Nestled on the edge of industry on the west side of town, a tiny oasis with a deep history sits quietly watching as cars navigate the s curve on Mechanicsburg road.
Ever since I can remember I have been intrigued by this place. What is it, why is it here, how do I visit, can I even visit, will there be marked trails... and on and on. Running beside the sign was what appeared to be someone's driveway so I never dared explore. That has all changed, after talking to the city and being reassured that yes, it is a place to go, there are trails, and they just installed a visible parking area just off of Mechanicsburg Rd! I couldn't believe my luck, and just in time for the spring wildflowers to begin blooming!
So mid April I bundled up (still snow on the ground) and set out to explore this what I expected to be a tiny tract of forest in the city.
The photos above are a bit confusing, let me explain.
1- From the road you can see the newly made parking area
2- After parking you need to walk down the lane
3- Take a left when you get to the stop sign (you'll see what was an attempt at a parking area to the right)
4 - On the left you'll see the trailhead
Immediately at the trailhead I was greeted by a sea of cutleaf toothwort! Mind you, it was still chilly so there weren't many blooms at this time. Following the trail I came to an intersection - "Main Trail" to the right, "Keith's Trail" to the left. Taking Keith's trail I was taken through the sea of toothwort up a hill from which the creek that flows next to Mechanicsburg Rd can be seen/heard. Along the hillside tiny beginnings of mayapple were just starting to pop out of the ground, and a number of large shrubs could be found (after looking into them, I believe they are the invasive burning bush, but that has yet to be confirmed). Winding along the hillside up and down eventually you come to an intersection - to the left you can catch back up with the blue trail, straight ahead you can continue on (at the time of writing this, there's a big mess of trees down here, use caution) so straight ahead I went. As you stroll down the hill you realize you no longer hear the road traffic, although it was chilly, spring peepers could be heard, it was like hopping through a portal to a remote area miles from town. At the bottom of the hill, the earth became soggy and a wetland appeared, rushes, ferns, and canary grass could be found in tussocks to the left of the trail, to the right the hillside. The trail meanders a bit then turns you back up the hill where it begins to widen in a moss covered pathway that gets wider as it rises. From here you begin to hear the sounds of industry again reminding you you're right in the middle of a very active area. When you get to the top of the hill, you can either go straight and observe the history of this park or turn right and join up with the trail, I went right which brought me to another intersection, this is right in the middle of the 'main trail' to the right leads to an old out building, a tree across the trail, and the most wonderful patch of dutchman's breeches and trout lily eventually ending at the intersection by the wetland we saw before, - the trail left wanders through a large grove of the shrub we saw earlier (still thinking it's burning bush), then opening wide into an older oak forest section, the trail then leading back to the main entrance.
Mileage is not officially marked here, but I estimate just over a mile of trails (that is if you take all the trails). My most recent trip I took 'Keith's trail' around to the wetland then up the 'main trail' and my handy mapping app said that was .6mi. While that doesn't seem far, there is so much to take in, the sights, the changing environment, it's easy to feel like you're in a much larger park once you start exploring.
I keep saying history but am not explaining myself.. well.. it's a little gray. I am having trouble finding much info on this spot so if you have any info please let me know! For sure I know at one point, part of this park was used as a nursery for the city to grow trees (you can see the evenly spaced rows on the west side). But until I learn more, that's what we've got.
I'll be following closely the progression of this park through the seasons, I hope you'll follow along or even get out and explore this hidden gem!
Check out the slideshow of the highlights from the (only two) times I've been out here!
Summer is one of those busy times where I think I'm outside far more often than I really am, so it's always a great surprise for me when I take a day or couple of days to spend hours re-aquainting with the area parks and find that so much has changed!
July brings dense meadows filled with wildflowers, grasses, and sedges, the forest canopy is a solid green sky, water areas are dappled with lounging turtles and frogs while the dragonflies skim and chase the days away.
July solidifies summer's arrival, there are no petite spring flowers left, they couldn't handle July; the sun's intensity, the rain's relentlessness, July is not for sissies, it is sure to weed out the weak.
What does all of this look like? Take a peek below to see!
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.