September 18, 2022
A team article by the Holiday Hooligans
If you are looking for a fun family adventure, strive to complete the Summer Mystery Challenge at the Wahkeena Nature Preserve. Traverse the trails, uncover the hidden clues and solve the puzzle before it vanishes on September 30.
When you arrive at the preserve, follow the main path from the parking lot to the Nature Center. The log cabin was originally a farmhouse built in the early 1900s. There you will find a special park map that will guide you on your quest (also keep an eye out for the first clue).
Inside there was a black garter snake with serious arthritis. Fairfield Park District Naturalist Nora Steele said that the snake might be the oldest of its species.
The nature center also had a big beehive in a plexiglass case. The bees exit the hive through a tube which passes through the wall.
With a little help from Google, we uncovered the first of seven clues, each leading to a different trail through the preserve. Although the entire route encompassed less than a mile, the walk was cool.
One path led to two large cages which housed captive birds of prey, a screech owl and a hawk. Both were injured, deemed non-releasable and are now kept at the reserve as educational animals.
According to the Audubon’s website, “this robin-sized nightbird is common over much of the east, including in city parks and shady suburbs, where many human residents are unaware they have an owl for a neighbor. The owl spends the day roosting in holes or in dense cover, becoming active at dusk. Despite the name, screech-owls do not screech; the voice of this species features whinnies and soft trills.”
One trail led around Lake Odonata. Odonata is the order of flying insects that includes dragonflies and damselflies.
The lake is home to beavers. Last week, naturalists found that the beavers had packed a discarded calculus textbook into the walls of their dam.
We went part of the way across the boardwalk trail. In parts, the boards were practically even with the top of the water. Then, there was a floaty, wobbly bridge.
“I had my phone with me and I didn’t want to get it wet, so I turned back,” Toby said.
Wahkeena used to be a farm. In 1931, Dr. Frank Warner of Columbus purchased the property as a wedding present for his new wife, Carmen.
The preserve’s website says that Carmen named the property Wahkeena, after an Oregon waterfall. The word means “most beautiful” in the Yakama language of the Pacific Northwest.
The Warners planted 100,000 trees and dismantled most of the farm buildings but some of the log cabins still remain. We also saw an old stone stove near a spring.
Wahkeena is located at 2200 Pump Station Road in Sugar Grove and is open Wednesdays – Sundays from 8 am to 4:30 pm.
The website says that “Wahkeena Nature Preserve is one of 58 sites owned by the Ohio History Connection, a private, non-profit organization. Wahkeena is managed by the Fairfield County Park District and supported by the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs.”