Adventure abounds at Punderson State Park

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Punderson State Park
Julie Geiss enjoys a weekend with her family at Punderson State Park. (Julie Geiss photo)

Not everything always goes as planned on our adventures. Sometimes we have sinking ship moments where we’re floundering for life jackets. Not literal sinking ship moments, thank goodness, but moments filled with apprehension and then later self-reflection like, “What was I thinking? Where did I go wrong?”

Hidden gem

We had a free weekend in September for the first time in many years. Canceled soccer leagues and cross country meets opened up our calendar and allowed us to travel together to Punderson State Park in Newbury, Ohio.

I had heard this park being described as “a hidden gem.” Even with our mishap, I would wholeheartedly agree.

Cooler nights made it comfortable to sit around a campfire a little longer. It was also perfect weather for sleeping in cozy down-filled sleeping bags.

I wanted to remain snuggled in my sleeping bag, while others in our crew were very interested in early morning fishing in the 150-acre natural lake. My youngest son didn’t wake up for the sunrise either, so I promised him I would take him down to the boat launch to fish.

We rode our bikes along the tree-lined road a short distance from the campground to the boat launch. I was enjoying the brisk weather and blue skies while noting the tops of some trees just beginning to have an orange tint.

We were able to enjoy our hobbies side by side. He went fishing and I photographed nature, all was well. Our quintessential bonding moment was fleeting. I noticed he was flat on his belly while slapping his fishing pole into the water. Either he was drumming lily pads, or he lost his lure.

Bad luck

With one look at his frustrated expression, I knew it was the lure. I thought we could cut our losses but apparently, this wayward lure was special. Next thing I knew, I was down on the dock, too, attempting to snag the lily pad and lure with a stick. We were quickly becoming the local entertainment.

I finally caught the lure, but not before my husband ran by witnessing the ordeal. I stuffed the treasured lure in my pocket, and we jumped back on our bikes. I was pedaling again when I realized it was far too quiet. He was not behind me.

Back in the boat launch parking lot, he had a flat tire. Walking back to our campsite while balancing both bikes seemed like a much longer trip than the initial bike ride. He’s not one to be discouraged and quickly traded his bike for his older sister’s larger model.

Bike ride

We had already been fishing, lure rescuing, and bike walking before 10 a.m.; naturally, the next thing we added was a bike ride on an unfamiliar trail.

Punderson Lake and the surrounding area was gorgeous. We could see other nature enthusiasts hiking, paddle boarding and kayaking nearby. I think he was looking around too much because he didn’t notice a washout on the trail.

His front tire turned suddenly and he tumbled down with the bike on top of him. Braking and swerving, I ended up precariously towering over him while our bikes somehow formed a metal pretzel. How we untangled and remained unscathed remains a mystery.

With an extra dose of perseverance, we continued on the trail until we reached an incline. He could not ride his sister’s large bike up the hill. Side by side, and pulling two bikes, we trudged uphill.

Top of the hill

Finally at the top, we were greeted with an exquisite view of Punderson Manor. The Tudor style of architecture made us feel like we were in England. Stone masonry, exposed dark timber on the second floor, and diamond lead glass windows accentuated Punderson Manor State Park Lodge.

While we were sweaty and dusty, other guests of the park were enjoying beverages and snacks on the sloping hillside overlooking Punderson Lake. It was at that moment that I questioned my life choices, but really I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The rest of our camping trip went as smoothly as a kayak gliding on calm water. In addition to fishing, the boys spent many hours on the archery range improving their skills. The girls enjoyed hiking with their grandparents along the boardwalk trail through the marsh.

We can’t wait to try sledding and cross country skiing in the winter and maybe stay in the lodge or one of the cabins along the lake.

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