Monday, May 22, 2006

Ohio Birdwatchers and What a View REALLY Looks Like

All right, I have to admit to being jealous.

Of what, you might ask?

The Ohio State Parks system!

There is exactly one Michigan State Park within easy access of me—Sterling State Park in Monroe. It has a beach, a campground, and something which vaguely resembles a hiking trail, but is really more of a biking/rollerblading trail. And the beach has a lovely view of the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant. Yep, just what I want to see while I’m swimming! And admission is $6.

But on Saturday, Tirithien took me to two State Parks just down around the corner of the lake, in that other state, and they both had free admission. We started out at Crane Creek, which is about halfway between Toledo and Sandusky. And it was lovely. It has some trails through marshland and a wonderful shoreline. (Granted, we were now within sight of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, but you can’t have everything.) The only problem was that it was overrun by birdwatchers.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a trail with a flock of dedicated birdwatchers, but I have to say that it’s a truly surreal experience. See, as a Woodland Ninja ™, I’m used to meeting very few other people along the trail, if any. I’m used to quiet hikes. But instead, it was rather like making way through a crowded outdoor flea market, ducking and dodging people with expensive binoculars staring devoutly into trees and saying things like, “Look! It has yellow feathers and a purple head! It must be a Snodgrass Peregrine Swallow!” while their bored children hang upside down off the wooden railings and do flips into the swamp to look for frogs, turtles, and bog monsters.

Eventually the birdwatchers figured out that we didn’t belong (having no binoculars was a clue, as was the fact that we were tending to look at trees and wildflowers rather than birds), and they ran us off. (Okay, not really, but they were giving us some dirty looks.) We headed back towards town and went to Maumee Bay State Park instead.

Now, this is a truly beautiful park. It’s a park of the well-groomed variety, not a wilderness, but oh, the shoreline there was the closest thing I’ve seen to being a real beach since I left Florida 15 years ago. And the wind was even stirring up the lake enough to form something resembling waves! We wandered along the shoreline, climbed a few rocks (you know, the ones marked “Don’t Climb On These Rocks”), and climbed a rather impressive hill which gave us an absolutely amazing view of the entire park. While we were sitting on the bench at the top of the hill, we were joined by a man with his two young sons. The younger of the two, a bright-eyed lad of about 6, kept saying knowingly, “Now, this is what a view looks like!” and nodding his head sagely.

Rather than risk the boy’s feelings (because he was really quite serious in his fervent declarations that this was indeed what a view looks like) by laughing, we headed down the hill and spent some time on one of the hiking trails, where we encountered wild roses, wild grapes, a bunny, a deer, and several friendly dogs taking their humans for walks. Then we wandered back to the park resort building to find something to drink and headed home after that.

It was really a very good day for Woodland Ninjas to try being Swamp Ninjas and Beach Ninjas. And I have my first sunburn of the year.


Tirithien said...

I spent a lot of summer days at Crane Creek through the years. :-) We'll have to go sometime after Memorial Day- when they've had a chance to de-mussel the beaches. Sandcastles await!

egan said...

I was just thinking that it's about time I introduced Aithne to Ohio's Parks system. There really are some stunning ones here. I would in particular suggest checking out anything in the Hocking Hills.

Bainwen Gilrana said...

Hocking Hills is definitely on my list of parks to see, having heard about its wonders now from TWO Ohioans!