The damp woods are at their colorful best for wildflowers in April and May. Wildflowers include twinleaf, bluebells, sessile trillium, large-flowered trillium, drooping trillium, ginger, bloodroot, marsh marigold, hepatica, wild hyacinth, golden saxifrage, dwarf ginseng and showy orchis.
The Sassafras Trail features one of the largest sassafras trees in the state of Ohio, 4 feet in diameter. Sassafras is a member of the laurel family and was once used as the flavoring in root beer.
The preserve has few amenities, no restrooms or picnic areas. There is an information kiosk near the parking lot, and small bridges and wooden boardwalks in swampy areas.
For more information, contact the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, 614-265-6561, http://www.ohiodnr.com.
You can also access the Vermilion River and its cliffs at the Vermilion River Reservation, a 1,301-acre tract in western Lorain County, north of the state preserve.
It is at 51211 North Ridge Road in Brownhelm Township, a great place for a picnic or a short hike. It is owned and operated by the Lorain County Park District and includes the Mill Hollow and Bacon Woods parks on opposite sides of the river.
Settler Benjamin Bacon arrived from New England in 1817. The small community was initially called Brownhelm Mills; later it became Mill Hollow. The mill and town thrived until about 1900, although Mill Hollow peaked in the 1860s.
An 1845 Greek Revival house built by Bacon is a museum in the park. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. Call 440-967-7310 for hours and tour information.
You can find the sites of old mills and even the remnants of a millrace, or ditch, that was built in 1825 to divert water from the river to power the sawmill and gristmill.
For more information, contact the Lorain County Park District at 440-458-5121 or 800-526-7275, http://www.metroparks.cc. Call the park at 440-967-7310.
Another nearby outdoor option is Findley State Park in southern Lorain County. The 931-acre park off state Route 58 features a charming woodland, 14.9 miles of hiking trails and nine miles of single-track mountain bike trails that circle the lake.
The park also features a 1.2-mile nature trail with 15 self-guiding stops, an 18-hole disc golf course, a geocaching course and eight picnic areas.
The campground with 231 sites and three cabins lies on the southeast edge of 93-acre Findley Lake. There is a 435-foot grassy beach and marina concession on the lake's north side. Canoes and rowboats are available. Electric motors are permitted.
The land south of Oberlin was part of a rich farm area known as Cheesedom. Lorain County once produced 1 pound of cheese for every man, woman and child in Ohio.
The area was farmland until it was donated to the state in 1936-1937 by Guy B. Findley, a Lorain County judge. He had begun purchasing local farms outside Wellington starting in the 1920s to return them to woodlands.
He donated the land to the state of Ohio to be maintained as a state forest after the Civilian Conservation Corps planted an estimated half million pines and hardwoods. Findley helped plant the trees himself.
He struck up a friendship with author and noted conservationist Louis Bromfield, who had recently returned to Ohio, and whose Richland County farm later became Malabar Farm State Park.
In 1950, Findley's land was transferred to the newly formed Division of Parks.
The park also features a habitat for a rare butterfly, the Duke's skipper. It is a small, brown butterfly with yellow spots. It favors shaded wetland areas.
Wellington is also home to painter Archibald M. Willard, who painted the Spirit of '76. About 75 percent of the town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For information, contact Findley Lake State Park, 440-647-5749, http://www.ohiodnr.com.
Bob Downing: firstname.lastname@example.org