Friday, September 28, 2012

Scioto County's Shawnee State Park

Photos by OHventures

4404 State Route 125
Portsmouth, OH 45663

If you're traveling in Southern Scioto County Ohio, there is no avoiding Shawnee State Park! I recently paid a visit to this portion of the state for the very first time in my life. It was a crisp autumn day in late September, when the leaves were just starting to turn from green into hues of light yellow and orange. Driving through the small Village of Otway, I happened upon some surprising landmarks that captured the charm of the southernmost part of the Buckeye State.

One of these landmarks was an old timber covered bridge (pictured above) that was closed off to traffic, but remained in tact as an official Ohio Historical Marker. These covered bridges were vital links in the early road, railroad and canal systems of Ohio and contributed greatly to the growth and development of the state. The were covered with roof and siding to protect the timber trusses from the weather. Many of these covered bridges, like the one above, served the area for over a century. 

You can find this particular covered bridge spanning Scioto Brush Creek on State Route 348 0.2 miles from the center of the Village of Otway. What makes this bridge unique is that out of a total of 80 covered bridges in Scioto County, this is the only one that has survived and still remains. Sadly, it has graffiti on certain portions, but is still a beauty! A grant was awarded by the US Department of Transportation to make enhancements and repairs to this bridge.

The covered bridge, as mentioned, can be found just off of State Route 348 in Scioto County, which also serves as one of Ohio's Scenic Byways. There are 27 Scenic Byways in the state, which are designated as such so that they can be enjoyed by tourists and officially recognized as being culturally and geographically significant. The Scenic Scioto Heritage Trail was established in 2007 and winds throughout the county, with a majority of the trail within Shawnee State Park. There are 44 points of interest on the 80-mile trail, including the above-mentioned covered bridge, as well as many Scenic Overlooks within the state park. Other key stops on the trail include: Governor Ted Strickland's boyhood home, Camp OYO Boy Scout Camp, and Ohio's largest Yellow Buckeye Tree.

Shawnee State Park itself is surrounded by the Shawnee State Forest and gets its name from the Shawnee Indians, who used to hunt in the area. Today, the park does not offer hunting, but does accommodate camping, fishing, boating, hiking, swimming, picnicking, tennis, volleyball, basketball, and golf. Also included in the park is a nature center, bridle trails, and many, many more amenities.

Since I was only able to drive a portion of the trail within Shawnee State Park in and near the Village of Otway, I was unable to truly relish the flavor of the area. However, the Scenic Bypass was a great alternative to hiking or biking, which I was unable to do at the time. I would highly recommend you take a drive through this gorgeous park to experience all that the trail has to offer, and be sure to stop at each of the highlighted areas to get the full Shawnee State Park and Scioto County experience.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A&F Challenge Recap

Photos by OHventures

Back in the hey day of college, I enjoyed a brief stint at the Abercrombie & Fitch store at Easton Town Center as a member of the Model/Impact Team. Ever since, I have been rocking moose-adorned polos of every color (except black of course) and smelling as "Fierce" as the noxious cologne that is pumped throughout every mall in mid-America. A little known fact to folks not living in the 614 area code is that the Abercrombie & Fitch Home Office (or as they call it - campus), is located in New Albany, Ohio (a suburb of Columbus).

An even lesser known fact is that each year (for the past 11 years), the campus holds its annual A&F Challenge, which is a 5K and bike race that aims to raise $1 million for the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. Friends of mine (Laura, Ryan, and Bryan) all work at the home office and invited me to come out and run! I of course accepted the challenge, knowing that my entry fee would go toward a good cause, and that I would get to do yet ANOTHER 5K (don't mind the fact that I had just days before ran the Warrior Dash and in two days would ride in the Akron STOMP Bike Ride).

After crawling through rush hour traffic after work on Thursday, August 30, I made it to the secluded A&F campus in northeast Franklin County just in time for the race. My friend Laura gave me my bag of gear, I changed into my shirt, punned on my bib, downed a water, and lined up at the starting line! Amidst a group of cheering A&F employees and their guests, the announcer counted down and away we went!

Music was blaring (much like the kind you'd hear in any Abercrombie store across the country), which kept us motivated during the big run! I also kept my pace by picking a new friend out of the crowd and secretly making them my personal "coach" of sorts. I eventually made small talk with my secret pace keeper, whose name ended up being Wes. It made the race breeze by, and helped push me even when I wanted so badly to stop and walk. My knee was killing me by the end of the 2nd mile, but I managed to push through it as we zoomed through the well-manicured forestry of the snazzy A&F campus.

My final time was just over 27 minutes, which was fantastic given my history of 5Ks and my throbbing knee (my doctor is going to kill me for all of these races I insist on doing). I met up with my friend Laura (whose "guest" I was) and we made our way inside the home office building so I could use the restroom and gather my things. I bring this up because, apparently, this was a covert operation, since non-employees weren't really supposed to be inside! Scandalous!

With a beet red face, we went down to get our free beer and food. The spread was amazing, as it consisted of pasta salad with squash, fresh fruit, and salmon! This was some high class post-race grub! We all chugged some booze and rocked out to Walk The Moon, the band who is responsible for the infectious summer tune Anna Sun! Hearing that song live, surrounded by all the pretty and beautiful people at the Abercrombie & Fitch campus, after completing a sweaty and challenging 5K race with friends (both new and old) was such a fantastic feeling. I am so happy I got to take part in such an exclusive event and help fight cancer!

Friday, September 21, 2012

STOMP Bike Ride Recap

Photos by OHventures

My old ratty hand-me-down bike had recently met its demise when it one of the tires was stolen, forcing me to step things up and take initiative toward becoming a true bicyclist! After investing a fair amount of money into a new bike (a fancy shmancy Schwinn mountain bike), a rack for my car (which admittingly took me forever to install), and top notch biking shorts (extra padding, thank you very much) from roll:, I was adamant that I would get more into the biking scene!

My first official biking event with my new gear and as a newly proclaimed cyclist was the STOMP Bike Ride in Akron. STOMP, which stands for the Summit Tour of Metro Parks, was celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and for the first time, took place at the Lock 3 (200 S. Main Street) in Downtown Akron. Riders chose from one of three distances – 10, 20 or 30 miles traversing the newly completed Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. I didn't want to kill myself with a 30 mile ride out of nowhere, nor did I want to take the easy way out and ride a mere 10 miles (I had to up the ante from the Bike Columbus Festival), so I split the difference and opted for the 20 mile ride.

Arriving at Lock 3 bright and early (7:30 AM), I found myself in a sea of spandex (honestly, I haven't seen that much spandex since my family trip to Wildwood, New Jersey in 1992). Enthusiastic athletic types were milling about the park, chomping on the ever-so-healthy (sarcasm) complimentary breakfast of pancakes and sausage links. A kind woman rocking a killer mullet gave me some nice tips and shared some insights as a seasoned STOMP participant from the area. 

As we sipped our coffees, I told her how I was not from the area and was an amateur rider. She (I forget her name) explained that the 20-miler would head north to Ira Road in Peninsula, and then back down south to Lock 3. Most importantly, my new pal warned me of the treacherous hills that I'd have to face coming back into Akron, noting that the 20-miler really would be more difficult than the 30-miler. Good thing I live for a challenge!

There was no bull horn or whistle to indicate the start of the ride at 9 AM. This was disappointing to me, since I was hoping more for a race than for a leisurely bike ride. But, that was what STOMP was: a bike ride that was family friendly and non-competitive. So, I turned on my RunKeeper iPhone app to track my progress and made it so that, in my head at least, it was a race! I would race against myself, so that I would do my absolute best and keep pushing myself so I would maximize my experience. After all, I hadn't convinced any friends to join me on the STOMP Bike Ride (most of my "biker" friends had just competed in the behemoth of all bike rides, Pelotonia), so it was just me and the open road (or more accurately, path).

What I ended up discovering was that, even without truly knowing anyone, I was not alone in my ride! All of the STOMP particpants, as well as Towpath trail enthusiasts that were running or walking, were so friendly, saying "hello" and "good morning" as we passed. So many positive vibes were filling the air! It was like an underground culture of active lifestyle folks, all cheerily greeting one another through their sweaty grunts just to acknowledge their comrades and boost morale!

The first half of the ride up north was not so difficult, as it was down hill in many spots and I had yet to lose steam. I rode up to Peninsula, and for a portion of the route, I was actually in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park! I made it to the "Fun Stop" at Ira Road in approximately 48 minutes. Here, I grabbed some Gatorade, a Clif Mojo Bar (my favorite), an apple, a banana, and maybe another Clif Mojo bar for good measure. I talked with some other bikers that I had gotten to know along the way, and then saddled up and headed back south for the second half of the ride.

Riding back into Akron was very challenging, mainly due to the aforementioned hills that I had to face. My thighs were definitely burning, but I was in the midst of an extreme adrenaline high, fueled by the music blaring from my iPhone, and the fact I knew I was on a timer! Crossing the finish line (which was not really a finish line), my official time (which was not really official at all) was 1 hour and 49 minutes. Not too shabby for my first major biking event!

It was a huge accomplishment for me to ride 20 miles on my bike, and I was ready to celebrate. Live music  by the Ryan Humbert Band (a once featured OHventurer of the Week) took place at the Lock 3 stage, a healthy and hearty lunch was provided (consisting of corn on the cob, grilled chicken, watermelon, beans, and Subway subs), and FREE massages were provided (which I took full advantage of!). 

STOMP is truly a fantastic event. With approximately 1,000 participants this year whose proceeds go toward improving the Summit County Metro Parks, much good is being done in the area! The event promotes a healthy lifestyle and enjoying the great outdoors, which is a perfect combo in our book!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Warrior Dash Ohio II Recap

Warrior Brothers!

The Warrior Dash is the mud run that is taking the globe by storm! I took part in my first Warrior Dash last year in 2011 in Carrollton, Tuscawaras County. I struggled as I ran up and down extremely steep hills that were so muddy, they'd suck your tennis shoes right off of your feet. I trudged through mud, crawled under barbed wire, jumped over fire, and jumped in and out of trash dumpsters, among other obstacles. I felt like I would barf the moment I crossed the finish line (at approximately 47 miinutes). But, despite all of these seemingly horrible factors of the Warrior Dash, I loved every minute of it and have become hooked.

After my first experience (which took place on the birthday of my late brother Nick), I immediately decided that my brother Curt and I would absolutely have to participate in the next Warrior Dash that came our way! To make sure this happened, I bought my brother's registration as a Christmas gift for him. I am sure he wasn't too thrilled with having to wait an agonizing 8 months until he redeemed his Christmas present, but I knew it would be something he would love and would be such an amazing opportunity for us to bond as brothers. And I was right!

On August 25, 2012, my brother Curt and I, joined by his wife Regina, ran in the Warrior Dash Ohio II in North Lawrence, Stark County. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and despite not getting a great deal of shut eye the night before, I was amped up and energized to take on the muddy obstacle course. Despite this excitement, I was indeed a bit nervous as well. I was worried that that hills would beat me up just like they did last year, worried that my knee I had injured running a half marathon would act up, and worried that -- GASP -- my brother would beat me!

This year's event was clearly far more organized than the Warrior Dash in Carrollton one year prior. It was clear that the company (Red Frog Events) has been finding ways to improve the event and work out the bugs now that it is no longer in its infant stages (Warrior Dash is now in its third year, with 65 events around the world in 2012, totaling over 1 million participants). Everything about the race was smoother than last year: from parking, to signing in, to getting your beer!

Lining up at 11:30, Curt, Regina and I stretched out, threw some high fives, and went off and running! That is, until the very large group of runners began to bottleneck on the very narrow wooded trails. It was sort of annoying that we couldn't run ahead at full speed. You would think there would be a longer stretch of open trails at the start so that slower runners would taper off. But, we dealt with what we had. In addition to the narrow paths, they were also a bit rugged, with ditches, tree roots, and rocks standing in our way. Those little hiccups in the road were nothing, however, compared to the 13 obstacles that lay ahead:

List of Obstacles
1. Barricade Breakdown: Hurdle over barricades and under barbed wire
2. Rio Run: Dash down the river
3. Capsized Catamaran: Swim, climb, stumble, swim
4. Cliffhanger: Rappel down the steep ravine
5. Deadweight Drifter: Trudge through the waist-deep water and over the logs
6. The Trenches: Stay low and crawl quickly through the dirt and under logs
7. Chaotic Crossover: Climb over the tangled nets
8. Dead Man's Drop
9. Leader's Ledge: Climb on the ledge and avoid falling in the water below
10. Horizontal Hike: Voyage over the arching obstruction
11. Cargo Climb: Maneuver over the cargo nets
12. Warrior Roast: Leap over the warrior fires
13. Muddy Mayhem: Scramble under the barbed wire and through the mud as you near the finish line

The obstacles were most certainly challenging, but honestly paled in comparison to the difficulty of last year's Warrior Dash. Perhaps they were designed a bit lighter, but perhaps also I was in much better shape than I was a year ago. My brother and his wife were impressive in their run as well. Regina was better at the running, while my brother and I were better at the obstacles. We did not stick together the entire time, but ended up meeting up every once and awhile when we came to the obstacles (as you had to wait in line at some of the obstacles).

The Capsized Catamaran and the Deadweight Drifter, both obstacles that involved water, were some of the most challenging due to the depth of the water and how hard it was to pull yourself out of the water without any foot leverage. The Dead Man's Drop and Cargo Climb were a bit scary due to how high up they were (people who were scared of heights would not fare well). My favorite part of the race was the Leader's Ledge obstacle, because it involved a bit of rock climbing skills as well as teamwork with my brother and sister-in-law.

After jumping over the flames and making our way under the barbed wire, my brother and I crossed the finish line just ONE SECOND apart from each other (my final time was 43 minutes, 34 seconds). I loved being able to complete the race with my brother by my side (and loved being able to forever rub in his face that I beat him by ONE SECOND).

We celebrated our achievement, got hosed off, grabbed our free beers, chomped on a turkey leg, listened to the live music, and enjoyed being amongst hundreds and hundreds of other like-minded WARRIORS and OHventurers from across the state! Til next year!

Spend A Day in German Village


With its cobblestone roads, gawk-worthy homes, and beautiful landscaping, German Village is truly one of the most quaint neighborhoods in downtown Columbus. Here are the TOP 10 attractions for you to check out:

1. Schiller Park:
This perfect park, located smack dab in the middle of German Village, has a great pond with a bridge where it's common to see people feeding ducks, playing with motorized boats, or having a romantic walk (or just a nice chat with a friend). There's also unique landscaping and lots of statues peppered throughout the park, including a huge one of Mr. Schiller himself. In summer months, an amphitheatre comes alive with theater productions. It's free and kid-friendly!!

2. Schmidt's Sausage Haus Und Restaurant: When visiting German Village, you must eat at Schmidt's Sausage Haus where the food is authentically German, the waitstaff dons German garb, and the restaurant itself is on the national registry of historic places! Schmidt's is known for its Bahama Mama sausage, which I suggest you enjoy as part of the Autobahn Buffet. They are also known for their FAMOUS cream puffs. SAVE ROOM FOR THE CREAM PUFFS!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Top 10 "Top 5" OHventures Lists

Need an idea of what to do to to spice things up in Ohio? Need to scratch some items off of your Buckeye Bucket List? How about 50 ideas? Here are the Top 10 "Top 5" Lists by OHventures to give you a couple of fun activities to choose from, whether it be sipping on some Ohio wine, riding on world class roller coasters, or dodging paintballs with friends.

1. 5 Great Ohio Bike Trails: The Backroads & Beaches Bike Route in Lorain County, Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail from Cleveland to New Philadelphia, Olentangy Greenway Trail in Columbus, Little Miami Scenie Trail in Clark County and Warren County, and the Ohio to Erie Trail.

2. 5 Unique Ohio Workouts: Boxing, Pure Barre, Boot Camps, Rock Climbing, and Trampolining

3. Top 5 Wineries in Ohio: Heineman's Winery & Crystal Cave in Put-In-Bay, Camelot Cellars in Columbus, Thorncreek Winery in Aurora, Gervasi Vineyard & Italian Bistro in Canton, Lakehouse Inn & Winery in Geneva.

4. 5 Ohio Museums That Won't Bore You: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Center of Science & Industry in Columbus, National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and the Motorcycle Hall of Fame & Musuem in Pickerington.

5. 5 Reasons to "Go South" in Ohio: Chillicothe, Lebanon, the Great Serpent Mound in Adams County, Marietta Brewing Company, and Shawnee State Park in Scioto County.

6. 5 Extreme Ohio Thrills: Cedar Point in Sandusky, King's Island in Mason, Splatter Paintball Park in Mount Gilead, Skydiving in Xenia, and Ozone Zipline Adventures in Lebanon

7. 5 Great Ohio Breweries: Rustbelt Brewing in Youngstown, Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Columbus Brewing Company, Fat Head's Saloon in North Olmstead, and Elevator Brewery in Columbus.

8. 5 Doggy OHventures: Grater's Ice Cream, Wineries, Dog Parks, Hiking Trails, and Doggy 5Ks.

9. 5 Great Running Events in Ohio: Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Canton Marathon, Capital City Half Marathon, Warrior Dash Ohio, and Cleveland Urbanobstacle.

10. 5 Ways to Cool Off in Ohio: Boating, Parasailing, Canoeing, Kayaking, and Paddleboating.