ARBORETUM


Larches In The Arboretum One of the most interesting aspects of the area is the arboretum. I love walking through the arboretum because you can experience so much outdoor beauty in such a short time, almost every step offers something new! It is very close to the Colerain Avenue entrance, but you won't notice, this place is a world away from the big city. Because of the wide variety of scenery packed into such a short walk, I recommend you begin your exploration of Mt. Airy Forest with a short trip through the arboretum. Proceed forward on Blue Spruce Road almost to Colerain Ave., and take a left at the sign for the arboretum. Park in the lot at the loop at the end of the road.

In the arboretum you can find tremendous varieties of plants and trees from around the world. Unfortunately, you won't find many Palms or other tropical plant life living in this climate (if that is what you are looking for, visit the warm greenhouses of the Krohn Conservatory in Eden Park instead), but the selection of evergreens and broad-leaved trees is awesome. The following short walk should take about an hour and will acquaint you with what the arboretum and Mt. Airy Forest has to offer. Deer are present everywhere here, so be prepared to stumble across them behind trees and bushes, occasionally at uncomfortably close distances.

To the north of the parking area, toward the power line tower, you will see a lovely garden area. After having a look at the garden on top of the hill, head down the hill staying just left of the power lines (but in the same direction as the lines). Near the bottom of the hill you will see a bench, and near it you will see a small wooden bridge. This marks the start of a short trail, constructed by an Eagle Scout, that takes you through a small wooded area. A quarter mile of walking will take you across the wooded area to a thick patch of foliage, and after crossing it you will find yourself in a clearing. Looking just to your left you will see the parking lot where you parked; you are now southwest of where you started. This is a marvelous open ridge-top. Proceed to the tree stump in front of you and have a look in all directions, the view is excellent. Facing away from the direction you came, walk forward and you will see a trail made of wood chips. You will pass a gnarly-looking walnut tree with a huge lump on it that reminds me of a giant beehive.

Once you reach the wood chip trail, turned around and look behind you toward the direction you came out of the woods from, you should see some tall needle-leaved trees. This is one of the best views I know of within 2 hours of Cincinnati, it reminds me of the view from a campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trees are European Larches. Larches are among the only needle-bearing trees that shed their needles in the fall. During the fall, their sparse nature adds to the alpine-like appearance of this view.

Now get on the wood chip trail and walk to the gazebo. At the gazebo go off the trail to the south (toward the forest) and you will see a sign for the Wilson Wildflower Trail. It is difficult to follow in places, but there are marked wildflowers throughout this area. Proceed along the trail toward a large white-trunked tree, which has been vandalized by countless name-carvers. Now go off trail and descend almost to the valley floor before taking a left and crossing over a huge fallen tree. You walk parallel to the valley floor for a short distance and soon you will see a bridge that crosses over the stream at the floor of the valley. Trail "E" comes through here; we will now follow Trail "E" back to a clearing in the arboretum. Do not cross the bridge, but walk straight ahead, you will soon come to a second bridge which you will cross.

Go a little further and look to your right and you will see an old fire pit, lined with bricks on the inside and rocks on the outside, on the valley floor. I do not know the purpose of this creation, it seems out of place in the middle of a forest, but one can assume that the layout of this area may have been very different in years past, and this was probably a place to gather and have lunch or tell ghost stories as evening approached.

A short distance further will take you back into a clearing of the arboretum. As of this writing, the escape from the woods into the clearing was difficult due to fallen trees that hadn't been cleared, just climb over the trees or walk around if you can find a way. In the clearing, look to your left toward a large evergreen that is below you on the hillside. Nearly every time I have been here over the course of many years, I have seen domestic cats prowling about near this tree, they must live near there, maybe you will see them as well. Proceed toward the concrete sidewalk that is near you, notice the imprints in the concrete, the creators of this pathway took great care to entertain us with the various leaves, shells, and other items embedded in the pavement. Turn right, away from the parking area. You will see a pond ahead of you off of the sidewalk. Walk down the hill through the grass to the pond, where deer, ducks, geese, turtles, and frogs are all almost always present. Turn left and walk along the pond back to the arboretum road, be careful not to frighten any deer at close range as they forage in the nearby bushes. Hike up the road in the direction of your vehicle; you will see a sign on your left that says "Area M, Holly -- Boxwood". Just after that sign, turn right up a gravel road. You are now coming around the back of the arboretum center building, toward the power line tower where you began your trip. In this area you will find wonderfully fragrant Red Pine, Eastern Hemlock, and Cypress trees.

This concludes the overview hike of the Mt. Airy Forest area. For your next adventure I advise you to plan to take the following long day hike. The best day hike within a half-hour of Cincinnati, you will completely forget about the urban sprawl that surrounds you on this hike.


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