Tag Archives: Nature reserve

What Bluffton’s Swinging Nature Preserve has in common with Neil Armstrong and Jimi Hendrix

Some pretty major events occurred in 1969. On August 20 of that year, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon and immortalized the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Just a few days earlier, more than 400,000 music lovers attended “Woodstock” to hear Jimi Hendrix; the Who; and Crosby, Stills and Nash, among others.

Opposition to the Vietnam War continued to gain strength with demonstrations staged around the country — some peaceful, some violent.

And in a tiny town in northwest Ohio, the local college completed construction of a swinging bridge that spanned the Riley Creek and became a favorite destination for those hiking the paths of Bluffton University’s Swinging Bridge Nature Preserve.

In 1969, I was 13. Go ahead, you do the math. Since then, I’ve crossed that bridge and skated under it countless times. Even so, each time I cross it, I’m struck by a sense of amazement and peace.

My guess is that a lot of people who live in Bluffton, Ohio, are not even aware that the bridge exists nor of the many trails that wind through the nature preserve.

Needing a bit of that peace and quiet, this morning’s run took me along the paths of the preserve, ending up at the bridge. Here’s what I found:

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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.