It's no coincidence that Sept. 22 marks both the beginning of fall and the first day of the ninth annual Great Outdoor Weekend in Cincinnati. The best time to enjoy the outdoors is autumn — when there's crunching leaves beneath your feet and a cool gust of wind at your back.
An initiative of Green Umbrella, the Great Outdoor Weekend is this Saturday and Sunday. Hundreds of Cincinnati parks celebrate nature with more than 120 free events that are open to the public. Whether you are taking your dog out for a stroll around the neighborhood, planning a hiking trip to a local park you don't often frequent, or taking a camping trip, there's no better time than this weekend to take an outdoor adventure. It was in the car ride home from the Cincinnati Nature Center in Milford on a crisp morning that my mini autumn adventure hit me. My mom and I were discussing the 20+ miles of trails that the nature center offers, the deer and changing leaves we saw while hiking, and how good we felt after getting some exercise in the fresh air. Somewhere in between our excitement about what we just did, and dreaming about what we could do if we didn't have real life responsibilities, we decided we would explore a different park in Cincinnati each day for three days.
The first day at the Cincinnati Nature Center inspired our outdoor adventure and our next stop confirmed it. Devou Park is most famous for it's picture-perfect view of Cincinnati. On any given day, you might see a professional and his camera atop the hill taking a photo of the skyline, a couple picnicking or perhaps a duo that was just wed. The park is definitely known for it's view, but did you know it has several miles of hiking and mountain biking trails too? It wasn't hard for me to get lost underneath the canopy of trees and forget that I was less than five miles from downtown Cincinnati. On the third day, a wander in the woods even led me to brush up on some history. Unexpected, but true. We visited the Johnson Nature Preserve which was built just outside downtown Montgomery after the 1999 tornado. In an attempt to preserve an urban forest after the destruction, the nature preserve is now a short nature trail, a place of biology study, and also a tribute to the tornado. This hike was the shortest one, but after getting so involved with the stories about the history of the area and the plans for the future, we ended up hiking it twice because we didn't want to miss anything.
Does all of this outdoorsy talk have you searching for your old hiking boots yet? You're not the only one. Hundreds of people, rookies and seasoned outdoorsmen alike, are marking their calendars for the Great Outdoor Weekend. Before you set off into the wilderness, you could attend a seminar that will make you trail ready. Learn where to set camp, how to pack, and what to eat on your next trip by attending a Great Outdoors seminar and overnight with Roads Rivers and Trails. With great weather in the forecast, there's no reason not to dust off those boots, find a hiking stick, and go get wanderlust in some of Cincinnati's beautiful parks. For more information on the Great Outdoor Weekend, go here. The parks I explored are only a few of the many places to see in the area. So, go on, take a break from your normal routine and plan a day or two to get a little dirty in the woods this weekend.