Winter wonderland

Make the most of the season outdoors

Kristen Wicker

Photo: Birding at Eastwood MetroPark is one of many outdoor activities to be enjoyed in the winter season

Kelly Kingery’s favorite wintertime memory encapsulates the magic of the season.
“I was cross country skiing with a friend at Possum Creek MetroPark and watching the snow fall across the Argonne Trail. It looked like gold dust in the sunlight,” says Kingery, outdoor connections program specialist with Five Rivers MetroParks. “There were many signs of wildlife, but we were laughing and having so much fun we only saw their tracks.”
From ice-skating to sledding to hiking, there are so many ways to explore the outdoors this winter. Five Rivers MetroParks staff offer some insider tips so you can make the most of the season.

Get Out & Hike
“Winter is a great time to hike the pink trail at Twin Creek, which takes you past the Hopewell Mounds,” says Chris Landis, park manager for Germantown and Twin Creek MetroParks. This earthwork was constructed nearly 2,000 years ago by the Hopewell Culture. “You get a great view of the valley and, if you have the right orientation, you can look toward the Miamisburg Mound and see how they line up.” Park in the Hopewell lot at 8502 Chamberlain Rd. to access the 2.2-mile trail.
Landis also recommends the silver trail at Germantown MetroPark. The 1.6-mile trail traverses a variety of habitats, including a river bottom, mature woods, ravines and a prairie. In winter, after leaves have fallen, it offers great views as well. Check out the new wildlife blind staff constructed near a wetland, complete with steps so kids can see out the windows. Access the 1.6-mile trail from the trailhead at 7501 Conservancy Rd.
While you’re out that way, stop by the High View Shelter in Twin Creek MetroPark. “On a clear day, you can see for miles,” says Sidney Gnann, facility program manager. “It is a really stunning view.” Park in the lot at 9688 Eby Rd.
Another favorite of Gnann’s—and many MetroParks staff—is the 3.2-mile orange trail at Taylorsville MetroPark. Check out the overlook on the adjacent yellow trail for a striking view of the Great Miami River.
“It’s quiet and excluded and an incredible walk in the woods,” Gnann says. “The kids love it because they can run back and forth and get rid of some of that cabin fever. It’s a good escape from everybody being packed in the house.” Park in the lot at 2010 U.S. 40. Check out the CCC shelter at the trailhead.
Other staff-recommended winter adventures include a sojourn to Cox Arboretum MetroPark, 6733 Springboro Pike. Climb the 46-foot Tree Tower for a stunning view of the park in the nude with no leaf covering—and see downtown Dayton and beyond. Hills & Dales MetroPark, 2655 S. Patterson Blvd., features the 1.46-mile Adirondack Trail, a relatively easy, flat hike that passes a pond, wetlands, stone tower and more.

Get Out & Skate
The region’s largest outdoor ice skating rink is open daily, including holidays, through Feb. 28 at RiverScape MetroPark, on the banks of the Great Miami River in downtown Dayton. Admission is $5 daily, and skate rental is only $2.
Special events are held throughout the season, and you can watch broomball and curling leagues play. Skating lessons are offered to get you moving comfortably on the ice. Warm up by the fire and grab a hot chocolate at the RiverScape Café. The MetroParks Ice Rink, presented by Buckeye Health Plan, is at 237 E. Monument Ave. Street parking is available nearby. Visit metroparks.org/icerink for a schedule and more info.

Get Out & Golf
Disc golf, that is, at Englewood MetroPark’s 18-hole course. “Use a bright-colored disc in the snow,” Kingery says. “It’s easier to find, and the disc will roll in snow and you can track it easier.” The course is located in East Park, 4361 National Rd. The course is at the bottom of the windy road that leads into the park.

Get Out & Sled
Five Rivers MetroParks has three sled hills at Germantown, Taylorsville and Englewood MetroParks. Visit metroparks.org/winter for details.

Get Out & Explore
“I love to take pictures of snow-covered bushes, trees and shrubs in winter, especially at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark,” says Shane Conley, park services administrative coordinator. “In winter, you’ll see things unique to that season, like the winter berry bushes cardinals love. The bright red berries are stunning against a backdrop of snow.”
Volunteer services manager Kevin Kepler also enjoys wintertime explorations. “I love to hike and look for things still growing,” he says. “I can always find something: little plants on the forest floor, plants in water, mosses. Any body of water is crystal clear in winter; all the algae is gone and you can see fish and what’s on the bottom of streams.”
Kepler suggests a visit to Aullwood Garden MetroPark, 955 Aullwood Rd., to look for such plants as hellebores in January, Adonis lilies in February and snow trillium in March. A great place to see winter-blooming skunk cabbage is behind the barn at Possum Creek MetroPark, 4790 Frytown Rd. While you’re there, visit the farm animals or take a trip to Carriage Hill MetroPark Historical Farm, 7800 E. Shull Rd., or the nearby Riding Center to see how the animals are spending the winter.
Speaking of animals, looking for animal tracks in the snow and trying to identify them is another wintertime treat. You likely can find raccoon, deer, squirrel and maybe even bobcat tracks.
“You can view a lot of wildlife in winter,” Kepler says, “while you enjoy the amazing serenity of the wintertime forest.”

Reach DCP freelance writer Kristen Wicker at KristenWicker@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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