I was hoping a quick, 1-mile walk along the trails would help me choose my favorite feature of Hogback Ridge Park. But that proved to be difficult, because there is a lot packed into this 41-acre park, located in north-central Delaware County near the village of Kilbourne.
Certainly, the park's geology stands out, with its series of ravines– cut by small tributaries to Alum Creek – and the ridges that rise up in between. The ravine-ridge-ravine pattern repeats a few times in the park, making for pretty views from the walking trails, such as the little rivulets carrying rainwater down to the creek, or the banks of spring wildflowers covering the slopes.
In general, the dual half-mile-loop trails are flat and easy to walk, but two staircases and a wooden walkway brought me deep into a ravine and over a creek, raising my heart rate and getting me close to the water. I always love finding these little pockets of interesting topography in flat Delaware County; we may not have many hills, but we do have ravines.
I also love finding big trees, and Hogback Ridge has its share of the fine, big, old white oaks that are sprinkled along the Alum Creek corridor. Some in the park have trunks 4 feet in diameter; they help me imagine what the ancient Ohio forest must have looked like before European settlers arrived and cleared everything they could for farming.
We're lucky that some terrain was just too hard to clear, and thus we have these remnants of old-growth forest still with us.
The first time I walked the park trails, I was surprised by the heady aroma of pine -- the result of dozens of white pine trees interspersed among the hardwoods. Not native to Ohio, these white pines, or their ancestors, likely were planted by a previous landowner. The aroma is wonderful, and the pines remind me of summers spent in the northern Wisconsin forests.
The variety of wildlife at Hogback surprises me, too. For several years, we would see a pair of albino squirrels roaming the park, and lately we've had a solid black (melanistic) raccoon hanging around the bird feeders, scrounging for seed on the ground. I regularly hear the drumming of a pileated woodpecker – a crow-sized bird with a striking red crest. I see large snapping turtles through the windows of the wildlife blind near the pond, and often I hear the call of a resident barred owl – even during the day.
Hogback Ridge is on the route for many migrating birds that travel through or into Ohio in the spring, and last month, rose-breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings and other brightly colored summer residents hung out briefly at the feeders.
We're happy to share that view: Park visitors are invited to come inside during nature center hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and watch birds through the windows. We even supply the binoculars.
Sue Hagan is marketing and communications manager for Preservation Parks of Delaware County.