Plant and Rave

The battle to protect native plant species and exterminate invasives like honeysuckle and garlic mustard has become one of the most pressing issues in Ohio ecology. Only with continued education, activism and volunteering have our plants been able to survive so far.

People fighting the good fight will convene for the inaugural Midwest Native Plant Conference, running Friday-Sunday, July 24-26, at the Hope Hotel in Dayton. The symposium will cover topics such as butterfly gardens, prairie and wetland habitats and the benefits of landscaping with Ohio plants.

Attending single events starts at $25, and three-day registration costs $130.

Web: cincinnatibirds.com/mwnp

Luxurious Lodging

The reclaimed strip-mining land that holds The Wilds provides an ecosystem that mirrors grassland Africa and affords Ohioans a genuine safari experience without leaving the state. Now, at the new Nomad Ridge lodging area, you can remain close to the open-air wonder overnight.

The new accommodation at the acclaimed Cumberland nature preserve is a luxury tented-camp experience situated atop a pristine lookout. Guests stay in yurts - nomadic-style structures made of canvas stretched over a wooden frame.

They're built on platforms and feature bamboo flooring, screened windows, private bathrooms and Asian-inspired decor. The first set of yurts opened to the public July 1 and starts at $325 per night, a price tag that includes two safari tour passes, breakfast, dinner and concierge service.

Web: thewilds.org

Homegrown Goodness

The Alive staff gets spoiled having Pearl Market right outside our doorstep every Tuesday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those of you who aren't right Downtown - and want the freshest possible goodies - should check out the numerous farmers markets and u-pick farms that explode across Central Ohio this time of year.

Many crops, like cherries and blackberries, come and go fairly quickly, but there's always something ready to harvest at places like Schacht Family Farm in Canal Winchester, Buckingham Orchards in Sunbury and the Berry Bounty of Perry County. Local summer staples include tomatoes, beans, peaches and sweet corn.

U-pick operations let you into the fields to do your own harvesting, while farmers markets have produce and processed goods already on hand. Check out interactive maps of Central Ohio's u-pick farms and farmers markets on the Dispatch Kitchen website.

Web: dispatchkitchen.com

Weekend Warrior

There's some grumbling about Clear Creek Metro Park's long distance from Columbus - yes, Rockbridge is a bit far - but nothing else in the local green-space network rivals its remoteness or rugged beauty.

Also, it has a creek, which is often clear, and you should get in it at 2 p.m. Sunday. During "Creeks are Cool," naturalists will lead a wading trip and point out the unique plants and animals that call it home.

Web: metroparks.net

Outdoor Tip of the Month

Now that the bite is heating up, many anglers will be heading to Ohio's rivers and streams in search of bass and panfish, my favorite fare. Even if water levels are low, it's important to practice safe wading tips. Here are some points to remember:

- Check the weather. Rivers can stay dangerously swollen for days after rain.

- Waders or wading shoes should have good traction. Felt soles are usually preferred, but some conditions might require studs or cleats.

- Enter the water facing upstream, which helps maintain balance and allows you to see currents.

- Try to keep at least one hand free, preferably two. A vest with a rod holder is ideal.

- Step lightly over rocks, sliding forward your lead foot while keeping weight on the other.

- Always step sideways, and never cross your feet. Heading slightly downstream is easier than going directly across.

For more outdoor adventures and Nature Notes, click to the Venture blog at ColumbusAlive.com