After a wet week in Cincinnati we thought that it would be a good time to feature another “All Persons” trail. This park, and its 1.9 mile asphalt loop trail, lies in the flood plain of the Little Miami River on the eastern side of Cincinnati, in close proximity to Cincinnait’s original public airport, Lunken Field.
It appears that the site has largely been undeveloped, probably due to periodic flooding. Overall there were few trees and the ones that are there are typical of wetlands in the region, including Willow, Eastern Cottowood, Boxelder and Silver Maple. For the most part, the trees were small, suggesting that, perhaps until recently, the land was actively farmed.
It was the same periodic flooding, as well as the increased size of jets, that led to the development of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport across the river in Northern Kentucky, and the relegation of Lunken Field to function as a home to private planes, corporate jets, and small commuter airlines.
The loop trail is well maintained asphalt that winds its way through a field thick with flowering plants and some grasses.
Some vistas suggest that you are in an undeveloped area,
but turn your head 90 degrees and you see prime Cincinnati residential real estate perched on the hills overlooking the broad valley.
The park is managed to attract wildlife to this rather urban setting, including the placement of Bluebird boxes and Osprey nesting platforms.
The Osprey platform was 15 to 20 feet off the ground.
The rich soil of the flood plane, which makes for great agricultural production, allowed the field plants to grow to sizes not typically seen. The Ironweed was up to eight feet tall and the Goldenrod six.
We won’t even talk about the monstrous Ragweed that towered 4 feet above my head.
One of the interesting things about the flowering plants of late summer is that you frequently get the bold purples and yellows in close proximity. As we learned in grade school, colors on the opposite side of the color wheel, look good together. So it is in nature.
Jerusalem Artichoke with Aster
Wild Goldenglow with Ironweed
Two similar plants that we saw along the trail were Potato Vine, with the red eye, and Hedge Bindweed , which is a weed when it takes over in my garden, but looked outstanding here.
The Potato Vine grows off a tuber that can weigh up to 20 pounds and was an important nutrition source for Native Americans.
One of the interesting sightings that we saw along the route was this small Catalpa tree that appeared to be struggling, with most of its leaves destroyed.
As we got closer the cause was obvious. There were hundreds of Sphinx Moth caterpillars eating away on the leaves.
I suspect that, with the timing of this infestation, it will not be harmful for the tree as Catalpas are one of the first trees to loose its leaves in the fall and therefore its photosynthesis period was ending soon anyway.
Early in the hike I had noted that the air was so still that not even the Cottonwoods showed movement of their leaves. As we reached the halfway point of the oval however a slight breeze picked up and the Cottonwood leaves began their dance. Cottonwoods are relatives of the “Quaking” Aspens, and their leaf stems have similar shape and stem structure. What is the evolutionary advantage for having such pronounced leaf movement in the slightest of breezes? Does it protect them from insect infestation?
When outdoors in the heat of the summer one can hear the hum of Annual Cicadas in the background. In fact you can hear one in the background of the above video. While not as deafening as the Periodic Cicadas of last summer, the sound is similar. Here one rests on Ironweed flower head.
While walking the trail we looked for Monarch caterpillars on the abundant Milkweed plants along the path, but were unsuccessful. We did however, have an incidental sighting when reviewing this photo of a Monarch on some Swamp Milkweed, finding a Monarch caterpillar hidden on one of the leaves below the Monarch adult.
Two of the keys to a successful “all persons trail” is to have a change in scenery and to get patrons up close to nature. The Otto Armleder trail does that through a wide diversity of flowering plants.
Evening Primrose – whose flowers open in the evening, stay open overnight, and close by noon. It seeds are an important food source for birds.
Yellow Wingstem – also known as Yellow Ironweed. Named for the wings that are prominent on the lower part of the stem. I particularly like the texture of the flower buds before the petals go on display, which can be seen in the second photo.
Ashy Sunflower – named for the white appearance of its leaves and stems due to abundant white hairs.
Jerusalem Artichoke – another member of the Sunflower family, it was farmed by Native Americans who harvested its nutritious potato like tuber, that reportedly tastes similar to an artichoke. The term, Jerusalem, is a corruption of the Italian girasole, which means sunflower. Apparently when spoken in a southern Italian dialect, it sounded like Jerusalem.
One of the more attractive and interesting plants we saw were the mound like forms of the Biennial Gaura. They were found in clusters 5 feet high and wide, looking like a good sized flowering shrub.
But it was not a shrub, lacking woody stems, but rather, as the name suggests, a biennial herbaceous plant. Its flower up close appeared dainty.
With the arrival of late summer and early fall some of the color and structure noted in nature comes from the fruits of earlier flowers.
The trail’s proximity to Lunken Field provides added interest. On the day that we visited a collection of WWII planes were in Cincinnati, operating out of the small airport, allowing us to catch the photo of the B-25 noted in the title image.
We also routinely saw other private or corporate aircraft coming in for their landings.
In summary, the “All Person” Otto Armleder Trail is a worthwhile outing. Its 1.9 mile length gives a reasonable workout and the scenery is ever changing. It is generally in the sun so it would be ideal outing for a cool season walk. If someone wants to lengthen the walk they can continue onto the 1 mile connector trail the leads to the 5 mile loop trail around Lunken Airfield itself. While still asphalt, there are some grade changes to the connector and the Lunken trail.
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Photo credits to Peggy Juengling Burns.
Location – 7.5 miles east of Downtown Cincinnati on Wooster Pike.
Parking – Large asphalt lot.
Facilities – Porto-let.
Trail Conditions – well maintained asphalt loop trail. There is no grade change.
Benches – Several noted.
Picnic Tables – At the trailhead.
Kids – kids 4 and over should do well here. This is also a place where kids can ride bikes and parents can push strollers. The frequent plane sightings should entertain kids as well.
Dogs – Welcomed on a leash.
Suggested Paired Hikes – Walkers can extend there walk over to the Lunken Airport Loop walking/biking path.