Historic Host: Bed-and-breakfast proprietor offers whimsical lodging options with colorful histories in Hocking Hills area

Bed-and-breakfast proprietor offers whimsical lodging options with colorful histories in Hocking Hills area

Many people travel to Ohio’s Hocking Hills region to explore its breathtaking waterfalls, caves and hollows by day, then burrow inside a cozy cabin at night.

The scenery changes with the season and keeps people coming back year after year. But numerous cabins remain blandly familiar: log furniture, countrified decorations and a hot tub.

A unique lodging option in the Hills hearkens to the past. Historic Host offers a handful of bed-and-breakfast properties with fascinating histories. Travelers can stay in a cute cottage with a 1930s kitchen containing a collection of vintage cookie jars. Or they can bundle up in a century-old general store with shelves of touchable “merchandise,” such as stuffed animals and wooden cribs.

Overnight stays include breakfast, and a portion of the lodging fees goes toward restoration of more dilapidated buildings.

  • Fiddlestix Village is a whimsical raodside stop in Creola for visitors to sleep and eat.
  • Sue Maxwell
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“I call it sustainable preservation through tourism,” says Sue Maxwell, who started Historic Host in 2007 with her late husband, Jim Maxwell. In less than a decade, she’s transformed a collection of neglected buildings into unique tourist destinations that respect the history of this scenic Appalachian region in southern Ohio.

“My daughters like to rescue stray cats,” Maxwell says. “I like to rescue stray buildings.”

My family recently visited a 5-acre lot just north of McArthur, Ohio, that Maxwell affectionately named Fiddlestix Village. The whimsical, roadside stop incorporates old and new structures on a plot of land off state Rt. 93 in Creola.

At the heart of the complex is the Appalachian Quilt Cottage, a red, two-bedroom cabin that dates to the 1920s. At one time it served as a farmhouse for a nine-member family.

Sue learned of the building’s history through her visitors. One person told her that the front room once served as a roadside store where the owners sold eggs and homemade breads.

Another accommodation is a cottage holding hundreds of salt-and-pepper shakers that Sue found at auctions, antique shops and thrift stores. She’s billing it as a museum.

But the latest and most playful arrivals are a 1926 B&O caboose that comfortably sleeps two, and an old general store that my children especially enjoyed.

The front of the Martin Store resembles an old country shop, while the rear of the building has a bathroom and a cozy bedroom with a king-sized bed.

Like the other properties, Sue fell for the decaying, 1922-built structure at first sight along a stretch of U.S. Rt. 50 that crossed rural Vinton County. She saw potential and tracked down its owner, sharing her idea of preservation.

“If you can move it, you can have it,” he told her.

For more information, call 1-877-364-4786 or visit www.historichost.com.

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Olentangy Greenway Trail: Fun along a slice of Columbus’ multipurpose trail

Fun along a slice of Columbus’ multipurpose trail

Bikers, rollerbladers, joggers and dog walkers. All enjoy the Olentangy Greenway Trail. The nearly 14-mile multipurpose trail runs from Worthington Hills in the north to downtown Columbus in the south, cutting through the Ohio State University campus along the way.

The trail is managed by Columbus Metro Parks and meanders alongside the Olentangy River, passing playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, and a skateboard park. It’s flat, nicely paved and well marked.

My family’s favorite sections are at Antrim and Whetstone parks – perfect trailheads for those wanting to investigate this path for the first time.

  • Olentangy Greenway Trail
  • Fun along a slice of Columbus’ multipurpose trail
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Some may be turned off, though, by how crowded this trail gets, especially on weekends, or by the steady hum of traffic along Rt. 315. But if you time your visits wisely and drown out the sound with conversation or music – or pretend it’s the ocean – it’s almost always a pleasant experience.

We recently examined familiar sites while taking what we called a “wagon adventure” along a shaded portion of the trail at Whetstone Park. We started near the entrance to the Park of Roses, where there are bike racks and an air pump.

I pulled Max and Rosie in their wagon even though space is getting a bit tight and they’re getting a bit heavy. The wagon made for short rides and quick stops along the trail and kept them safe from cyclists whizzing by.

We first arrived at the Whetstone Prairie and Native Habitat. They hopped out and investigated a mowed path, between tall grasses, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and sunflowers. Butterflies and dragonflies fluttered about.

They hopped back in for a short pull to a muddy entry near a creek. They foraged around the water, intrigued by a beaver dam. They could have played here all day.

Back in the wagon we rolled north on the trail to a covered walkway that adjoins the path and leads trail-goers over the Olentangy River and Rt. 315. I thought Max and Rosie would enjoy a look at traffic from above. The sight, however, was more frightening than fun for 6-year-old Max.

Back on the Greenway Trail we headed for the duck pond to feed some geese. Then we ventured to the playground where we ate at a nearby picnic table. It was a fine ending to a fun afternoon adventure.

Learn more about the Olentangy Greenway Trail and view maps.


Note: From August 2015 through the fall of 2016, a portion of the Olentangy Greenway Trail located under I-270 will be closed due to construction on the interstate. Learn more at www.270-23.com.

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The Blueberry Patch: Head to Mansfield to pick your own plump berries

Head to Mansfield to pick your own plump berries

If you typically avoid the tasteless blueberries that often populate your local supermarket, there’s no need to plan a trip to Maine to pick your own. Just head to the Blueberry Patch in Mansfield.

The Blueberry Patch is Ohio’s largest blueberry farm, 45 minutes northeast of Columbus. Steve and Lisa Beilstein began planting the now well-established bushes in 1981, and their foresight has paid off. The 27-acre patch yields plump, tasty berries that are easy to pick.

  • The Blueberry Patch
  • Head to Mansfield to pick your own plump berries
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Seventeen varieties of blueberries grow in the ideal sandy and acidy soil where thousands of honeybees are needed per acre for pollination.

Blueberry season is from late June through August. We arrived in late July to pick mid-season berries called Blue Ray, which are large and flavorful. Each member of our family was given a plastic bucket to take to a designated area in the patch. Rows and rows of bushes were loaded with blueberries, ready to pluck at our leisure. We combined our buckets into one then had them weighed. We paid $20 for four pounds of berries.

Stick around to see all the blueberry products in the gift shop. Troyer Home Pantry in Apple Creek, Ohio, uses the blueberries to make pies and jams. Also on site is a greenhouse, coffee beanery and Blossoms Cafe, where you can get brunch after morning berry picking, which begins daily at 8 a.m. The cafe is open until 4 p.m.

I had the quiche with a warm blueberry muffin, fresh fruit salad and blueberry iced tea, which was delicious. Of course you also can get blueberry smoothies, shakes and parfaits.

On a future trip, I’ll take time to enjoy the onsite winery aptly called Winery 1285 for its address. Sample a selection of wines including dry and sweet blueberry varieties, order wood-fired pizza or even participate in a “wine and paint” party. This handsome bar could fit into a vibrant Columbus neighborhood.

Once home, Mike transformed our blueberries into tasty scones, a sauce for angel-food cake and frozen yogurt.

Can’t make it to Mansfield in the near future? Blueberry Patch berries also are sold at central Ohio farmers markets including the Clintonville and Worthington markets.

The Blueberry Patch is located at 1285 W. Hanley Rd., in Mansfield. For more information, call 419-884-1797 or visit theblueberrypatch.org.

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