Monday, December 29, 2008

MyWorld- Exploring a New World

This is my contribution to this week's "My World" Meme. I invite you to participate and show your world as well. Go here to do so.

There's nothing like a 68 degree, late December day to motivate anybody to get out and start exploring. This past Saturday, Megan and I did just that, taking a hike along the Olentangy River near our new home in Worthington.

I say our "new" home, but it depends on what your definition of "new" is. We have lived here just shy of six months, and I still feel like I'm getting to know the ins and outs of our new house and have only scratched the surface when it comes to exploring our neighborhood. We have moved almost exactly two miles north from our last home, a rental in the Delawanda neighborhood of the Beechwold/Clintoville area. Before, I could be at the Olentangy river, literally, seconds. Our house was only two removed from the urban forest that covered the floodplain of the Olentangy. In our new neighborhood, there are homes close to the river as well, but our house is not one of them. We live about eight tenths of a mile east of the Olentangy, in the ever so 1960's-esque Worthington Estates.

Back to Saturday. Why not explore the same Olentangy river near our new home? It was only a matter of time before I brought the cameras to capture what we would see along the river. Feeling like spring, we parked the car, stepped into the park, past the playground, and onto the Olentangy Bikeway, one of the busiest bike paths in Ohio.

We walked north, and shortly we crossed under Wilson Bridge Road, continuing north where a footbridge leads the trail northwest across the river. I must say that the river here is a disappointment. Compared to the runs, riffles, pools further south, actually further into the City of Columbus, the river in Worthington has been channelized. Instead of the root wads of trees lining the bank, limestone rip rap is present, and the stream is one long corridor, even in times of lower water.

The river crosses under a major thoroughfare just north of this footbridge. If you've driven through Columbus, chances are you crossed the Olentangy River here on Interstate 270, the beltway that rings our city. One of our major commuter freeways in town, State Route 315, was built alongside the stream in this area and the river was probably channelized at the same time the new freeway was created. You may recognize this sign, especially if you are a buckeyes fan.

Looking north, towards the bridge that carries Interstate 270 across the Olentangy River.

The trick in these urban environments is to really look and explore- although rare and sensitive species may not be present in such disturbed areas, there are plenty of interesting things to be seen and discovered.

As we walked north of the bridge pictured above, the path takes on a more natural feeling. There are less invasive species in the floodplain forest, the trees are more mature. We walked further, and Megan stopped us suddenly.

A Virginia oppossum- I haven't seen one of these since we moved from Girard Road. This one was young- who knows why it had perished alongside the path. I would hate to think that it was hit by a bike, but I suppose that is always a possibility. Even in winter, the trail is used often.

Megan and I continued to walk, noting the occasional downy woodpecker, Canada goose, and mallard. And finally, we reached the end of the trail, which is adorned with one of our areas most interesting geologic features- concretions.

They may look small, but these boulders are huge. Megan gracefully and graciously volunteered herself to be the size reference for the concretions.

These are actually limestone concretions, founded bedded in the Ohio Shale, our bedrock of the area. The jury is out on exactly how they are formed, but sometimes there are fossilized fish bones in the center of them. The Ohio Geological Survey has put together a nice fact sheet that I'll have to more in depth. The ones here must have been dug up during building construction, I presume, and place in the grassy park area at the trail head for decoration.

There were still other interesting things to be seen on the floodplain that I noticed on the way back. First up was a nice (or not so nice) population of the invasive plant wintercreeper, or Euonymus fortunei. You may recognize this one from your home landscape, but in nature, it can escape and be a nasty weed. Here it has climbed up a sycamore tree.

A closeup of the leaves. Do they look familiar to you?

A little on down the trail, I saw another clump that was fruiting. I'm not sure if I have seen winter creeper fruiting before.

The wintercreeper wasn't the only thing fruiting. Columbus seems to be a hotbed for Osage Orange trees, a non-native species that was extensively planted for hedge rows and other agricultural purposes. I always find these fruits extremely interesting- for those of you that haven't seen them, they are about the size of a large grapefruit. I was reading on Wikipedia that some scientists have theorized that the fruits may have been eaten and dispersed by now extinct mammals. Amazing! The tree is native to the the south-central U.S.

This year seemed to be a mast year for box-elder trees. A maple, the samaras of these trees went crazy this year.

One last tree that seemed to be quite common along the drier reaches of the flood plain was honey locust, a tree that is adorned with three-pronged thorns often several inches long.

It was so great to get out with Megan this past Saturday and walk. She really gets the prize for growing this baby inside her. It is truly an amazing experience for us, and I get all the wonder, and she gets lots of pain! It is hard to believe that in only a few more months, we'll be doing walks with a three person family. Let the count down begin. I've added the widget Megan has on her blog to remind me of just how close this thing is all going to shake down!



  1. A very thorough post. Good to explore the new territory, and important too: you've got to know the lay of the land inside and out with an additional member of the family arriving soon. Those geologic formations are puzzling, it really has me thinking. Happy new year!

  2. Thanks for sharing your adventure. I love hiking through urban woods and noticing things that other people may overlook. I don't come close to your level of knowledge though.

  3. Nice of you to take us along on your explorative wald and to share the winter beauties of the forest as well as Megan's increasing girth.
    A very Happy New Year to you both plus extra.

  4. There was many odd elements. The nutshaped stones were really funny and the tree with thorns was just odd.

  5. Tom: What a neat walk along the river. That is the same plant I saw along the Cuyahoga. I loved the rock and that was really big.

    Megan is looking really ready as the baby progresses. Thanks for sharing the walk for your world.

  6. Great post with lots of good stuff. Even the most civilized sections of river can be interesting when you really start exploring them. I had read that those osage oranges (hedgeapples) were a favorite of squirrels and brought a couple home....but my squirrels totally ignored them. I like those big round rocks! How brave of Megan to pose with them :-) The countdown gizmo will be fun to watch.

  7. Tom, can you please cut an osage orange fruit open and show us what is inside? Thanks!

  8. Megan looks great! Don't skimp on the stroller you buy if you're going to do daily walks!

    Are these Osage Orange Fruits the same as Hedge Apples or Hedge Fruits or Fruit-that-looks-like-gross-brains? I went to some corn sculpture in Dublin, OH and they were *everywhere* on the ground.

  9. WOW, what a great post and photo's. I have a cousin who lives in Delaware OH!!
    It is sure beautiful!!

  10. Thanks for the great tour and walk along the river. I just love those giant concretions. Never seen ones so big.

    Happy New Year!

  11. This was an entertaining walk along the river and the finds along the way made it very interesting for me. I have never seen boulders like those. Neat.

    I don't have a lot to say about last year or this new year but here are some thoughts...

    I hope 2009 will be better than 2008, 2007, and 2006. I do think our government will be inspired by our new President Obama -- at least I hope so.

    I would like to see the War in Irag end and I would like to see the killing stop everywhere.

    It is my hope that Japan will stop slaughtering whales and raping virgin forests.

    And I hope the people will lose their clubs and no longer club baby seals to death.

    What a world we have and live in. Just think 2009 could be so much better than it will be.

  12. Thanks for sharing your day with us and all of the interesting photos. Out of them all, I like Megans' best...She looks beautiful and radiant with life!

  13. Robert-Aren't they interesting? There is debate on how exactly they were formed.

    Yogi- You are welcome. Fortunately I also get to walk and naturalize for my job, and it is great fun.

    Arija- You are welcome, happy new year to you!

    Chrome3d- This tree is pretty common in floodplain type habitats here in Ohio.

    Tom- You are welcome. Yes, the baby will get here sooner than later, for sure.

    Mary- Yes, hedge apple is another name for these. For some reason, I've only heard Osage Orange in these parts around central Ohio.

    Tricia- That is a great idea. Usually one can find them already broken open, so I'll be on the lookout on my next trip and remember to bring the leatherman.

    Beth- You got it. They are one in the same. These trees were planted on farms for hedge rows, so farms are great places to see them.

    Gaelyn- aren't they huge?

    Abe- Wise words.

    Spooky- You are welcome, yes, Megan does look great, doesn't she?

    Happy New Year everyone,


  14. Great post. I always wondered what those evergreen vines were called (wintercreeper). We see it often along the Cuyahoga river here in Kent. Thanks for ID.

    Growing up in NE Ohio, we kids call the osage orange fruit "brain balls".