the inlets and coves that branch from the main channels like the prongs of an antler.
Some of these quiet spaces are lined with lichens, scrub grasses and moss - an ethereal galaxy of green overlapping rocks, trees and old stumps. Others are tamer, and on Saturday afternoon, they attracted young anglers who ran to the shore and cast lines while the tide gently lapped at their shoes.
Skinny dirt trails, picnic tables and campsites peer through the trees, so bring a small length of rope to tie up your boat while you explore for a bit on land.
Be sure to visit the reedy marshes at the north end of the western fork, a hotspot for spring birding activity. Stop for lunch atop one of the giant boulders that protrude along the western fork's eastern shore.
And remember: Get there early, and don't hurry.
For more adventures on Buckeye lakes and rivers, visit the Ohio Adventure Map at columbusalive.com/venture.
Wolf Run State Park
16170 Wolf Run Rd., Caldwell