This was our first hike at Stanbery Park, a 125 acre Cincinnati Park Board facility that was recommended by a friend. It was relatively close to home for this winter hike and, based on on-line reviews, considered by many to be the best “hiking” park in the Cincinnati Parks system.
Stanbery appears to be a generally well maintained park. It is integrated with the Mount Washington neighborhood and included on its “Go Vibrant” walking routes. The parking area is clean and opens upon the nucleus of a urban/suburban park setting, with a playground, walking oval, restrooms and picnic tables within view. This locus was heavily utilized even on this late January date.
We had reviewed the map and planned on hiking the trails that made a figure eight.
The trailhead for the Shoop trail is just west of the parking area and descends a slight grade with intermittent stairs. The trail runs parallel to a flowing creek, weaving through mature, but not old growth, oaks, sugar maples, and tulip poplars. Then, surprisingly, we saw a small cluster of hemlocks, something somewhat unusual in this part of the Ohio River Valley, and possibly just migrants from nearby residential property.
Before long we came upon these relics, suggesting a past use for this area of the park: Old concrete supports for picnic tables, minus the wood seats and table tops, and a partial well formed wall or bridge pier at the edge of the creek.
One can envision the families and groups that got together here to share their love and camaraderie in times past.
At this point we realized that we were not alone. There was near constant bird activity centered along the flowing stream and nearby dead tree snags.
A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers.
A highlight of my day was seeing this Eastern Bluebird which I consider a somewhat rare winter siting in this relatively urban/suburban area.
The photographer did a great job capturing the outstanding coloration on the head of this Le Conte’s Sparrow, which nests in central Canada, migrates through our part of the midwest, and winters in the American South. Notice the well demarcated gold swath just above the eye. I would say that he is a bit of a straggler.
The trail continued to mirror the creek and at one point got a little treacherous due to a small landside that made staying out of the creek a challenge, especially given the snow covered terrain.
Here we came upon some winter color in the form of the “soft” mast that supplies winter nutrition to the park’s wildlife. They look similar and both are members of the bittersweet family. The first is a vine, American Bittersweet, Celastrus scandens, and the second is Burning Bush, either Euonymus alatus, a plant of Asian, origin or Euonymys atropurpureus, a native species. Differentiation of the two appears to depend upon quantifying the degree of “wings” involving the bark of the branches. If you look at the stem of the Burning Bush you will see the “winged” bark that helps you identify it in the winter.
The trail then twice crossed the ice covered creek. The footing was sound yet we could hear water flowing beneath the surface.
The only mechanized sounds that we were hearing at this point was the occasional small plane from the nearby Lunken Airport.
One interesting observation was this rather immense log that appeared to be hanging precariously in the tree canopy. Given the attached leaves one would suspect that it fell sometime late this past summer or early fall, before the process of leaf fall began. It will be interesting to see how long it remains aloft, but I suspect many years.
At this point we anticipated finding the second loop of the figure eight but did not find it heading northwest off the Shoop trail as we expected. That may have been due to the snow on the trail and the fact that the regular users do not pursue that diversion. We opted to continue on the Shoop trail heading north and then east, on an arc toward the parking lot, and exited the wood on this hillside which showed evidence of being a well used neighborhood sledding track.
Plant of the Day – it is always a good day when you find an excellent American Holly specimen on your hike.
Texture of the Day
In Summary, the trails at Stanbery Park are extensive for an urban/suburban locale and wander through a mature deciduous wood. Like many woods in the region it does have a problem with invasive euonymus (Wintercreeper), and less so with bush honeysuckle. If this one visit is any indication, it is an excellent birding site, and probably benefits from the relative connectivity to the nearby greenspaces of Alms Park, California Woods Nature Preserve, and the Little Miami River valley. We would have to investigate it in the future, but I suspect that it has nice woodland wildflowers in the spring and good fall colors.
Photo credits to Peggy Juengling Burns.
Location – On the east side of Cincinnati, approximately 10 miles from downtown.
Parking – Asphalt lot.
Facilities – Restrooms are seasonal and currently closed.
Trail Conditions – Overall rating would be moderate due to terrain change, numerous sets of stairs, and tree roots.
Benches – None noted on the trail that we walked but there are numerous picnic tables and benches in the formal part of the park near the parking area.
Kids – Kids 5 and over should do well here with minimal assistance. The 1.3 mile distance of the Shoop trail is perfect for the 5-8 year olds.
Dogs –Welcomed while on a leash