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    Down & Dirty

    For those who enjoy the outdoors and getting back to nature, your day begins at Culberson State Nature Preserve, a 238 acre preserve that is one of the few examples of the white swamp forest which once covered the uplands of southwestern Ohio. The forest grows on poorly drained, white clay soil which formed on the glacial materials deposited during the Illinoian glacial period. The swamp forest is dominated by red maple and pin oak with substantial stands of shagbark hickory, shellbark hickory, swamp white oak, American elm and sweet gum. The northern shrub, winterberry, grows here near its southern limit, while the sweet gum, a southern species, is near its northern limit. Summer wildflowers include purple fringeless orchid and cardinal flower. The state-listed northern fox grape also occurs here. Culberson is the perfect setting for camera buffs and bird watchers. After leaving Culberson, it's on to Cowan Lake State Park for a special lunch in the commissary. After a little rest and nourishment, the park's naturalist will reveal the story about the lake and how it was used for missile testing. Then you're off to discover the beauties of Cowan on foot. The park provides four miles of hiking trails. A Lotus Cove self-guided trail provides a boardwalk view of an American Lotus (water lily) colony while the Emerald Woods Trail meanders through a mature beech forest. Next it's on to the marina for a Cowan Lake pontoon tour which takes in many of the lake's coves. It's time to check in at your hotel and rest up before a dinner at the Spillway Lodge famous for their steaks and crab legs. Get a good night's sleep because following breakfast the next morning, a new day begins with a trip to Collett Woods, a 60 acres Nature Preserve. The preserves' forest is dominated by American Beech, Sugar Maple, White Ash, White Oak, and Black Walnut. Wild Black Cherry, Hackberry and Shagbark Hickory are also found in limited quantity. Also found is the Spicebush, Dogwood and PawPaw, as well as plant life including the Giant Trillium, Jack-In-The-Pulpit, Leeks, Spring Beauties, Stinging Nettle, Trout Lilly and numerous wildflowers from late March through May. Over 58 species of birds are known to breed within one mile of these woods with at least another 100+ species migrating through the preserve in the fall and spring migration. It's time for lunch at Young's Jersey Dairy, with home-style cooking. After lunch it's on to Yellow Springs and a visit to the Glen Helen Nature Preserve; a 1,000 acre nature preserve with hiking, raptor center and trailside museum.