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Enjoying the beautiful views at Oregon Ridge Park

Now that the winter holidays are over, the cold days and decreased sunlight can have a tendency to keep us indoors, and the winter blues can set in. According to the Mayo Clinic, seasonal affective disorder is a kind of depression that can lead to weight gain, low energy level, lack of interest in normal activities, difficulty sleeping and irritability. Some suggestions the clinic gives to battle this depression, in addition to treatment prescribed by a physician, are to get outdoors, take a walk and exercise on a regular basis. I know that in my case, just a little time outside each day soaking in the sunshine can brighten my spirit.

If you have an early day off of work, or are home for the day with your kids, try taking the short 15-minute drive through picturesque Green Spring Valley that will take you to Oregon Ridge Park. Oregon Ridge Park is a popular area park located off of Beaver Dam Road in Cockeysville that is overseen by the Baltimore County Department of Recreation & Parks. In the summer, this park is a great spot to escape the heat, as it has a large pond and beach area with shallow and deep water for swimming. There is also a picnic area, a concession stand, volleyball courts and a party rental area. There are also beautiful gardens there. planted by local nature groups and Boy Scout troops including a pollinator buffet, a vegetable garden and a butterfly garden. Even though there are colorful plants and trees to enjoy and refreshing water to take a dip in during the warmer months, the crisp winter air and wide open views of the wooded paths make the park enjoyable in the winter months, as well.

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Oregon Ridge Park has two play areas for children. There is a large play structure with multiple slides, swings and climbing areas located near the lodge and swimming area entrance. There is also a man-made, more natural play area near the Nature Center that was created by a local Boy Scout for his eagle project. This area has many logs to hop around on, as well as carved benches, a sandbox and a few see-saws to enjoy. The park also has many other exciting exhibits that serve to bring awareness about the Baltimore County area's unique natural history. The Nature Center is open year-round Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In the center, visitors can see many exhibits focusing on the ecology in the area, as well as many live animals including reptiles, bees and fish.

The park also hosts many activities, events and clubs throughout the winter for children and adults. For children, there is a Kinder Garden Club and a Bookworm Storytime Club. There are also weekend animal encounters as well as maple syrup-making weekends. The activities are either free or cost a minimal fee for supplies and are listed on the Oregon Nature Center's website.

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My favorite part of Oregon Ridge Park is the extensive hiking trails. In the winter when there are fewer leaves on the trees, you can see far ahead in the distance and enjoy gorgeous views of the lake and streams as you are walking. There are several trails ranging from .2 miles to 1.6 miles. One of my favorite trails is the Loggers Red Trail. It begins over a wonderful wooden bridge extended over an old iron ore pit. Oregon Ridge Park was once an iron-ore mine in the 19th century. At the mouth of the pit is an area with benches and a fire pit. At the end of the bridge, there is a sign that reads "Welcome to the Eastern Deciduous Forest," and a choice to go either left or right on the trail. If you go to the left, the trail will take you to the lake, but if you go to the right, the trail will take you up an incline to the edge of the woods. The trail then wraps around for a total of 1.6 miles leading you to a beautiful overlook and what was once an old ski slope with tow rope. After the overlook, you then descend downhill and back to the parking lot.

The park has a nice handicap accessible trail that is paved and would also be good for parents with strollers. Along this trail, you will find displays that give you an idea of the history of the area as well as the natural habitat you are surrounded by.

On the way out of the park, be sure to stop and see — and hear — the chickens, geese and big turkeys that are always delighted to get some attention. It is a blast to watch them interact with each other and their visitors.

Oregon Ridge Park is located at 13555 Beaver Dam Road in Cockeysville.

Kelly Scible is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached at kellyscible@gmail.com.

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