I have seen something beautiful.
Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville
Saturday, July 3
The Columbus Metro Parks will surprise you. That's a big reason why I like them. As soon as you think you've memorized a particular trail, you'll go back in a different season to find something totally new.
That's what I found along the Spring Creek Trail at Sharon Woods. I'd done it a few times, then returned this summer on a day when the clear blue sky felt big and close when you sat back and looked up.
After running through some ordinary woods, the trail pops into a broad meadow that teems with life - growing, twisting and tangling beneath the constant sunlight. The thicket was awash in green, buzzed with insect life and pushed forth a collection of wildflowers, including Turk's cap lily, purple coneflower and, pictured above, the wild rose.
I have found time to fish.
Chagrin River, Gates Mills
Friday, Aug. 6
The Chagrin River winds through Geauga and Cuyahoga counties in northeast Ohio, and I grew up about a mile away from one of its most scenic sections. There's a small foot trail down to the water in nearby Gates Mills, a quaint little town where nobody speeds and every building is white with black shutters.
There's a dam along River Road that creates a deep pool. Cars often stop to see fly fishermen casting long loops from one side to the other. When you wade the river, mornings are so quiet that all you hear are rapids tumbling from the dam and hounds baying from a nearby hunt club.
I have relaxed.
Holbrook Beach Association, Saybrook
Saturday, Aug. 7
Theodore Zoltan Palagyi, my grandpa, used to go to Lake Erie pretty much every day between April and November. He left my mom some money when he died, so she decided to buy the family a small house in Saybrook, a coastal hamlet about 50 miles east of Cleveland. A lot of people think Erie's dirty or even dangerous, but that's not true at all, as you can see.
About twice a year, I drive to Saybrook and spend a weekend lying in the sun, my all-time favorite pastime. This time around, my sister was home after graduating law school, and I had some vacation time at work. I called her up, asked her to go to the beach, then left Columbus on a whim - one of those times when things, very randomly, work out perfectly.
I have been an ambassador.
Lake Vesuvius Backpacking Trail, Wayne National Forest
Sunday, Oct. 10
I have seven roommates. One has guided canoe trips through the Canadian outback, while another has worked for years in wildlife biology. The others are climbers, bikers, hikers and campers.
Being an ambassador for the Buckeye State is part of my job, and I try to introduce people to places they've never been. That can be tough with experienced outdoorsmen, but we eventually found a remote section of Wayne National Forest that had a trail they'd never been on.
During our two-day backpacking trip, Lake Vesuvius didn't disappoint. We caught (and released unharmed) a rare smooth green snake, trekked over abandoned forest roads and saw quality top-rope rock. The trees around the water were a ring of auburn, scarlet, yellow and orange. Even the browns were vibrant.
I have bought a kayak.
Alum Creek State Park, Delaware County
Friday, Oct. 22
Ever since I was a little kid, I've wanted to own a boat. Finally, at age 29, I settled on a kayak - the Wilderness Systems Pamlico 100, to be exact. I like to tell people that because I have to register it with the Ohio authorities, it counts as a boat. A dream, deferred for years, finally came true.
My first trip was to the far northern portion of Alum Creek Reservoir, near the town of Kilbourne. Most of Alum's a speedboat lake, but it starts off as a small stream that unfolds into a shallow, marshy pond. Birds love it. This Friday afternoon was one of the last days of a surprisingly good fall color season, and these four ring-billed gulls seemed fascinated by a dude floating by in a small red boat. They were very cooperative.