Before the sun came up, I took a walk through my neighborhood this morning. American robins echoed through the foggy air that was thick with the smells of fresh cut pine and the heavy perfume of blossoming lilacs and viburnums. The path was lit from the waning moon and the occasional street light.
I couldn’t help but notice was how perfectly controlled everyone’s lawns are. The lawns edged with surgical precision. The lawns all the same color of green and the same height from yard to yard.
It reminded me of office cubicles which then reminded me of some neuroscience research I’d read about neuron development and brain plasticity. Here is a snippet from Princeton’s Dr. Elizabeth Gould research, “Not only did the animals living in the more complex environments have more connections between neurons, but they also exhibited a higher rate of neurogenesis than their cage control counterparts. The changes were observed in the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex, two brain regions important for cognition and regulation of emotion.”
The stimulus of nature and it’s ever present desire to constantly change is the perfect solution to help you develop and maintain a healthy brain. You just need to step outside and explore.
But, what if you can’t physically walk? What if your mobility is limited to where your mobility device can take you? Some trails are lovely but not wheeled vehicle friendly.
But we are lucky, around Cincinnati there are several great nature trails that are paved and accessible. The H trail at Caldwell Preserve is to the left of the Nature Center and leads down a gentle slope. There are picnic tables as well as an overlook of the valley.
Woodland Mound has a paved trail that circles around a prairie and borders a woodland area.
Cincinnati Nature Center has the Mashburn Family Discovery Trail. The surface is crushed limestone and the ¾ mile trail has educational kiosks and leads into the prairie, the Schott Nature PlayScape, Abner Hollow Cabin, and Matt’s Pond.
Sharon Woods paved trail includes the woods and views of the lake and boathouse.
Cincinnati also has a plethora of bike trails that welcome families on wheels and feet. From Lunken Airport’s bike trail you can watch the planes take off and land. The Milford-Loveland section of the Little Miami Scenic Trail bike pathway is a delight, just remember to familiarize yourself with proper trail ettiquitte for the mixed-use trails.
While the edges of some these trails might be as perfectly maintained as my lawn obsessed neighbors, I guarantee you’ll find plenty of wildlife, plants, smells, sights, and sounds to ignite your spirit.
Printable Hikes for May:
Miami Whitewater Forest looped trail leads through woods and wetlands. This trail is a real treat in the late day when the frogs are chorusing. Printable hike PDF: Miami Whitewater Forest-Outer Loop
Cox Arboretum and Gardens MetroPark is stunning. The gardens are a delight and there are multiple paved paths throughout the expansive garden areas. Printable hike PDF: Cox Arboretum & Gardens Metropark
Eden Park is home to one of my favorite water features, Mirror Lake. If you look at the lake just right, it seamlessly merges with the Ohio River and stretches to the horizon. The gardens are lovely here as well. Plan on this being a full day trip as you must explore the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Krohn Conservatory. Printable hike PDF: Eden Park
The Winton Woods bike trail leads right along the edge of the West Fork of Mill Creek Lake and odds are pretty good you’ll see waterfowl, great blue herons, and songbirds working along the shoreline. Printable hike PDF: Winton Woods
If you have any questions about hiking, I’m here to help, please comment below.
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Enjoy the trails! And, don’t be shy – share with your friends via Twitter and Facebook what trails you’ve accomplished. Please tag Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and 6060Cincyhikes in your Facebook posts and use @6060cincyhikes and @cincychildrens and #hikecincy for your tweets so we can celebrate your accomplishments too!
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