The Woods Next Door


A long time ago, I read something to the effect that a few days spent in a new place will have you discovering far more about its sights and attractions than living in one place for years.

And there’s a lot of truth to that. Once we settle somewhere, most of us quickly fall into a routine, take the same route, see the same things over and over. It’s something I kept in mind as I started walking more and gave up my car years ago, and even now I find places around town that I’ve never seen — or never looked at — before.

So really, I’m not surprised it took me 20 years to “discover” Johnson Woods State Nature Preserve, located just north of Orrville, our neighbor to the east. Located amidst thousands of acres of prime Ohio farmland, Johnson Woods is one of the largest old-growth forests in Ohio, with red and white oaks dating back over 400 years and many ash, pine, maple, and other trees adding variety to the mix.

A boardwalk trail guides you through the 200 acres of woods, meandering through groves as well as swampy areas that feature red maples, buttonbush, and many different wildflowers throughout the seasons. Plenty of jewelweed cropped up along the path — a good thing, since I also spotted plenty of poison ivy and was glad to have a natural remedy at hand should I accidentally make contact!

The woods provide a beautiful, peaceful place for the traveler who finds the preserve, but I suspect not many people really know about the place. My friend and I seemed to be the only ones around this afternoon (aside from the occasional swarm of mosquitoes and midge-like insects that dogged us throughout the walk), though we did meet a father and his two young sons in the parking lot afterward.

I’m now curious to visit other state nature preserves, so my hiking goal list is growing longer all the time! And I’ll have to get back out here this autumn to see the changes in color and light as the leaves turn and fall.


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