Outdoors briefs from around Central Ohio

Backpacking for beginners

It's a big step to go from an afternoon jaunt in the park to a few self-sufficient nights outdoors. Luckily for Buckeye novices, Ohio has a number of good beginners' trails and an upcoming series catered to those starting the sport from scratch.

Columbus Outdoor Pursuits will offer its four-part Beginning Backpacking School on consecutive Saturdays starting April 11. In addition to classroom sessions, which run 9 a.m. to noon, the course includes a practice hike May 3 at Highbanks Metro Park and a weekend trip May 16-17 around Lake Vesuvius in Southeast Ohio.

Cost is $50 for members, $80 for non-members.

Expert instructors will cover pre-trip planning, gear selection, food, wilderness first aid, basic orienteering and other subjects designed for those eager to spend a few days on the trail.

Web: outdoor-pursuits.org

Newark preserve perfect for winter hiking

Two weeks ago, hankering for a nice winter walk, a friend and I bolted from Columbus and headed on a very sunny drive for the Dawes Arboretum, one of the region's premiere nature preserves.

The bad news: about two feet of melted snow sopping the trails. The good news: a peaceful, tree-filled setting with much to offer during hibernation season.

The conservation space is known for its astounding collection of trees, lovely water features and environmental stewardship. Things really pop when it's warm, but the six miles of hiking trails wander through conifer gardens, a bizarre Cypress Swamp and other things with appeal that's immune to cold weather.

Things should be a bit drier by now.

If you're going this weekend, bring binoculars for the bountiful birds and check out "Maple Syrup Madness," an educational series about everyone's favorite pancake topping. It runs through Saturday, March 7.

Web: dawesarb.org

Help wildlife with stroke of a pen

Next month, when filling out the form that itemizes all your mandatory contributions to state government, you can give freely to something with immediate local impact.

Ohio's 1040 income tax return has two opportunities to help protect the state's natural resources: Line 27 benefits wildlife conservation, and line 28 benefits nature preserves and scenic spaces. On the 1040EZ form, the check-offs are found on lines 19 and 20, respectively.

Over the years, contributions to these funds have protected wetlands, migratory birds, rare plants and much more.

Web: ohiodnr.com