I love finding a little green oasis and patch of peace and quiet, especially when it’s easily accessible to a heavily urban area.
The nature center at Maumee Bay State Park sits just a dozen or so miles east of downtown Toledo Ohio, but wandering the scenic boardwalk trail through the Lake Erie marshland, you feel miles away from Toledo’s heavily traveled highways and port area.
I recently enjoyed a writers’ retreat weekend at the Maumee Bay State Park Resort. I spotted the entrance to the park’s Nature Center just across the parking lot from the resort’s main entrance and found myself drawn away from an afternoon of workshops for my own private mini-retreat along the center’s trails on a beautiful early spring day.
The center’s two-mile interpretive trail takes visitors through meadow, marshland and wooded areas. I opted to take the longer loop, armed with my camera and a couple of free hours to roam and take photos.
One conference attendee from Texas strongly advised me to wear a scarf, hat, mittens and jacket when she learned I intended to walk the trail, but I guess I’m more used to early spring weather here as the cool crisp air of an afternoon in early April made it a comfortable hike requiring only a light jacket to keep the chill at bay. Much of the boardwalk threads through golden marshland, so I imagine it might be a warm trip requiring a hat and some sunscreen on a hot summer day.
A chorus of bullfrogs greeted me as I began the trip through the woods and out to the marshland. Further along the trail, nearly a dozen deer peacefully grazed in the woods, undisturbed the light stream of center visitors hiking the boardwalk.
This area of Ohio, along the Lake Erie shore, is well-known as a great place for birders. The Nature Center site includes a section listing recent bird sightings along the trail, with nearly 50 different types of birds listed in the current sightings the week of my visit. Trumpeter swans, killdeer, mourning dove, great-horned owl, downy woodpecker, northern flicker, golden-crowned kinglet and the all-American robin were just a few of the sightings reported the first week of April this year.
I particularly enjoyed the walk out to the two-story observation tower in the cattail marsh from where, if you looked closely, you could spot the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse and the Fermi Nuclear Station in the far distance.
The Trautman Nature Center at the trailhead has numerous displays, events, viewing windows and a small store, which makes it a nice stop at the end of the trail to browse through brochures, watch some of the birds through the floor-to-ceiling viewing windows or ask the year-round naturalist about the animals and environment along the nature trail.
The trail is open from dawn until dusk and includes a wheelchair-accessible loop. Check the center’s Web site for seasonal hours.
I completed my walk with plenty of photos taken and the renewed energy to tackle the rest of my conference workshops and open reading sessions. And perhaps the best thing about the trip was realizing that this center is within easy driving distance of Detroit, making return trips for an afternoon hike or photo-taking excursion a definite must-do on my summer travel list.
© Dominique King 2009