Bluffton University Nature Preserve offers change in running route


Runners (and probably walkers) easily get into the rut of covering the same ground day after day — especially early morning runners because routes are limited by the lack of light.  But a vacation and a new set of eyes (and feet) can remind us of what we’re missing in our own neighborhoods.

This is why today’s run took me on a trail I’ve not been on for at least a year, probably longer. My daughter — home for Grandma’s big birthday — reported that she’d run the Bluffton University Nature Preserve, an outdoor education area with eight-acre lake and nature trails.

In addition to discovering some new trails she didn’t remember, she’d also seen a vole and a mama groundhog with her fat babies. That was enough to make me head out there early this morning, while the air was still chilly enough to keep me comfortable.

The nature preserve is about a mile from our house, and just before you reach the drive to the preserve, I noticed lots of climbing pink wild roses. Wonder if someone would mind if I clipped a piece to try rooting? They’re beautiful.

The nature preserve is well-shaded on the path I chose, which winds around the lake and through the woods, back to the Riley Creek and the swinging bridge. I couldn’t pass up the chance to walk across the bridge — running is not advised.

A wave of nostalgia hit me when across the creek, I saw the childhood home of my friend, Karen Kreider. I’d spent many days and nights at that house, exploring the creek in the summer and skating on it in the winter.

While I kept my eyes peeled for groundhogs, I saw none, but I did see a heron in the creek, some geese in the tall grass near the creek, and a deer on the path about five feet ahead of me. He looked at me for a second before taking off down the path, so I followed him and caught another glimpse when he stopped to look back at me. I guess he was hoping I’d give up.

With all of my family rolling in for our mom’s 90th birthday, I’m guessing we’ll be taking that route multiple times over the next few days. It’s a favorite for most of my brothers — also runners/walkers — so it’ll be fun to see what other wildlife we encounter.

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