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It’s Spring: Take A Hike

Appeared in Spring 2007 issue of Over the Back Fence magazine, published by Long Point Media, Chillicothe, Ohio.

It’s time shake off winter. Get off the couch, dust off the walking shoes and enjoy the warming temperatures as spring arrives. Take a hike and get moving outdoors!

Wetland Chronicles at Dawes Arboretum
Contact: 1-800-44-DAWES or
Wetlands are the newest environment at Dawes Arboretum in Newark.
“The Ohio Department of Transportation hired an environmental design firm, Envirotech Consultants, to restore wetlands on about 70 acres at Dawes,” says Laura Kaparoff, public relations director. The Dawes wetland project is related to nearby highway construction. Formerly used for agriculture, it’s likely the site was previously a wetland-ravine complex.
“The wetlands include three ponds and we’ve planted all the typical wetland plants for this area. We’ve already seen an influx of birds,” Kaparoff says.
Dawes Arboretum is creating trails around the wetlands and this spring’s hikes are the wetland’s public debut. Attend “March Moon” to learn why Native Americans call this full moon the “worm moon.” Put on your boots, leave the flashlights at home and walk the wetlands by moonlight.
“Northward Journeys” showcases the birds that are stopping to feed at the wetlands on their flight north. Join the Dawes naturalist in welcoming these extraordinary migratory species.

Lake Hope Wildflower Hike
Contact: (740) 596-3030
See Mother’s Nature’s spring colors at Lake Hope’s Wildflower Hike.
“We’ve found a good spot in the Zaleski State Forest. It’s pretty spectacular, because of the sheer number and species of flowers. It’s like a carpet of colorful flowers,” says Park Naturalist Dave Sapienza.
Visitors meet at the Hope Iron Furnace to carpool a few miles before hiking a mile or two into the forest.
“We hike along a road, so we don’t trample the flowers,” Sapienza says. “We have rare and standard species. Visitors see wild blue flox, wild geraniums, blood root, larkspur, trilliums and even anemones, which are pretty rare.”
The wildflower hike is a learning experience. “Everyone gets a flashcard with a flower to find. Each flashcard has a picture and information. When someone identifies their flower, we all gather around and talk about it,” Sapienza says. “We stick to the basics, but more advanced visitors are welcome and we address their interests, too.”

Tenth Annual EcoThon at The Wilds
Contact: (740) 638-5030 or
This exciting trail run and walking event is held on the grounds of the North America’s largest conservation facility. Events include a 5K and 10K run, as well as a 5K walk.
“The terrain is rolling grasslands, so it’s like running or walking through the prairie. This is the second year for the course and last year’s response was fantastic,” says Guy Googins, marketing and communications officer. EcoThon is the “unofficial” kick-off to The Wilds visitor season that runs May through October. While the event courses are outside of the animal management area, participants do receive a safari tour as part of their registration fee.
“Our mission is to advance conservation, science, education and personal experience. The EcoThon is one way we do that, and we encourage participants to bring their families and make a day of it at The Wilds,” Googins says.

Frontier Trail Hike
Contact: (740) 385-8003
Hike through history at The Frontier Trail Hike at Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park.
Dramatized by costumed performers along the Ash Cave trail, the cast of characters varies each year “Visitors meet folks from different time periods. The father back into Ash Cave you go, the farther back in time you travel,” says Naturalist Pat Quackenbush. “We’ve had settlers, school teachers, soldiers from various wars and Native Americans. We go all the way back to the Adena Hopewell Moundbuilders with our characters.”
The hike is interactive. “A lot of the characters speak in first person and engage the crowds. Kids love it, but so do the adults. It’s a fun and educational way to learn about the Hocking Hills region and its people,” Quackenbush says.
Guided tours begin at the Ash Cave parking lot and ends at the cave. “Visitors can spend as much time as they want exploring the cave. It’s so big that even with the tours going on, there’s plenty to see.” Quackenbush says. New this year is an encampment that’s open all weekend to visitors. “On Friday night, we welcome everyone, go over the history and have a campfire. Saturday features historical music and storytelling. On Sunday, we’ll play frontier games,” says Quackenbush, an avid frontier game aficionado.

Second Annual Migratory Bird Weekend on the Hocking Valley Birding Trail
Events vary by location. Visit for details.
Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day on May 12 with a bird watching hike. An entire weekend is planned for novice birders and those who are more advanced in their birding skills. The feathered friend weekend is combined with great hiking from the Owl Prowl to the Spring Migration Bird Walk to the Birding Canoe Float down the Hocking River.
“Southeastern Ohio is so scenic and we’re home to a large variety of bird species,” says Dave Sapienza, park naturalist at Lake Hope State Park. “The Hocking Valley Birding Trail has a number of outdoor sites. Visitors can stop at any location and participate in the activities.”
Hocking Valley Birding Trail partners include Adena Hockhocking Bikeway, Clear Creek Metro Park, Hocking Hills State Park, Lake Hope State Park, Lake Logan, Lake Snowden, Rockbridge State Nature Preserve, Wahkeena Nature Preserve, Waterloo Wildlife Area and Wayne National Forest.

The Great Fossil Hunt
Contact: (513) 897-1050
The Ordovician Sea has disappeared, but visitors still find an abundance of fossils during the Great Fossil Hunt at the Caesar Creek Lake.
“We meet at the Army Corps of Engineers Visitors Center for a program about fossils, then park rangers lead a guided fossil hunt at the emergency spillway. We identify and talk about what visitors find,” says Park Ranger Amanda Wilson.
Everyone looks for the trilobite. “It’s the rarest, so it’s the hardest to find. It’s also the state fossil of Ohio. Most people don’t even know we have a state fossil,” Wilson says.
The brachiopod and bryozoan are easier to unearth. “Brachiopod is like a seashell and bryozoan is like coral,” explains Wilson.
Visitors may only pick up fossils with their hands; special tools are not allowed. “You can keep what you find, if it fits into the palm of your hand,” Wilson says.

Discovering Dawes Arboretum

Appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of Over the Back Fence magazine, published by Panther Publishing, Inc., Independence, Ohio.

Each season reveals a different landscape at Dawes Arboretum in Newark. In spring, it’s green buds and flowering trees. Leaves take center stage during the summer, and then put on a colorful show in the fall. Winter allows a closer look at bark and brightly colored berries.

“It’s a museum without walls,” says Laura Kaparoff, public relations director. “The tree collection is fascinating and beautiful. You don’t notice just how beautiful until you’re surrounded by all of these different kinds of trees.”

Dawes Arboretum encompasses 1,660 acres of horticulture collections, gardens, natural areas, farmland and research fields. Beman Dawes and his wife, Bertie, founded Dawes Arboretum in 1929 to increase the love and knowledge of trees.

Many share that love, as Dawes Arboretum attracts about 300,000 visitors annually. Visitors may take the 4.5-mile auto tour or hike the eight miles of trails. Some come for educational purposes. In particular, the Ohio State University uses Dawes Arboretum as a research facility.

The collections
Plants from around the world are collected, maintained and logged to evaluate their hardiness in central Ohio’s growing conditions. Dawes Arboretum’s vast database tracks more than 20,000 plants, with 15,000 of them planted on the grounds. The collections include rhododendron, crab apple, beech, buckeye and holly, to name just a few.

“Just as art museums collect certain artists, we collect all hardy members of certain plant families, such as holly, witch-hazel and maple,” says Mike Ecker, director of horticulture. “People go to an art museum to enjoy an artist’s expression in the form of a painting or sculpture. The same could be said for people who come to Dawes. They come to enjoy both the natural and arboretum’s staff’s interpretation of a tree’s appearance.”

In addition to trees, the Japanese Garden is a popular area. It was designed in 1963 by Dr. Makoto Nakamura of Japan’s University of Kyoto as a complement to Dawes’ existing bonsai tree collection. Nakamura considered the garden a cultural exchange experiment between America and Japan.

Unlike geometrically arranged Western gardens, Japanese gardens are asymmetrical. Japanese gardens artistically incorporate rocks, sand, ponds and flowing water. Few if any flowers are used. Vegetation is often limited to trees and shrubs and muted shades of green and white. “The Japanese Garden at the Dawes Arboretum is really unusual in that it represents four different styles of landscapes. Most gardens have only one or two. Dawes incorporated dry landscape, hill and pond, stroll and tea gardens,” says Keith Stevens, Japanese Garden curator.

Dawes Arboretum also is known for its unique tree dedications that began before the arboretum formally existed. Through the decades, notable men and women have been invited to dedicate trees honoring individual achievement and significant events. Explorer Richard Byrd, track star Jesse Owens and General John Pershing are among those who have dedicated a tree at Dawes. In all, almost 100 trees have been dedicated and have an accompanying bronze tablet.

Currently, the arboretum is collaborating with the Ohio Department of Transportation on a wetlands project. “It will feature wetland habitat and plants with interpretative signage and a boardwalk. We also hope to have wetland educational facility,” Kaparaoff says.

Dawes Arboretum Executive Director Luke Messinger oversees about 40 full-time and 10 seasonal employees. The arboretum also relies on its 300 volunteers, many of whom are members of the support organization Friends of Dawes.

The history
Beman Dawes was successful in several vocations, including lumber, engineering, real estate, oil and gas. Bertie was a self-taught naturalist and gardener.

The Dawes family purposed the original 140-acre tract of land in 1917. As they purchased adjoining land, the Dawes began improving the buildings and grounds. The country farmland was transformed into a beautiful arboretum, as acres of pasture were planted into forest test plots with the advice of Ohio’s best tree experts. Beman developed collections of hundreds of species of trees and shrubs from all over the world, many of which had never been grown in Ohio’s climate.

In 1929, the Dawes deeded 293 acres to the trustees of Dawes Arboretum. The arboretum was established as a privately funded operating foundation. Development began by transplanting 50 large sugar maples from the woods to the grove. Five years later 30,000 trees were added. The residence on the arboretum grounds is known as Daweswood House. “The Dawes had five homes and Daweswood was their summer home. It’s filled with family heirlooms and belongings. A lot of the items tell the history of the arboretum and the family. Actually, family members still use the home when they come to visit,” Kaparoff says.

Four Dawes descendants serve on the board of trustees, while two descendants are honorary trustees. “Their involvement creates an active role for the family. We love hearing family stories and memories, and their participation helps us stay true to what the Dawes intended when they established the arboretum,” Kaparoff says.

Dawes Arboretum is open free of charge from dawn to dusk everyday except New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Free narrated tours of the grounds are available Saturdays at 1 p.m. May through October. Daweswood House tours are offered at 3:15 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays for a small fee. Visitors Center is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, Sundays and holidays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Call 1-800 44-DAWES or visit

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