My Happy Place
By Cincinnati Nature Center member, Anne Bryant
My first visits to Cincinnati Nature Center were back in the late '70s and early '80s when my mom volunteered there and brought my brother and me along. I remember exploring the old pump house along the creek, looking for tadpoles, frogs and turtles in the ponds, and counting the steps as we hiked up to "Foxrock" as we called it back then. As we hiked, Mom always pointed out the wildflowers and named other plants along the way, stopping to help us turn over the rocks in the creek as we looked for fossils and crawdads. She instilled in us her love and respect for nature, both big and small. I remember seeing the enormous fields of daffodils in the spring and looking for the delicate Dutchman’s breeches that always made us smile with their little upside-down pants waving in the breeze.
The Nature Center was a place to make new discoveries and to see how our old favorites changed throughout the seasons. We learned how to read the map and pick our course along the trail while we marveled at the old-growth trees and the tiny seedlings poking up through the earth. One of our traditions after each hike was to explore the ever-changing naturalist collection on the back porch—checking out what new bones or turtle shells might have arrived since our last visit. Back then we always got a Coke (in a bottle of course) and a pack of cheese peanut butter crackers that we would enjoy while sitting on the dock at Powel Crosley Lake looking for turtles and talked about our favorite discoveries from the day. If it was a wintery or a cold day, we enjoyed a hot chocolate next to the big stone fireplace that used to be in the visitor’s center and sometimes got to pick out a special treasure from the gift shop.
I moved away from Cincinnati in the late '90s but would sometimes get back out to CNC for a visit when I was in town to see family. When our mom passed away in 2015 my brother and I wanted to remember her in a special way and decided to support the Nature Center and honor her memory with a commemorative bench along one of her favorite trails. Since then, whenever I am in town, I visit and make a special stop at Mom’s bench on the Wildflower Trail. I got to spend my 50th birthday this year with a visit to her bench and thought about all of the time we spent together hiking the trails at CNC. I know how much she loved this place, being out in nature, as well as the importance of educating people about conservation and making sure everyone has access to these special spaces.
A lot has changed at CNC since I was a kid—there are new trails to explore and awesome new exhibits to engage and educate its visitors. I loved discovering wildflowers in spring along the Fernwood Trail during one of the guided walks and seeing the beautiful Groesbeck Estate. The Lookout Trail is an awesome adventure and it was really neat to learn about the Milkweed to Monarchs program and the important conservation work happening in that area. What hasn’t changed is the peacefulness I experience while hiking the trails at Cincinnati Nature Center and it still makes me feel like a kid again when I turn over rocks in the creek, looking for newts and fossils, or spying a delicately woven bird’s nest tucked into a tree branch.
During the Covid pandemic, my husband and I moved back to the Cincinnati area to care for my father and CNC became our primary place to get away. We hiked here almost every weekend regardless of the weather and we really got to know the terrain and the trails in a new way. Seeing the landscape in the winter months gave me a fresh understanding of the geography which was really neat. Hiking season is year-round as long as you have the right gear and I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy this beautiful location throughout all of the seasons. It truly is a special place and I know it will continue to inspire everyone who spends time here. I look forward to a visit to my ‘happy place’ in the future to see how Cincinnati Nature Center continues to grow, year after year.