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A winter picnic was just the right tonic

Posted on February 6, 2013

Steve PollickIt was an unplanned wild treat the other day, when wife Peggy and I took “the old way” – U.S. 20 – back home toward northwest Ohio after a family visit east of Cleveland. We had a spontaneous winter picnic in a state park.

We had reached the intersection of U.S. 20 and State Rt. 58, south of Oberlin and Elyria and Peggy spied a sign for Findley State Park, Wellington, 10 miles down Route 58.  It was a smeary-gray, gloomy January morning, the kind that puts you in a gloomy-gray mood, and we instantly decided we would stop for a visit, just for something different.

Different indeed. No traffic, no people, no unnatural sounds, just the peaceful winding 93-acre Findley Lake surrounded by 900 acres of mature woodlands. We stopped on the way to pick up some lunch, and we picnicked away, all by ourselves. I couldn’t believe it; I squinted down through the pines at one corner of the lake and could believe that I was at a remote lake in Michigan’s rugged upper peninsula where I love to hunt.

We later cruised the entire park and found just one other vehicle on the grounds. That’s it. Talk about solitude. We gabbed all the way home about all the fun we have had at the park – for me stretching back to boyhood rabbit hunts too many years ago.
I learned, at least first attempted, to flyfish, for bluegills, at the lake – the eager ‘gills were not bothered by my clumsy, piled-up casts and eagerly rose to the popper flies. As a husband and father, we enjoyed weekend campouts when the kids, now adults and parents of their own, were little.

Here it was, good old Findley State Park, just patently waiting for my return. Like all 74 of Ohio’s state parks, it was only lacking for attention from eager visitors. It was a lesson learned for me and Peggy – not to overlook the joy and solitude of winter in our parks. It is not often that you can feel as though public lands are there just for you and you alone. But that is how our picnic felt.

In a certain way, the sun was shining and the sky was blue for us all the rest of the way home. They belong to us, are there for us, all year long, and not just in summer.