One day, I woke up and saw my first bloodroot, hepatica, trillium, and a woodlot full of gnarly hickories of all sorts. The paw paws were ripe in the vinton furnace forest creek bottom, where I filled my shirt with all I could eat. Later, curiously hiking the ridge only to be surprised by a timber rattlesnake slithering through the leaves. And the nostalgic Vinton furnace remnants and coke ovens deep in the woods appeared so noble as Virginia creeper swept across their sandstone faces. Taking breaks from collecting DBHs by picking blackberries, dewberries, and raspberries with the forestry crew. By night, I heard the whippoorwills, screech owls, and saw the woodcocks do their dance near school. Not to mention holding northern saw-whets and eastern pipistrells to band. Harvesting ramp, chicken of the woods, and morel mushrooms for a moonlit spring feast.
As the dew is trickling away, have you heard the colors sing, too? From indigo buntings to yellow warblers; wood thrushes and spring peepers should be heard by all. Feeling the cool woodland breeze drop from a sw aspect to a ne aspect; the scent transformes from carolina rose to spice bush, respectively. From the haunted Moonville tunnel to gazing up at the old Nelsonville brewery before it fell. Peering into old mine shafts led my mind through a long tunnel of history and curiousity. An abandoned coal tipple deep in the woods gave me vision of a booming town, now occupied by forest creatures.
For eternity, memories will pursist of hiking through the wooded hackberry shoreline of Middle Bass Island only to be surprised by my first adult bald eagle in the canopy. And of course, the endless nights of fishing for smallies, rock bass, and sheepshead off of the Southbass Island dock with a black crowned night heron friend. Wild walks along the put-in-bay boardwalk; The most remarkable of remarkable 4ths as the “Sunny S” parked in the harbor for my lucky group to view the fireworks. The cool mist whisping off the whaler in the morning from our commute from Southbass Island to work - ol' Lonz winery in view.
Up north to catch big steelhead on the noodle rod and back again four years later to show dad. And of course, not only visiting Shawnee State Forest, Pearl King Savannah, Prairie Road Fen, Gallagher Fen, and Davey Old Growth Woods in one day, but also being part of two county orchid records. Those timeless burr, post, and black jack oaks of northwest Ohio will stick with me forever. And of course, Conkles Hollow, to Old Man's Cave, to spending my Easter Holliday photographing the tall waterfalls come alive only to meet a blanket of red trilliums below at Cantwell Cliffs.
The opportunity to see the west would have never arisen without Ohio. Stories of life on the North Dakota prairies shall be introduced to my future children like fishing tales of starry night channel catfishing on the Connecticut River were passed down to me. There, I saw new plants and animals that only books had previously shown me - from fishers and moose to banding pelicans; grasses and more grasses were not only observed, but taught to me. And I could never forget coming across acres of multiple species of lady's slipper orchids! As much as I loved this wide open space, the hills and trees were calling again. Upon returning to Ohio, I took off to meet Dolly Sod's in WV and the Red River Gorge-ous sunrises of KY in peak foliage color during autumn. It is today that I fully understand Mark Twain's quote - "Don't let schooling interfere with your education." As dad always said, "knowledge is power;" though, experiences are an essential supplement to growth.
In five years, I've exceeded my dreams and expectations for this experience. I am a changed man and the unforgettable culture, history, and feel of this midwest state and region will be embedded in my family and I forever. The Ohio fall festivals, summer farm stands, winter hikes, and spring ephemerals now run deep in my veins. Cheers, Ohio - to past and future adventures to come!