Want to do some structured outdoor exploring before packing up your tent? These four Ohio park systems offer a full lineup of learning opportunities.
Metroparks Toledo: Situated along the Maumee River, near the Lake Erie shore, Metroparks Toledo offers a range of summer classes and programs, from survival skills to tree climbing. “Our end goal is to get people out into nature on their own — to get them connected with their park and their environment,” says Ashley Smith, manager of outdoor skills. June 23 brings the Great American Backyard Campout at Providence Metropark. Providence Metropark, 13801 S. River Rd., Grand Rapids 43522, 419/407-9700, metroparkstoledo.com
Five Rivers MetroParks | Dayton: Each summer brings the Twin Valley Trail Challenge, a competitive hiking endurance event with 1- to 27-mile hiking options marked off on the 22-mile Twin Valley Trail. The event, set this year for June 2, familiarizes hikers with the trails and camping options along the route. “It’s unique to have backcountry camping in this area,” says Angie Sheldon, outdoor recreation coordinator. 8 a.m.– 10 p.m., Germantown MetroPark, 6910 Boomershine Rd., Germantown 45327, 937/275-7275, metroparks.org
Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park | Galloway: This suburban Columbus park system is known for the bison that call it home, but there are more than 7,000 acres to explore and plenty of classes to help you do so. For senior naturalist Debbie Ruppersburg, the Family Creeking Adventure (set for July 14) is a highlight. “I love watching [kids] find crayfish,” she says. “But you don’t find them until you start moving things around, and their reaction is priceless.” Battelle Darby Creek Cedar Ridge, 1775 Darby Creek Dr., Galloway 43119, 614/508-8111, metroparks.net
Mill Creek MetroParks | Youngstown: The oldest park district in Ohio, Mill Creek MetroParks offers a slate of summer classes, including multiple opportunities to take a guided kayak tour of Lake Newport. Paddling excursions happen four times each month (with the first four set for June 3, 10, 17 and 30) and at various times of day. “In the morning, it’s nice and quiet and serene,” says education manager Mandy Smith. “But during evening paddles, you get to see the sunset.” Paddling classes depart from the East Newport Boat Launch. For more information, visit millcreekmetroparks.org.
On a Roll
Maybe the tent life isn’t for you and camping means enjoying the confines of a comfy home away from home on wheels. For the majority of us who don’t have a recreational vehicle sitting in our driveway, that means renting one.
If you’ve ever gotten the jitters while driving a U-Haul truck, the notion can be a daunting one, but Carl Johnson, RV rental representative at Lee’s RV & Boat Storage in Hilliard, says the idea isn’t as outrageous as one might think.
“Come by, look and ask questions before you rent,“ he says. “It’s always nice to talk to someone and get more comfortable before you head out.”
The good news, he says, is smaller RVs handle like vans, and all you need is a standard driver’s license to pilot most of the larger ones. So what questions should you be asking? For one — and, granted, this sounds simple — make sure the RV you’re renting not only suits your comfort with driving it but will also be big enough for the number of people who’ll be joining you on your trip. Also, ask what comes with the rental price. For example, does the company provide bedding, dishes and other essentials to your camping comfort, or are you expected to bring them yourself?