Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Inniswood Metro Gardens

Photos by OHventures

Inniswood Metro Gardens
940 S. Hempstead Road
Westerville, OH 43081

Flowers, waterfalls and statues are amongst the beautiful scenery that make Inniswood Metro Gardens stand out from the rest of the Central Ohio Metroparks. Located in Westerville, in northern Franklin County, Inniswood has always jumped from the pages in all of the photos I have ever seen, and I knew I had to make a trip to see for myself the lavish landscaping up close and personal.

Inniswood is one of those places that is so gorgeous that it is difficult to find words to accurately encapsulate its beauty (which is why I have dedicated a photo blog solely to this park). The hiking paths found at Inniswood are mostly man-made boardwalks, which makes exploring the area easy for all types of hikers of all ages and abilities. Despite rigorous or challenging hiking trails (the six trails total 2.25 miles in length), there is much to be seen and should not be passed by if you are a fan of nature.

Some of the must-see highlights of the Central Ohio park include: the cascading waters at the stunning rock garden, the handsome trellises and brick walkways that make up the rose garden, and the kids' treehouse fort that can be found in what is known as the Sister's Garden. Curiously, a bee garden (pictured above) is a feature of the park, so beware if you are allergic that you steer clear!

Although I went on a scorching hot summer day, I was able to cool off while hiking along the Brookwood Trail and Spring Run Trail, both nestled deep in the woods and sheltered by adequate shade. Being near the streams and fountains also helped me to cool down! As on any hike, however, bringing with me hiking essentials such as a water bottle and map was crucial.

Access to the park is free of charge. Pets are allowed only outside of the formal garden area. Food is also not allowed, so, sadly, picnics are out of the question. Even though it is the smallest of all of the Central Ohio Metro Parks, Inniswoods has a lot of great things to see and is a worthwhile trip.

Perennial Vineyards

Photos by OHventures

Perennial Vineyards
11877 Poorman Street SW
Navarre, OH 44662
(330) 832-3677

Celebrating its 10th year in business, Perennial Vineyards is the oldest winery in Stark County. Laid back and rustic, the winery can be found in the heart of rural Ohio not far from where you'd likely spot an Amish buggy or a herd of cattle. Built within a renovated dairy barn with a straw bale stucco grotto, Perennial Vineyards is a refreshing experience that has become a favorite summer spot to sip on a nice selection of award winning wines.

An on-site grape vineyard surrounds the winery and tasting room, making one feel as if they are in the rolling hills of Napa Valley, California. Being able to see the very grapes that are the foundation of the fantastic wine offerings is a nice touch to the Perennial Vineyards experience.

Me with my friend Aaron on the patio at Perennial Vineyards

Each time I go to Perennial Vineyards (which totals three times at the time I posting this blog entry), I find myself purchasing an amazing red variety, aptly titled Amazing Red. I recommend this wine for anyone who enjoys a crisp and dry red wine. The sangria found here is also very good, as it has quite a kick to it! Aside from alcohol, a selection of oven fired pizzas as well as meat and cheese platters are available at Perennial Vineyards.

In the warm summer months, one can often find live music on the massive patio in the front of the establishment (entertainment is also sometimes offered inside during inclement weather). The stage is large enough for a two or three piece band, and adds a great feel to the evening.

In addition, the patio also welcomes well-behaved dogs to be accompanied by their owners. I have brought my dog along, which has been great fun, as he can also run in the adjacent field when needed. Perennial Vineyards has two wines (a red and a white) called "American Wine Dog" which was created so that a portion of the proceeds can go to Stark County animal shelters.

A short drive South of Canton, this winery is the perfect way to relax after a long week and taste an amazing red or two!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bike Columbus Festival

Still in the rest and recovery stages of my knee injury from running the Capital City Half Marathon just two months ago, I have been taking up biking to get my cardio fix! As I have posted before on the site, biking is therapeutic, and there are a number of biking trails that are perfect for a leisurely ride or to satisfy a fitness routine. However, there are also a growing number of biking events popping up across Ohio. Not ready yet for the massive challenge that is Pelotonia, I instead sought smaller biking events to get my feet wet for this new type of experience.

Lo and behold, a coworker informed me about the Bike Columbus Festival, which took place July 13-14, 2012. A number of biking events put on by Consider Biking and Columbus Outdoor Pursuits collectively make up the Bike Columbus Festival. I chose to ride in the Mayor's Twilight Ride (which has nothing to do with the vampire movies but everything to do with the fact it took place in the evening), a 10 mile ride through various neighborhoods in the capital city led by Mayor Michael Coleman on his bike. A 20-mile option also existed, but given that I was a bit rusty in my biking eperiences, I opted to ride the shorter, 10-mile ride with my friend Alex.

Photos by OHventures

The ride began at 7PM at Genoa Park, which is located by the Center Of Science & Industry (COSI) on the Scioto River. It was a gorgeous Friday evening with blue skies, a slight breeze, and a warm sunset. The Columbus skyline served as a beautiful backdrop to the kick off of the event. Because my old, ratty bike finally went caput just days before this event, my great pal Peter was kind enough to let me borrow his mountain bike for the occasion. Playing it safe and strapping on a helmet, I rode to Genoa Park from my home in Grandview, which in and of itself was 5 miles.

After a short speech given by Mayor Coleman, hundreds of enthusiastic bikers like myself and Alex were off pedaling! It was so cool to be led by Mayor Coleman and to know that he is so supportive of making Columbus a bike friendly city and a priority in his term as mayor. We rode east on Broad Street past the Statehouse and into Old Towne East. Police cars escorted our group so that we would not have to stop at all of the major intersections. This was a very nice touch to the event, but also not how a regular bike ride would play out.

We made a couple of turns off of Broad Street and soon found ourselves in an area of town I had never been before. Some of the homes and areas looked questionable, and not in the best of conditions. Nonetheless, we were greeted by cheering residents all along the streets. Soon, we made another couple of turns and were riding alongside the gorgeous mansions and residences of the affluent neighborhood of Bexley. We even rode by the Governor's Residence.

More turns took us to German Village, and again through other areas of town I had never known existed. My legs and bottom were starting to get sore (namely because the bike I was riding was not mine and not adjusted to my liking) so it was a good thing that the ride was coming to a close (and a good thing I did not choose the 20-mile option). The event ended at the Columbus Commons, where the Food Truck and Cart Festival was taking place. Conveniently, the festival had a bike corral by Yay Bikes which I gladly utilized.

My first biking event was a very pleasant experience. It was great exercise, allowed me to enjoy the great outdoors with friends, and educated me on biking. I also have now been bitten by the biking bug, and will be signing up for more rides in the future! If you know of any, let me know and we can become pedaling pals!

Go South!

I received an email not long ago from a reader that wanted to show their disappointment in the lack of articles featured on OHventures that focused on Southern Ohio. I was given the tip to "Go South!" and explore all of the great things that are in the portion of our state below Columbus by the River. It is true that I have not been able to travel south as much as I have been able to travel in the central and northern parts of the state, but that is not at all because I have preference! I live and work in Columbus and have family in Northeast Ohio, so I often travel to these areas and have a great deal of experiences to share from those parts of the state.

There is much beauty to be seen and a lot of great landmarks, parks, attractions and restaurants in these areas of Ohio and I hope to soon be able to travel there and highlight more of this region on the blog. There's not enough time in the day to go everywhere all at once, but trust me, I will leave no stone unturned, and I accept the challenge to "Go South!" and appreciate the feedback from my reader!

I have compiled a list of 5 Reasons to "Go South!" In Ohio!

1. Chillicothe: This charming Ross County city is an hour directly south on US Route 23 (if you reach Jacksonville, Florida, you've gone too far). US Route 50 runs East to West along the south end of the city. It lies within the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the Scioto River runs North to South through Chillicothe. It was Ohio's first AND third state capital (1803-1810 and 1812-1816), and there's much to be done when visiting. Check out the OHventures Chillicothe Travel Guide to read about Hirch's Fruit Farm, Yoctangee Park, Adena Mansion & Gardens, and more!

2. Lebanon: Driving south on I-71, you'll know you are in Lebanon when you hit the tallest bridge in all of the state, the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge, which spans over the Little Miami River in Warren County. Taking the exit off of I-71, you can to rent from Little Miami Canoe and make your way down the river yourself to see this gargantuan bridge and other fun sights. Or, you can go ziplining at Ozone Zipline Adventures, where you can now zip across the river to the historic Native American grounds, Fort Ancient Arcahaelogical Park. After all this, you can grab a bite to eat at the famed Golden Lamb, the oldest and longest running inn and restaurant in the state, where many prominent and influential American figures have dined.

3. The Great Serpent Mound: As I had mentioned in a post about the statewide painting project "The Land We Call Ohio," the Great Serpent Mound is located in Adams County and is a 1,348 foot long, 3 foot high mound that is the longest "serpent effigy" in the United States. It has been dubbed a national historic landmark and is maintained by the National Historical Society. This impressive landmass was created in prehistoric times by Native Americans and has enormous significance on a cultural and astronomical level. The Mound is on the Bucket List, but will require a substantial amount of travel time. For something of such significance, it will surely be worthwhile.

4. Shawnee State Park: The reader who messaged me about going south was adamant that I plan a trip to Shawnee State Park, located near Portsmouth in Scioto County. Surrounded by Shawnee State Forest, the park gets its name from the Native American tribe from the region and is now complete with a golf course, hiking trails, swimming areas, and a marina! It is also home to Camp Oyo (literally meaning Ohio), where the Boy Scouts of America go for a high adventure camp. As this is the inspiration for this post, I will be sure to travel there soon, and encourage others to visit here to experience the splendor and beauty.

5. Marietta Brewing Company: When traveling to Marietta in Washington Countyfor work, I asked locals where the best place would be to grab some lunch. I was given a hearty response of "The Marietta Brewing Company." Located at 167 Front Street, I made my way through the old quaint roadways of this river town to the brewpub, which was easy to spot with the copper plated brew kettles lining the storefront. I had a great burger, fries and salad, and drooled over the beer selections (some with fun southern-Ohio themed names like Mount Builder's Brown Ale, Front Street Pale Ale, and Marietta Barleywine). The brewery can be found right on the river and in between Ohio Riverfront Park and East Muskingum Park, two spots to enjoy before or after your dining and drinking experience.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ASCENT Magazine

Photo by OHventures

I am honored to have been featured in both the print and online editions of the Ohio State University College of Arts & Sciences Newsletter: ASCENT, for Spring 2012. This is my first glossy magazine article I have appeared in and it is a huge honor (especially to be in the same magazine as RL Stine)! Photos appear in the print edition from my OHventures ziplining in Lebanon and meeting an elephant in Cincinnati. You can read the online edition by visiting the ASCENT website, or reading below!

From the intense outdoor adventure seekers to the self-proclaimed breakfast foodies, Arts and Sciences alumni Nicholas Dekker and Michael Evans are using social media to celebrate and explore the unexpected pleasures of Ohio with their blogs: Breakfast with Nick, and OHventures.

For Nicholas Dekker, breakfast isn’t just the the most important meal of the day, it’s also the most delicious. With hundreds of local restaurants and diners each serving up their own unique breakfast style, Dekker has discovered that Columbus is the perfect place for the breakfast connoisseur. “Breakfast can be solidly traditional or endlessly innovative. It features a wide range of foods: sweet and savory, light and heavy, fruits and meats, dairy and starches, vegetables and proteins.”

Inspired by his passion for breakfast food and love of Columbus, Dekker, a lecturer in the Department of Theatre, began Breakfast with Nick after completing graduate school at Ohio State in June 2007. “Most people are unaware that Columbus has a fascinating breakfast and brunch scene. This city has so much to offer and I want people to go out and experience these unique local places for themselves.”

The thriving success of Dekker’s blog ultimately led to his book, Breakfast with Nick: Columbus, which serves as a guide to the coffee shops, donut shops, and restaurants serving up tasty breakfast fare in Columbus. Dekker’s food blog and book have garnered him local attention from the Columbus Dispatch, Writers Talk, Columbus Alive, Columbus Crave, Good Day Columbus, WCBE Foodcast, and The Lantern. Recently, he was featured as one of Columbus Business First’s “Forty Under 40” honorees.

Fellow alumnus and adventure seeker, Michael Evans, is the voice behind the increasingly popular outdoors blog, OHventures. Evans created the blog to showcase the lesser-known outdoor activities that can be enjoyed throughout the Buckeye State. He uses video and images to capture his adventures to the less explored areas of Ohio. Evans said, “I love the outdoors and I wanted to inspire others to explore Ohio. You don’t have to go to California or Colorado to go hiking or parasailing; you can actually do that right here.”

Evans has been to cities like Akron, Canton, Toledo, Chillicothe, Youngstown, Columbus, Zanesville, and countless others. He’s written about Ohio landmarks like the Statehouse, the Harding Memorial, and the Mansfield Reformatory; as well as staple events such as Warrior Dash, Pelotonia, and the Ohio State Fair.

He said, “My blog isn’t always about me. I have a series, Featured OHventurer, that introduces readers to awesome Ohioans like Columbus Blue Jackets player Derek Dorsett, Zanesville anchorwoman Kelly Mills, and Ohio State Marching Band drummer-turned-actor Drew Thompson.”

For the past two years, OHventures has seen a significant increase in readership and followers. Evans partners with the Ohio Division of Tourisms blog, Discovering Ohio, as a guest blogger. He’s currently blogging about his training for the Capital City Half-Marathon in Columbus, Ohio, where he’ll be featured as a celebrity runner.

Evans has been interviewed by Columbus Alive and Writers Talk. Currently, he plans to transform his blog into a book, like fellow blogger, Dekker.

Charles Mill Lake Park

Photos by OHventures

Charles Mill Lake Park
1277 State Route 430
Mansfield, OH 44903

On my many road trips up north on Interstate 71, I often take Exit 176 to U.S. Route 30 East to head to places such as Akron, Canton, or Youngstown. Right when I get on Route 30, I am often met with spectacular views of a beautiful body of water to the south. Curious to catch more than just a drive-by glimpse of the sparkling waters, I recently decided to investigate.

Taking a right onto Route 603 led me right to what I came to discover as being Charles Mill Lake Park, located in Mifflin Township, Ashland County. The lake itself (aptly titled Charles Mill Lake) stretches into Richland County and the City of Mansfield as well. However, the popular park is in Richland County.

Charles Mill Lake Park is part of the larger Muskingum River Watershed Conservancy District, which covers more than 8,000 square miles and drains into the Muskingum River. This is the largest contained watershed in the state of Ohio, covering about 20 percent of the state (also included in the MWCD is Atwood Lake, which we previously featured on the site). Tradition holds that Johnny Appleseed (said to be an Ohio native) made his way through the area, and in 2004, the Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center opened nearby.

I visited CMLP near sundown, which provided a gorgeous sunset on the lake. I packed a picnic and met friends to sit down and enjoy the park. We ate along the lake, a peaceful 1,350-acre reservoir with 2,000 acres of land. Afterwards, we hiked on designated trails through the woods. There were a great deal of gnats and insects flying about, which was annoying, since we did not think to bring bug spray. However, the hiking trails were not on difficult terrain and were easily navigable.

After our hike through the woods and along the reservoir, we took a look at the countless boats docked in the marina. Fishing and boating are popular activities at Charles Mill Lake, and the marina rents and sells various watercraft, providing licensing services if needed. It also provides fuel and supplies year-round as well as a launching dock.

Located near the marina is a sandy beach, which is accessible to the public with a fee of $5 per vehicle. The swimming beach also includes a volleyball court, playground, and sheltered picnic area.

Calm and relaxing, the scenic Charles Mill Lake Park is a perfect afternoon getaway for hiking and picnicking. Camping (in cabins or otherwise) is also popular throughout the park for those interested in an extended visit.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

OHventures Photo Shoot

Recently I scheduled a mini photo shoot with my friend Erica so I can make this little blog seem a bit more professional! We took the photos at a quarry on the cliffs, by the canoes, and by the water itself. My new dog Slider joined in on some of the pics as well. I thought I would share these pics with my readers as a nonsequitor post, as a break from all of the lengthy entries. Also, I think Erica did great work. Hopefully you will see these headshots in some publications down the line! Now whenever someone requests pictures for their site or print media, I will have some high resolution pictures for once!

Winemaking Part I

Photos by OHventures

Camelot Cellars Urban Boutique Winery
958 High Street
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 441-8860

House Bill 491 just passed in the Ohio House of Representatives that designates the month of June as Ohio Wines Month. Representatives Casey Kozlowski and Ron Young of Ashtabula and Lake Counties, respectively, recognized the need to acknowledge the flourishing wine industry in our state, which has a significant impact on our economy, from the farmers who grow the grapes, to the truck drivers who transport the product, and the retail workers who sell the wine in stores. With that in mind, it’s only fitting that I decided to take my love of wine to a whole new level this past month.

Now, thanks to Camelot Cellars Urban Boutique Winery in the Short North in Columbus, you can participate in this growing trend in our state by handcrafting your very own wine! For those wine aficionados who are ultra-ambitious (and have an extra $200-$400 on hand), you can make personalized wine with the right tools and ingredients in the presence of skilled professionals. Camelot Cellars offers patrons this extra special opportunity in their on-site wine lab, tucked in the back of their retail store and bar. It is the one and only location in the state of Ohio that offers such a service (although I hope and suspect that many more will follow suit)!

For me, making wine was a way of following in my father’s footsteps. He has made wine for years at home from grapes picked right off of my grandfather’s vines. He often hands out his homemade goods on special occasions, such as birthdays and Christmas. This sparked in me the curiosity to try it for myself. Thanks to Drink Up Columbus (a kickass local blog on everything you need to know about imbibing in the capital city), I received a coupon for $50 off a winemaking experience at Camelot Cellars. This prompted me even further to get things started.

I scheduled my winemaking appointment with good friend and owner of the fantastic Camelot Cellars, Janine Aquino. She was very helpful in setting up my session and answering all questions I had. It is important to note that making your own wine will take a great deal of knowledge, skill, work, time and patience. You will not be able to walk out with your completed wine right away, as it is a lengthy process that takes months! Knowing this, I decided that my batch of wine would be ready just in time for Christmas, so it would make a perfect holiday gift, much like my father had done.

My appointment was on a Thursday evening in June and took approximately two hours. The two hours flew by, and included drinking specially selected wines, so I was okay with that! The first part of the process is sitting down one-on-one with the owner, Janine, who will help you choose six wines to taste in order to determine what kind of wine you’d like to make. Janine said this is one of her favorite parts of her jobs, as she gets to match a person’s palate to their preferred wine type. For me, that meant red wines with smoky, oaky, spicy, dry flavors. With this in mind and with Janine’s help, I narrowed my six wines down to that one perfect wine: South Australian Single Vineyard Shiraz. It is very different, which is a taste I was going for!

The next part of the process was heading to the wine lab itself to prepare the wine with a staff member. Brian was the staff member who assisted me. He instructed me step-by-step as to what I had to do to get my wine ready to go. I poured the grape juice, added bentonite (which reduces cloudiness in my wine), grape skins, oak chips, oak powder, and finally, yeast (which I added at the end in the formation of an “O” for OHventures). This was quite a process, as I had to submerge all of the oak chips and powder in a delicate motion. Having more people with you in the winemaking experience would speed up the process.

Now, all I do is wait patiently and return to Camelot Cellars in 12 weeks to check on my wine. In the meantime, I have to come up with a name and a label for my wine, so all suggestions are welcome! I will update you all on my winemaking experience this fall!