Here are 10 things you can do outdoors that require little or no preparation, skills, or special equipment.
You can also bike, run, or jog, but I like hiking because anyone can hike. In some places I’ve been a hiker has to worry about venomous snakes, alligators, or dangerous insects. But the worst thing you’ll run into in this part of Ohio is mosquitoes and perhaps ticks. Areas with standing water are worst for mosquitoes and tall grasses are hotbeds for ticks. All you really need is a water bottle and some comfortable shoes. Keep in mind that temperatures can vary a lot between shaded woods and open fields. Dressing in layers is always a good idea. And bring the dog. Almost all the county parks are welcoming to canine hikers. (Leashes required in town.)
2. Scavenger Hunt
You should avoid collecting actual natural materials from most parks, but an easy solution lies in your cell phone camera. The Fire Station Park has a little rhyming treasure hunt game available on line too. Or you can make your own. Here are some good (harder) things to include: a creature that flies, a non-human foot print, a spooky-looking tree, the home of a wild animal, something blue, a stick shaped like a number above 1, insect or animal damage to a tree.
A cheap plastic sled costs just a couple bucks. Other than that all you need are warm clothes and a few inches of snow. Look for a steep hill free of trees or other large obstacles. If you’re a real thrill seeker, try the hills at Mohican Dam and Reservoir (located on State Route 603).
Find a quiet space and pack a few pencils and a sketchpad. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a great artist. Focusing on something natural and detailed can be a very relaxing way to take your mind off other things.
This one requires some planning and equipment. You can spend a lot of money on an expensive state of the art fishing rod and reel and tackle to go with it. But you can also pick up an inexpensive set of gear from a discount store or garage sale. Most park ponds have a catch and release policy and don’t require a fishing license. River fishing does require a license though.
Move a family meal or a date night to the great outdoors. Many area parks have picnic tables, but you can also just spread a blanket on the ground. If you don’t have time to plan it, just grab some fast food.
7. Bird Watching
You don’t need to have fancy binoculars to enjoy some bird watching. Ashland county has a great variety of birds and a local chapter of the National Audubon Society. A regular bird walk is currently hosted on the fourth Saturday of the month at Ashland’s Byers Woods, a local hot spot for the colorful Boblink as well as other local events. Some species overwinter, others migrate in and out with the seasons and can be welcome signs of spring. Every February, amateur birders are invited to participate in Audobon’s Great Bird Count.
You can see quite a bit just with the naked eye or with decent binoculars. Check county park regulations to make sure you’re allowed there after dark. Bring a flashlight, a thermos of cocoa, Spread a blanket or sleeping bag out and enjoy the view. There are a few special astrological events coming up in 2017, including a rare solar eclipse in August, another super moon in December, and several meteor showers that should be visible depending on weather conditions.
Camera phones have come a long way and separate digital cameras are more affordable than they once were. Try a variety of angles, times of day, and watch for interesting animal life or natural formations. Who knows, you may catch a great shot of Big Foot.
10. Clean Up
Not everyone respects the rule to “leave only footprint” behind. Bring a few trash bags and gloves and do some clean up in a park or roadside in your area. Your family or club can even officially adopt a 2-mile stretch of highway to clean regularly through Ohio’s Adopt-a-Highway program.
What’s your “go to” outdoor activity? Leave a comment.