Christmas Rocks & Rockmill Brewery

December 10, 2017 – On a chilly Sunday morning, I decided to knock an Ohio Hike off my bucket list.  I’ve had my eye on Christmas Rocks for a while but hadn’t had a chance made time to head down that way.  It did not disappoint!  A great hike with a great friend and a great beer afterwards at the stunning Rockmill Brewery made for a fantastic day. Continue reading “Christmas Rocks & Rockmill Brewery”

Columbus Museum of Art & the Topiary Garden

What to do on a dreary Sunday in Columbus when you are on a budget?  The Columbus Museum of Art, of course! It’s free on Sundays and a great indoor activity.  And with street parking free on Sundays, it’s also a good time to see some of the downtown sites while you’re there.

We decided to see the Topiary Park while we were downtown for the museum.  These two sites are about a 5 minute walk apart, so it is easy to park near the museum and walk over to check out the park. Continue reading “Columbus Museum of Art & the Topiary Garden”

Exploring Hopewell Culture (and Craft Brew) in Licking County – Part 2

August 20, 2017 – After spending the morning hiking around a bit, we moved on to look for Hopewell Mounds.

Great Circle

We started our exploration of the Newark Earthworks with the Great Circle Earthwork site and museum.  The Great Circle site is southwest of downtown Newark.  Once parked (google map here), stop in at the museum for  displays on the mounds and an interactive set of videos.  When you exit the museum, you’ll be facing the entrance to the Great Circle.

Continue reading “Exploring Hopewell Culture (and Craft Brew) in Licking County – Part 2”

Preservation Parks Summer Letterbox Adventure

The Preservation Parks of Delaware County has launched their annual Summer Letterbox Adventure with some lovely improvements over the last couple years’ programs.

The Summer Program

What is it?

Letterboxing is essentially a treasure hunt.  You follow a set of clues to locate a box hidden along the trail.  When you find it, you collect a stamp in your book and sign the log that you were there.  Unlike Geocaching, there is no trinket to be collected.  Your reward is your success in finding the box and a stamp. (Yay… no crappy toy to later sneak into the trash.)

This program is through the Preservation Parks and the Delaware County Library.  When you sign up, you receive a book with clues for 8 of the Preservation Parks.  As you follow the clues in the book, you will learn about some some aspect of the natural world (a particular animal found in that park, trees, habitats, etc.).

This year they have added the Ice Age Safari program to the book.  As you’re looking for your letterbox, keep an eye out for life size silhouettes of prehistoric animals.  There are 5 of these to find.

If you complete either of the programs, you can retrieve a small prize.  (ahh.. there’s the trinket.)



How to start

To get started, you need to register* and get a book.  The program page has directions for registering.  Once registered, pick up a booklet at the Children’s Desk at the library.   Then you’re set.

While you’re there, explore the library,  sign up for the summer reading program, hang out a bit.  There is another part of a day tackled with the kids.

* My kids went to the library and registered there.  We didn’t know we needed to register ahead of time.  This didn’t seem to be an issue.

The Parks

If you’ve not checked out the Preservation parks, you’re missing out on one of the hidden treasures of Delaware County.  These small parks are perfect for an evening family walk or quick weekend outing.  Most of the trails are rather short and very manageable for families with smaller kids.  The trails are about a mile/mile-and-a-half long, wide, and generally stroller and dog friendly*. Many of the parks have a natural play area to check out; several have full fledged playgrounds.  Most have a nice new restroom facility as well and provide (the best!) poop bags for picking up after Fido.  The parks are open from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily.

* Hogback Ridge is not stroller friendly.  There are many wood steps. Parts of Shale Hollow does not allow dogs in the creek area which is where the letterbox is.

Our Experience 

My kids are a lot older than the intended audience of this program.  They are generally aiming at the preschool/elementary school set and their families.  At nearly-13 and 15 1/2, they pretty quickly and easily find the boxes.  Younger ones may need a bit more help.  However we still have a ton of fun.   The kids are well beyond me needing to do the reading which is nice.

Short descriptions of our visits to the parks are below.  I will update as we go along.

1st Park – Char Mar Ridge

2nd Park – Shale Hollow

3rd Park – Hogback Ridge

Our Tips

  • My dog is picking up a ton of ticks at the parks this year.  Do a thorough check for ticks before getting back in the car.
  • Mosquitoes do get a bit bad with the many creeks and pools of water.  Wear bug spray.
  • We love the evenings at the parks.  They aren’t busy and near sunset is a lovely time to be in the woods.
  • Take along a pen – you can sign the log book that you were there, make notes in your letterbox book, and fill out where you see the prehistoric Ice Age animals.
  • Get one book per kid.  There is nothing worse than fighting over who gets to stamp.  Unless of course it’s who gets to stamp first.

Final Thoughts

You really can’t go wrong trying out this program and checking out the parks.  It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s quick.  You can spread it out through the summer and make it a weekly outing or a “hmm… it’s nice out let’s do something quick” activity.  And if the kids hate it, don’t do any more.  It’s not a huge commitment.


Our Journey

1st Park – Char Mar Ridge

June 6 – We started with Char Mar, going after dinner.  We walked the 1.5 mile trail in under an hour.  This park, in Genoa Township just north of Westerville, has a wildlife blind overlooking part of Hoover Reservoir  which is quite nice (you do have to walk up a ton of stairs to get to it).  It also has a natural play area near the start of the trail which is fun to check out.   Along the trail there are signs that suggest you do different calisthenic exercises as you go along.  The kids get a kick out of stopping and doing 10 jumping jacks or 10 walking lunges along the way.

On this journey we learned a lot about beavers which turned out to be rather fascinating.  While we did not see any actual beavers, we did see a few spots where we think they have made a dam.  And we picked out some tree stumps that had been chewed. And we saw a raccoon enjoying dinner.

2nd Park – Shale Hollow

June 8 – we went to Shale Hallow early evening.  This park is off of US 23, behind Paul’s Marine. And it is a stunner!  This hidden gem has a creek in a shale lined gorge that you can walk in and explore.  Wear water shoes or old tennis shoes and spend some time exploring.  The letterbox path will have you check out the creek and then take a trail to find the actual box.   There is also a natural play area at this park, but “It kind of sucks compared to Char Mar” (per the 12 yr old). And this site has an exhibit building as well, but it was closed when we were there.  Dogs are not permitted on the creek or the Overlook Trail accessible from the park.  They are permitted on Great Horned Owl trail (but that is not where the letterbox is).

On this journey we learned about glacier activity, shale (duh), and concretions.  Concretions (simply a mass of sedimentary rock that formed around some small object) fascinate me.  In this area you can see some nearly perfect spheres in the shale cliffs and creek bed.  Some are more doughnut shaped due to erosion.  Shale also makes fantastic rock skipping rocks.  We had a lot of fun with that.

3rd Park – Hogback Ridge

June 25 – For a Sunday morning family walk, we headed up to Hogback Ridge park.  This park is in the Sunbury area, above Alum Creek State Park.  On this adventure we learned about the layers of the forest.  This park also has an Ice Age find.

The views are a bit less stunning here than Shale Hollow and there are no playground areas, but it is a nice walk.  There is a small nature center building open on weekdays.  The stairs and bridge crossing the ravine are pretty fancy, but make this trail non-stroller friendly.   When you are in the back loop of the trail, take a very short side trail to the wildlife blind overlooking part of Alum Creek.