Enjoy a quiet walk at one of our crown jewels

Happy is the man (or woman) who, in old age, can still place one foot in front of the other to go for a walk. Doing so can bring pleasure and prolong life.

When I was younger I walked primarily for cardio exercise, but I was never very good at it, probably because it always involved the use of some sort of mechanical device, like a treadmill, and seemed like work. There is little pleasure in walking on a treadmill. Every time I tried it, within two minutes I would be ready to scream or to fall asleep from boredom. I do believe in exercise, and if using a treadmill is the only way to fit it into your busy life, by all means do so. But going for a walk should not be work; it should be for pleasure and solitude. We were, after all, created to walk in a garden.

I enjoyed doing so last Sunday at the Cincinnati Nature Center. As an aside, I need to say a word about the name of this wonderful place. I think it should be called the Clermont County Nature Preserve. I immensely appreciate the foresight of its founder and its many benefactors over the years, most of whom were (and many of whom still are) residents of Cincinnati. But the Cincinnati Nature Center is neither owned by, nor located in, the City if Cincinnati. I think of it more as a crown jewel of Clermont County.

I took our Golden Retriever, Lily, with me, and we walked for the better part of two hours. I would have walked longer, but during our trek she went from leading the way to brining up the rear. It’s no wonder, in dog years Lily is a little older than I, and she was burdened with wearing her heavy golden fur coat. Nevertheless, she did well, taking a dog-paddling dip in two of the ponds along the way.

I believe a person could walk all day at the Nature Center and never set foot on the same trail twice. Bill Hopple and his staff and volunteers have done an amazing job of maintaining and continually improving the Nature Center over the past decade or so.

The trails of the Nature Center are as varied in topography and natural beauty as almost any park in Ohio. There are no massive caves, high cliff views, or majestic waterfalls to see, but the trails through meadows, along streambeds, and through forests, are otherwise as beautiful as any that I’ve hiked in Ohio.

Close by the Krippendorf Lodge is a monstrous old beech tree that would very nearly take three adults to reach hand-to-hand around its girth. The Nature Center trails abound with wildlife, wildflowers in the spring, and a shady canopy of Oak, Maple, Beech, Hickory, and other trees. Along the way today, Lily and I saw numerous butterflies, a white-tailed deer (a buck, but I couldn’t count his points), a red tailed hawk who didn’t seem happy about our presence in his meadow, and a rather large eastern box turtle who could have cared less that we were there.

While at the Nature Center I hooked up a lawn sprinkler and let it run while we hiked, to water the butterfly garden. The Clermont County Master Gardener Club did a major restoration of the butterfly garden a few years ago and we continue to maintain it. Even more impressive to me is the herb wall. Originally created by the Krippendorf family on a rocky wooded hillside down a path from their historic home, over the years it became so overgrown that one could hardly tell it was there. Then, along came master gardener Jan Dougherty. Over the past few years, along with the help of friends (including some fellow master gardeners), Jan has restored the herb wall to its original beauty. It is an easy walk from the gift shop/nature center, and is a quiet and serene place to sit awhile.

There is a fee to enter the Nature Center, either daily or as an annual membership. The funds are well used to maintain the trails and programs offered year round. If you can put one foot in front of the other for a short walk, or even a serious hike, I encourage you to visit the Nature Center. I even have a few visitor passes that I’d be glad to share with you. (You can also visit www.cincynaturecenter.org).