Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our First Hike

Life is a collection of firsts, a string of events which we will never forget. Although it was short and sweet, this past Friday, Weston and his mom and dad went on their first nature hike along the Olentangy Bike trail. What a great day, and what a great job Weston did, sleeping most of the time strapped to his mom in a Weego baby carrier.

First, a stop at the playground. Now I have a reason to hang out at these places again. In a former life, I was a professional playground attendant in Shamu's Happy Harbor at Sea World Ohio.

A beautiful, early spring, blue sky day. I love how American sycamore bark contrasts with the blue sky. There are several majestic sycamores that line the Olentangy just north of I-270.

Three trees or one? Just off the asphalt path, this triple sycamore can't be missed. The trunks to come together about 5 feet off the ground, making it one tree.

The triple sycamore is situated near a bridge which crosses over this small tributary. As it heads towards the river, its path is quite natural and sinuous. The shale bedrock of the area is exposed- This is the same shale that is found all the way up in Cleveland. It is also the source of Central Ohio's high radon readings in homes and schools.

We took a small side trail near the creek, and I spotted a hermit thrush, a relative of the American robin.

Robins were also plenty active in the area, and were certainly less wary than the hermit thrush. There is something nice about seeing Robins in natural habitats instead of green lawns.

Going back towards the asphalt path, I noticed that small minnows were active in the stream, some of them tipping their noses and rubbing up against the stream bottom. How many fish do you see? If I had to guess, I would say these were probably black nosed dace, but that is just a guess. I used to catch these all the time as a kid in the creek behind our house, which eventually led to the Cuyahoga.

Yet another thing that reminded me of exploring creeks when I was younger was some of the bubbling brown algae that had started to bloom. This stuff is extremely slippery.

We left the creek, continuing to walk north, until we met up with a flock of white-throated sparrows.

At about this time, Weston was starting to stir a little bit, so we decided to turn back and head south to Worthington. On our walk back, I took note of what plants were starting to bolt, including:

Perhaps poison hemlock? You don't want to touch this one, ever. It will grow to 6 feet tall or more by the end of the summer.

Garlic mustard, a nasty non-native invasive species which you may remember from this post.

And, several clumps wild leeks, or ramps, which are famous in West Virginia.

Finally, I noticed a two species of plants in full flower. The flowering of these trees just happens to coincide with my spring hay-fever.

American elm,

And silver maple.

Thanks for joining us on our first adventure.



  1. Plant #1 sure looks like poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) to me, but I usually see it in weedy areas, especially ditches. It looks like it is in a forest in your photo.

    I've never known poison hemlock to be toxic to the touch... have you experienced this? I know that death can result from ingesting it (Socrates supposedly died from this). But I also know that many species in the family Apiaceae can cause a rash (Pastinaca sativa, Heracleaum mantegazzianum, etc.). I've even heard of coworkers getting a rash from great angelica (Angelica atropurpurea).

  2. Howdy Scott, it was in a weedy area alongside the path, right near I-270. The habitat fit for poison hemlock. The hike that we went has some some decent floodplain forest, some immediately crappy floodplain forest along a channelized river, and interstate right of way thrown in.

    One of my co-workers got a nasty case of photodermatis from Pastinaca sativa while she was cleaning out one of our demo prairies.

    My readership ranges widely, so I usually give warnings to not touch any potentially deadly plant.

  3. I would say that Weston had a wonderful first nature hike...too bad he won't remember it :-) Print this post out and paste it in his baby book. I love the sycamores white bark, too and was admiring them along the Wabash River today. I also was looking at the new plants, but unlike you didn't know the name of half of them, even though I should! Great photos and such a lot of stuff for one walk.

  4. Thanks for the wonderful nature walk with your family! Weston will soon be catching those minnows.

  5. Your photos make me eager for all the snow to melt and things to start getting green around here.

  6. Hi Mary, just keep looking, and you will begin to learn them, it is a lifelong journey.

    Thanks Barb- Yes, that would be fun, wouldn't it, to catch minnows with Weston.

    Hi John- Soon, it will come soon. My father-in-law will be dropping in this weekend to meet Weston, and, hopefully, we'll even get in a round of golf.


  7. Tom congrats! First hike wow you are brave. All we did with our first one is walk around the subdivision - I had a hungry baby lol. Short and sweet, but you were able to capture lot of nice photos. Anna :)

  8. Great post and pictures! It appears you all enjoyed the first nature walk.

    Looks like poison hemlock to me. I had to chop some down from my roadside tree bed a couple of years ago. The flower head had already gone to seed and I was very nervous...It is nasty stuff!

  9. That 3-into-1 tree is so cool! Thanks for sharing.
    Even if Weston was sleeping, his subconscious was being serenaded by all the wonderful sounds & smells of nature. :)