Time to discover DCP’s parks


By Mitchell Pence

Darke Co. Parks

Like the frost that creeps up your kitchen window, winter and her cold embrace grows ever nearer. Gloomy, gray clouds hover overhead and the last resistance, of autumn’s fiery color, has surrendered to the bone-chilling winds from the north. Mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects prepare for a long slumber in their dens, under the leaf litter, or they will burrow their way under the soil to escape the frost layer. Migratory birds have already taken to the skies and are headed south until the weather is suitable again. An eerie quiet falls across the northern hemisphere as everyone braces for the seemingly endless winter.

While the holiday season is a happy distraction from this reality, once the new year has come and gone, it can be difficult to remain positive and active until March and April. We all seem to think that only when the first buds begin to appear from the ground, we can finally be happy again. While my first paragraph was written in a more melancholy tone, I assure you that this was intentional. If you only think of winter as “The Night King” from the Game of Thrones TV show, then I understand why you fall into a seasonal depression come November. Every year I like to challenge folks to shift the paradigm and get outside into nature. While this sounds uncomfortable or even unpleasant, there are all kinds of cool things to see (no pun intended) and you will miss them if you lock yourself away inside your house.

As winter sets in, maybe this is a great time to explore any of the 14 Darke County Parks you have yet to see. Most know of Shawnee Prairie Preserve, but other personal favorites of mine are Eidson Woods Preserve, Worth Family Nature Preserve, and Routzong Preserve to name a few. Don’t forget, Historic Bear’s Mill is also a Darke County Park and a great place to walk. When you finish your hike, pop into the Mill for some warm coffee and buy a gift for a loved one. Winter is also a great time to take up a new hobby like bird feeding. It’s a great way to support local birds that did not migrate or have arrived from up north like the Dark-eyed Junco, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, woodpeckers, native sparrows, finches, Northern Cardinals and so many more.

Ultimately, winter will become what you make it. If you allow your thoughts to paint it as an awful thing, that’s all it will ever be. However, if you keep your thoughts positive and enjoy all that it has to offer, it will be over before you know it. Let me wrap up by rewriting my first paragraph and see if I can make winter something to enjoy:

The first signs that winter has arrived come in the form of intricate frost patterns climbing your kitchen window. They appear like snowflakes, each with a specific pattern, allowing them to form a perfect icy crust that captures light like a suncatcher in the early morning. While the warm colors of autumn have long fallen to the ground, we are reminded that there is still beauty to be found by the Northern Cardinal, whose magnificent red feathers starkly contrast with the fluffy white snow and evergreen needles. A comfortable hush falls on the northern hemisphere as native wildlife tuck in for a peaceful slumber. However, some of our forest residents can’t help but come out to play in the snow and visit with their neighbors from time to time, just like us! Perhaps on your next hike, you’ll be lucky enough to see a couple of deer, or maybe you’ll find tracks from an Eastern Cottontail when he set off to run some errands at first light. Listen to the crunch of the snow under your feet and watch your breath turn to ice crystals before disappearing into thin air. When you return from your hike, make some hot chocolate, grab a blanket, and curl up with your favorite book or movie. Make the most of the winter and cold, because when it is over, delicate spring flowers will bloom ever brighter and the summer sun will greet you with its familiar warm embrace.

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