I know some who, defrosted by the first rays of spring, yearn for Hocking Hills, eager for wildflowers to pepper that year-round hemlock tinge. Others hanker for Lake Erie's western basin, the anticipation of another endless summer hanging like fog.

I know some who, defrosted by the first rays of spring, yearn for Hocking Hills, eager for wildflowers to pepper that year-round hemlock tinge. Others hanker for Lake Erie's western basin, the anticipation of another endless summer hanging like fog.

Fine destinations, those.

When spring comes - or when a sliver of sun prompts a winter thaw - I have an irresistible urge to drive west about one hour into the small town of Yellow Springs.

If you read the news, Yellow Springs is home to one troubled university (Antioch College), one troubled comedian (Dave Chappelle) and a good deal of hippies.

The town is also home to some of western Ohio's best natural spaces.

Most prominent is John Bryan State Park, a long and scenic preserve with fast mountain-bike trails and views of the Little Miami River. And attached to its eastern end is Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, the best place in Ohio for early spring wildflowers.

Near these standbys, within walking distance of the town pizza parlor, sits the quiet, rather nonchalant Glen Helen.

A glen is a long, deep valley divided by a body of water, so much of the mileage at Glen Helen runs down craggy rock faces and into low-lying riverside forest. By late afternoon Saturday, sunlight hit only the tops of bottomland trees, leaving the rest of my trail and Yellow Springs Creek dark and cool.

A walk along this clear, babbling stream is a must.

Avoid the path on the western side, as it runs through scrub forest often in view of a fairly loud country road. Choose its partner to the east, which eventually accesses wide fields, pine forests and easy rock-stepped ascents.

You'll find this a good, quiet walk - the kind of trip where you stop to cross a creek atop a line of sturdy, flat stones.

Elsewhere in the preserve, trails lead to rock formations like Pompey's Pillar, the town's namesake yellow spring and other rustic treasures that Hugh Taylor Birch saved by donating the starter lands to Antioch in 1929. Today the 1,000 acres named for Birch's daughter Helen remain intact, even when the university does not.

For more places to welcome the spring, click to the Ohio Adventure Map at columbusalive.com/venture.