A pocket of paradise amid urban sprawl

There’s a pocket of paradise amid urban sprawl on the Northwest Side of Columbus, where you’ll find rare plants in a wooded gorge and an impressive, 25-foot-high waterfall.

Located at 4335 Hayden Run Rd., near the intersection of Hayden Run Road and Riverside Drive, Hayden Falls has been drawing nature lovers and romantics for decades. Part of Griggs Nature Preserve, the small park offers spectacular rock formations, diverse plant life and a surprising waterfall, hidden from the nearby busy roads and close-knit homes.

The falls are visible above from two overlooks and below from a wooden boardwalk. For a close look, park in the little lot along Hayden Run Road, then descend a cliff by a wooden stairway. Walk the 150-foot boardwalk, alongside a sycamore-lined stream, toward the falls.

The stairway and boardwalk were added in 2006 to protect visitors from getting hurt and to protect the fragile ecosystem.

Water levels vary throughout the year – from trickling to gushing. For best views, visit after a hard rain in spring or during a cold spell when snow and ice turn the area into a winter wonderland.

There are no benches or bathrooms about, and a sign reads, “No swimming, wading, fishing, climbing or rappelling.” The sign also warns visitors to remain on the boardwalk or be prosecuted, although it’s evident that people disobey the sign. On a recent visit, I observed a tiny snowman near the falls.

The park, open daily from 7 a.m.-8 p.m., is managed by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.

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Introduce youngsters to ice skating during discounted noon sessions

Growing up on a farm in northeastern Ohio, I cherished the ice-skating moments that came and went with the changing seasons.

The perfect weather conditions turned our placid pond into a sheet of glass, where I’d glide all day alongside the barren, winter woods. The safety of the ice was gauged by my father, who’d measure its thickness while fetching water for our horse.

There was no cost or time limit to skate, and no blaring music, save for the songs in my head.

Introducing my 5-year-old daughter, Rosie, to the joys of ice skating doesn’t come as naturally, now living in the big city of Columbus. However, her options are far more plentiful than my own experiences as a child in Medina, Ohio. On any given day, there’s a safe place for her to skate within a short distance of our home.

One inexpensive way to introduce children to the skillful sport of ice skating is during an offbeat session at one of four OhioHealth Chiller public ice-skating facilities in Columbus, Dublin and Lewis Center.

Chiller Ice Rinks offers reduced-rate skating sessions at noon on weekdays. Admission is $4 from 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. Skate rental is $3. Longer sessions on weekends are twice as much for adults, but remain the same price for children ages four and younger.

I recently took Rosie to a noon skate at Chiller Easton, 3600 Chiller Lane, Columbus. My daughter took ice-skating lessons there at age four, but preferred the brief, freestyle sessions with “Mommy” that followed her grueling lessons.

The hourlong session was just the ticket to renew her interest. The Top-40 music pumping from the loudspeakers, and the sight of experienced athletes freely skating at center rink, propelled Rosie to release her death grip on the wall and drift beside mom.

Rosie’s childhood memories of ice skating will certainly be different than my own, but hopefully enough to glide her toward this healthy hobby in the future.

For more information about skating sessions, costs, hours and locations, visit www.thechiller.com.

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