Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Deer Of The Scioto

Photos by OHventures

Genoa Park
303 W. Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43215

Genoa Park is a beautiful park on the Western bank of the Scioto River, right behind COSI Columbus: The Center of Science & Industry in downtown Columbus, right off of Broad Street. At the center of the park, you'll find a set of large amphitheater steps, alternating with grass and concrete, which overlook the river, and provide for a great view of the iconic Columbus skyline (including the Riffe Center, Huntington Tower, and the Ohio Supreme Court Building). The park lies directly across the river from the Scioto Mile.

Plenty of people head to Genoa Park to have picnics, bike, run, and check out the fountains atop the amphitheater. But, now, as of late 2015, there is a new reason to come to Genoa Park: statues of giant bronze deer. Yes, you read that right. Giant bronze deer.

You can find two bronze sculptures of "humanized" deer at Genoa Park, one sitting upright on the stairs, and the other lounging nearby in the grass (a third deer can be found at the nearby Rich Street Bridge, leaning against the railing, looking out on the river). But why?! Well, apparently, the name of the Scioto River is derived from a Native American word that means "hairy water." Legend states that Shawnee tribe members found deer hair floating in the water when they migrated to the area. Hence, hairy water. Hence...deer statues?!

Artist Terry Allen came up with the concept and design, which is meant to represent how deer used to be prevalent in this area along the Scioto River, but now it is populated by humans, who often are running, biking, and lounging along the riverside. It is meant to be thought provoking and engaging to the public, to show a cross between when the deer once lived here and how humans currently do. Whatever it is, I think it's pretty cool - although a bit strange. 

Gold Jacket 5K Recap

Photos by OHventures

We're pretty luck to have the iconic Pro Football Hall of Fame right here in Ohio. After all, football is one of America's greatest sports of all time. So, it's pretty great that since 2014, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has teamed up to celebrate another one of America's greatest sports: running!

For the past two years, I have tackled (no pun intended) the Pro Football Hall of Fame Half Marathon (check out the recaps from 2014 and 2015), but this year, not having ample training time for 13.1 miles, I opted to run in one of the newest events: the Gold Jacket 5K, which takes place the day before the marathon and half marathon, right in Canton.   

Not only does the Gold Jacket 5K take place in Canton (the home of the Pro Football HOF), but the goal is to eventually also hold a Gold Jacket 5K event in each of the 32 cities that are homes to NFL teams! This includes Cleveland and Cincinnati in Ohio, for the Browns and Bengals, respectively. There are also events planned for Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and Chicago (see the event calendar here), and former races in Detroit and Buffalo.

Matt and I met Captain American himself at the finish line!

My friend Matt and I took on the Canton course on Saturday, April 23 (a rainy, gray, COLD morning). The course started and ended at Don Scott Field (located next to the Hall of Fame), making a loop from Helen Place to Harrison Avenue to 4th Street to Broad Avenue (see a fellow runner's Garmin map of the course here). It was a relatively flat course, which I was rather fond of!

I really enjoyed the final portion of the course, which allowed you to run around the Don Scott Field track to the finish line, where you got to high five Gold Jacket recipient, Marcus Allen, Pro Football HOF inductee who formerly played in the NFL as running back for the Los Angeles Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. It's awesome that at every Gold Jacket 5K, there is a famous football star that gives you a high five at the finish line - a huge perk and incentive to run faster!

And of course, it's all about the bling! The finisher's medal that everyone receives is a GIANT gold ring that is meant to resemble a Superbowl ring, or a Hall of Fame ring! This medal automatically trumps all my others in terms of appearance, and is way heavier than any I have seen or received before! If you too want to join the gold ring club, find an upcoming Gold Jacket 5K near you and start your training!

Berlin Lake Trail

Photos by OHventures

Berlin Lake Trail
Kirkbride Road
North Benton, OH 44449
(southern trail head)

The Berlin Lake Trail is a multi-purpose trail that crosses Berlin Lake, located in the Southwest corner of Portage County. Parking is available on north trail entrance on SR 224, approximately 1.5 miles east of Deerfield Circle. Parking for the south trail entrance is located on Kirkbride Rd. off of SR 14, approximately 2 miles southeast of Deerfield Circle.

The southern entrance off of Kirkbride Road is where me and my two hiking buds Matt & Greg started and ended our hike (see our previous hike at Quail Hollow State Park). We were seeking out a hike that would be full of great scenery - and one that wouldn't be too difficult to navigate. Nothing seemed to fit that description more perfectly than the Berlin Lake Trail.

This limestone trail is just 2.2 miles in length, and is a straight shot north-to-south across the lake (making it 4.4 miles both ways). Because of this, we were able to get some really great views of the lake, on a brisk Saturday in April. It was more of a rigorous walk than it was a hike, due to the completely flat and straight terrain. 

You could tell that this is a "rails to trails" project - former locations of railroad tracks that are transformed into a trail. We learned that it was built on what was the former Lake Erie, Alliance, and Wheeling Railroad, and that the trail was opened to the public in 2011. 

We spotted several other folks utilizing the trail while we were out that morning: people running, pushing strollers, relaxing on benches, and walking dogs (we brought my little pup Slider along, knowing it would be good terrain for him). Dogs are permitted, as long as they remain on leashes. We may have broken that rule here and there (just a little bit), but only when no one else was in sight. The only animals we encountered (other than dogs) were geese along the trail.

In addition to people on the trail itself, we witnessed many folks fishing and boating on Berlin Lake, especially around the bridge (see photo below). The waters were calm and crystal clear, perfect conditions for a day out on the lake to fish.

While certainly not a challenging trail, it was great to get outdoors now that the snow has finally melted and the leaves are beginning to sprout on the trees. If you are looking for a very relaxing trail fit for everyone in the family (baby to grandma), the Berlin Lake Trail is a great place to go.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Winans Chocolates + Coffees Review

 Photos by OHventures

Two things that most everyone can agree on is delicious chocolate and quality coffee.

Winans Chocolates + Coffees has got you covered - from all corners of the state - and even the entire country!

In addition to the headquarters in PiquaOhio locations of Winans Chocolates + Coffees include: Piqua, Downtown Troy, Troy Bookstore, Troy Upper Valley Hospital, Vandalia, Kettering, Dayton Mall, German Village (Columbus), Dublin, The Greene, Maineville. Another location can be found in Coralville, Iowa.

You can visit any of these locations for a large selection of chocolates, coffees, nuts, trail mix, caramels, and more!  

Or, if you can't make it down to southwest or central Ohio, then the good news is Winans has a large online catalog full of fantastic products that can be sent to your doorstep, or delivered to a loved one as a great gift.

I had the pleasure of receiving some Winans products to review, and it wasn't long until all of my chocolate and treats were gobbled up, and all of my coffee was gulped up! 

The items I had were sent to me specially by Winans, in a special gift box called "The Health Nut" (pictured above). The box consisted of a half pound of Winans blend coffee beans, 1 each of the Winans Mesocacao bars, 1 dark chocolate "healthy" bar, and a bag of deluxe mixed nuts.

Let's start with the coffee. You have the choice of ordering whole or ground coffee beans (always go with whole beans if you have a coffee grinder at home), different size bags (whole or half pound), and different blends (espresso, MoJoe blend, Mokka Java, Seattle Blend, or Winans Blend). There is also the option of getting decaf, but where's the fun in that?!

For those adventurous type, there's a TON of flavored coffees to try: blueberry crumb cake, chocolate, caramel cream, strawberry shortcake, snikkerdoodle, and more!

I chose the Winans Blend, because it was my first taste of any Winans coffee, and I feel that I just had to start with the signature blend that they put their name on! When my package arrived in the mail, I tore open the box, ground the beans, and had a cup of coffee - at nighttime! I just couldn't wait for the morning to taste it, it smelled and looked so good (if you are a coffee fanatic like I am, you definitely have fallen victim to "night coffee" before)!

The Winans Blend coffee is a blend of Columbia, Costa Rica, Kenya, and Sumatra beans. It's dark, aromatic, and strong - a perfect coffee for a black coffee drinker like myself. While I can't speak directly about any of the other varieties,I can tell you that if the taste and quality is anything like Winans Blend, then you won't be disappointed (I will be ordering some soon to see for myself)!

Next is the chocolate. My box came with a selection of Mesocacao bars: extremely dark, gourmet bars that actually have great health benefits! You can read more about these health benefits and the origins of the Mesocacao bars on the Winans Blog! The bars I tried were: 
  • 70% Honduran (the percentage denotes just how much chocolate is in the bar, and the country denotes where the cacao bean came from)
  • 70% Honduran with organic Honduran coffee beans (this pairs great with the coffee and has a nice crunch to it)
  • 80% Matagalpa, Nicaragua w/ Nicaraguan nibs (the tiny bits found inside the cacao beans - pictured above) 
  • 44% milk chocolate with almonds (milk chocolate is not as healthy as dark chocolate, but the almonds are a superfood - pictured above).
I also got the dark chocolate healthy bar (pictured above), which was my absolute favorite! It was rich chocolate jam packed with healthy additions: almonds, tart cherries, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds! It had such a great balance of tart and sweet, and soft and crunchy! I definitely recommend. 

Trust me when I say, this selection of chocolates is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Winan''s vast offerings! So, browse the site, pop in one of the stores, or perhaps take a chocolate factory tour! If you're really ambitious, you can join me for the Winans To Winans Half Marathon on September 11, 2016!

And while you're at it, get social with Winans by following them on Twitter, adding them on Instagram, and liking them on Facebook!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Happy 5th Birthday To OHventures


OHventures officially turned 5 YEARS OLD on April 12, 2016! It's hard to believe that we've been around that long! This just proves that time really does fly when you're having fun.

It's been a blast sharing the unique, exhilarating and thrilling things that make Ohio a cool place to live or visit. Whether you are seeking extreme adventures, physical challenges, interesting excursions, or a good excuse to get off your couch and explore the Buckeye state, this blog is for you.

To celebrate this milestone, we sifted through the over 500 posts on the blog to revisit some of our favorite and most popular adventures! 

And now, some OHventures superlatives, as chosen by yours truly!


Most Scenic OHventure: Explore Geneva-On-The-Lake
Honorable Mention: Kayak The Bay at PIB

Coolest OHventure: Stand Up Guys Paddle Boarding
Honorable Mention: Kalahari Indoor Water Park 

Coldest OHventure: Cryotherapy Plus
Honorable Mention: Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump

Dirtiest OHventure: Tough Mudder Ohio
Honorable Mention: Spartan Race Ohio

Craziest OHventure: Skydive Your Fears Away
Honorable Mention: Cupid's Undie Run

Scariest OHventure: Haunted Prison Experience

Honorable Mention: Canton Food Tours

Wildest OHventure: The Wilds Open Air Safari

Booziest OHventure: Columbus Pedal Wagon
Honorable Mention: Rhinegeist Brewery

Most Unique OHventure: Float Tank at Bodhi Tree Guesthouse
Honorable Mention: Mohican Tree House Cabins

Most Challenging OHventure: Cap City Half Marathon
Honorable Mention: VeloSano 100-Mile Bike Ride

Here is to many more years of giving the world items for their very own Buckeye Bucket List!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Celebrate National Grilled Cheese Day In Ohio!

Photos by OHventures (Pictured above is the Pep+Chee from Tom+Chee)

When I think back to my days of childhood, I am often reminded of some of my favorite meals my mom would cook for me and my brothers. Sometimes, it's the simple things that ended up being the best! My mom made a mean grilled cheese sandwich for us growing boys. Sure, it was just two pieces of Wonderbread, a slice of Kraft Singles American cheese, and a side some Campbell's tomato soup, but she had a way of making it taste like a culinary masterpiece.
Grilled cheese is such a staple in the American culture that April 12 is officially recognized as National Grilled Cheese Day!

There are a few Ohio restaurants that serve up some awesome eats that are NOT your mother's grilled cheese! These simple sandwiches have now become an artform with dozens and dozens of creative, wacky and delicious fixings. Here are a few Ohio dining spots you can try out on National Grilled Cheese Day, or any day of the year!

Mighty Macaroni from Melt Bar & Grilled 
Parmageddon from Melt Bar & Grilled

1. Melt Bar & Grilled (locations include Lakeood, Cleveland Heights, Independence, Mentor, Short North, and Columbus-Easton): Melt Bar & Grilled is a dining experience like none other. This famous food joint began in Cleveland in 2006, and has exploded in the last decade. The wait to be seated at Melt is usually out the door, but is 100% worth it! Deciding which of the masterpiece grilled cheese sandwiches you will choose for your dining experience at Melt is a daunting task, since there are so many mouthwatering choices on Melt's mounting menu. One of my favorites is the "Parma, Italy" which consists of breaded chicken, provolone, garlic, and roasted red pepper pesto. But that's one of the tamer choices! For instance, "The Godfather" has three-cheese lasagna, provolone and red sauce, and the "Big Popper" (which is loaded with jalapeno poppers!). Not your typical grilled cheese sandwiches! Pictured are two choices from a recent trip: the "Mighty Macaroni" (creamy homemade macaroni and cheese battred and deep fried, layered with cheddar cheese sauce on the sandwich), and the "Parmageddon" (potato & onion pierogi, fresh napa vodka kraut, and sharp cheddar). Take my advice and order the "half" portion!

The Number Six from Lockview

2. The Lockview (Akron): This awesome Akron hotspot is a popular stop for both the downtown lunch crowd, and the late night bar crowd alike. This is due to their enormous selection of beers on tap, and - you guessed it - their menu specializing in grilled cheese sandwiches! The entire right hand side of their menu lists off your choices, all with simple names like "The Number Five" (goat cheese, portabello mushrooms, caramelized onions, and swiss cheese), and my favorite, pictured above, "The Number Six" (cheddar cheese, sliced apples, and applewood smoked bacon - don't knock it 'til you try it). The best part? All the sandwiches are served with a mini umbrella and a side of goldfish crackers!

Grilled Cheese Donut at Tom+Chee

3. Tom+Chee (locations in Ohio include Cincinnati, Green, Harrison Greene, and West Chester): This bright and funky restaurant chain got its start in the heart of Cincinnati's Fountain Square, where the founders sold sammies out of a tiny food tent. Now, there are dozens of locations across the nation, with a few scattered across Ohio. There are some bizarre yet delicious eats at Tom+Chee, including the surprisingly tasty Grilled Cheese Donut (pictured above), which has been featured on many national television shows. There are several variants of the Grilled Cheese Donut, but the classic consists of a glazed donut sliced in half, which is used in place of bread, oozing with cheddar cheese. Other varieties include the S'more, Blueberry Blue, and The King (banana, peanut butter, and mascarpone/mozzrella). If that doesn't strike your fancy, try their Crunchy Grilled Cheese, which adds different chips to each grilled cheese sandwich (BBQ, salt and vinegar, etc). You can give one of their Fancy Grilled Cheese sandwiches a try (the Pep+Chee is pictured above), or build your own!

Some other great Ohio restaurants not dedicated to grilled cheese, but that have a grilled cheese on their menu worth noting are:

Grilled Cheese at Town Hall in Cleveland

1. Town Hall (Cleveland): This Ohio City restaurant has "Grilled Cheese Bars" with roasted roma tomatoes, cheddar, and gruyere on sourdough wheat bread. You can add avocado or prosciutto to make it extra fancy (pictured above).

2. Coco's Bistro (Dayton): Try Coco's grilled cheese with panko breaded sourdough bread, a four cheese blend, and a side of creamy tomato bisque!

3. Bodega (Columbus): Me and my buds would go here for $1 grilled cheese every Monday! Can. Not. Beat. It!