Fall Hiking

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Right now in Oxford, pines are shedding their needles on the ground, the mornings are chilly, and nothing beats a cup of hot something and a pair of hobo gloves when you’re stuck outdoors. I went hiking in Hueston Woods State Park yesterday. It was beautiful, but I do not deny that it would have been less beautiful without my thermos of coffee.

I woke up early in the morning to arrive at the park around 7:30, so the sun had risen but it wasn’t very light out. Very early in the morning, in the right weather conditions, the lake looks as though it is steaming, with peals of mist rising off of the water. Many white herons dotted the lake—I saw four in a group as soon as I arrived.

Beyond the lake, Hueston Woods has some lovely hiking trails. I took my hike around the mountain bike trails—on foot, the red “expert” loop wasn’t that scary. I wandered it for about an hour and a half, which makes this trail very nice for someone who has a free morning but afternoon obligations. Some highlights from my trip were:

The general scenery.

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The beech trees—if you go hiking, keep an eye out for these beauties! They have leaves in groups of threes and very sharp buds at the tips of their branches. Their bark is smooth and wrinkled like the leg of an elephant. They also have a curious pattern on their bark, which resemble eyes. It does wonders to create a Halloween atmosphere. The patterns grow as the trees do, so saplings won’t have very noticeable eyes. I encountered one very large beech tree along the bike trail, its bulbous eyes were remarkable!

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Each tree has many eyes. The mega-beech is the right-bottom tree—see if you can find it on your hike!

The animals! I saw herons as I mentioned, and also a red ear slider turtle. It was underwater so I couldn’t snap a good picture, unfortunately. The area where I saw the turtle, too, was beautiful.

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If you do decide to go hiking, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some will make your hike more comfortable, while others are necessary to stay safe.

  1. Wear bright, waterproof clothes. It’s easy to get cold on a hike, and something waterproof and windproof will do so much to keep you happy, warm, and dry. The color also matters. Wearing bright colors on a hike is very important, because it makes you noticeable to other humans. If you slip and twist your ankle or otherwise render yourself immobile, being visible from a distance can be a lifesaver for a hiker.
  2. Tell a friend about where you’re going. Note that in most places, Hueston Woods does not have cell phone reception. This means if something happens to you, you can’t just phone for help. Tell someone you trust that you’re going to Hueston Woods for a hike, and that if they don’t hear from you by a certain time, to call the proper authorities. Hueston Woods’s number is 513-523-6347.
  3. Bring a hot drink and a good thermos. Be it tea, hot tang, or coffee, you’ll be thankful to yourself for putting something warm in your belly.
  4. Keep a change of shoes and socks in your car if the weather is on the wet side. It’s only a 10 minute drive to Hueston Woods from Oxford, but it’s 10 minutes less of sloshing around your cold, wet, feet.
  5. Bring a camera. The scenery is made to be photographed.
  6. Finally, know what poison ivy looks like. There is more poison ivy in my back yard than there is in the park—but it can get creative at times. Keep an eye out for this nasty, itchy plant, which can even grow in a patch of moss if it means it’ll get to ruin your day.

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