In chaotic times, nature offers consistency

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Mohican State Park
Mohican State Park, via Ohio Department of Natural Resources. (http://fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov/photos?aid=17).

Welcome to level 10 of the year 2020. We can only wonder what the final two levels of this unprecedented year will bring to us.

I often think of the cliché saying, “every cloud has a silver lining.” My grandmother used to say this along with “it’s always darkest before the dawn.” I’d say we’ve all heard or muttered this at some point this year.

One thing that has been true in this year of inconsistent is the need for escape, and a way to bring back some stability and consistency in our lives.

True constant

In my short time on this earth, I’ve learned of one true constant, and that is Mother Nature. I’ve always been in the outdoors. I grew up outside with my grandfather helping with cattle and on his tree farm, hunting, fishing and hiking. It’s part of why I chose to pursue the profession that I did.

I remember when I started at Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District, my boss at the time asked me what it was that I wanted to really accomplish. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that I wanted to help get people excited about the outdoors — whether it was hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking or bird watching or whatever it may be, that was my goal.

I recently just got back from a hiatus to northern Michigan with my bird dog pursuing ruffed grouse. We had a literal blast up there, but I couldn’t help but notice a new trend.

People everywhere

I’ve been going to this part of Michigan for the past few years and one thing truly stood out — I could not get away from people The campground I camped in was packed to the gills on the weekends. I constantly was running into all sorts of users flocking to Michigan’s public lands to utilize. There were tons of bow hunters pursuing white-tailed deer, elk hunters, kayakers, mountain bikers, ATV riders, horseback riders, anglers — you name it, and they were there.

I was hunting way back in some thick coverts for grouse. Suddenly my dog, Flint, ran out way ahead of me on an old logging trail and greeted a whole family of folks out hiking. I’d hunted this covert numerous times and never ran into anyone remotely close to here.

At one time one of the couples there used to raise German shorthaired pointers, and they were glad to meet mine. We chatted on the trail, I took a family photo for them, and we went about our separate ways.

It was so bizarre to see a copious amount of people out and about. There were numerous times I drove way out to hunt a covert and there would already be a vehicle in the spot. Whether they were there for the same pursuits as myself wasn’t the point. The point is that people were utilizing and taking advantage of nature — its aesthetics, sustainability, comfort, its consistency. No matter what is going on in the world, you can always come home to Mother Nature because she tends to know how to take care of us.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has been busy lately working on acquiring property for the public to take full advantage of all the values of nature.

According to ODNR’s website, Jesse Owens State Park and the Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area, accounts for more than 38,000 acres for hunting, fishing, trapping, kayaking, hiking, etc.

These lands are open and available for all nature enthusiasts to use and enjoy thanks to the hard work of our friends at ODNR and The Ohio Division of Wildlife. This former mine ground (formerly AEP Recreational Lands) is full of diverse habitats for all forms of flora and fauna to call home and provides a unique opportunity to anyone open to visiting southeastern Ohio. AEP still owns approximately 18,000 acres and requires a free user permit on their property.

Nature

Some scholars and books will tell you that there are a specific number of values associated with nature and how they can be viewed and enjoyed from aesthetics to economic impact. Though they are true, you don’t need a scholar, a book, a statistic or anyone to tell you how nature can make you feel.

This year has been hard on everyone, socially, financially, mentally and physically exhausting at times. But it sure is nice to have a constant to go back to, and for that I’m thankful.

I’m glad to see campgrounds with families, lakes and ponds full of folks making memories, and trailheads full of folks heading somewhere all searching for something different. In all of this, that is my silver lining — the abundance of opportunity we have for a shift in our perspective is my approaching dawn through the darkness.

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Levi Arnold is the agriculture technician for the Belmont County Soil and Water Conservation District. He is a recent graduate of Zane State College with a degree in wildlife and fisheries management.

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