LITTLE HOCKING-About a year ago, Marietta resident Mary Vituccio was looking for something new to experience with an old friend, a journey that eventually led her to Firefly Hollow in Little Hocking.
The two took a Segway tour through the wooded hills there for her friend's birthday and Vituccio was so pleased with the experience, she bought gift certificates for her brother and sister-in-law so they, too, could try it out.
"It was a great out-of-the-box (experience) - something sort of different - and neither one of us had ever ridden Segways so we were sort of apprehensive, but they were really quite easy," said Vituccio, of Marietta.
ASHLEY RITTENHOUSE The Marietta Times
Lee Underschultz, owner of Firefly Hollow, rides a Segway on her property in Little Hocking Friday. Segway tours are offered there, during which riders learn about the various species of birds and plants on the property. There are also day lily gardens there, from which visitors can purchase day lilies.
Lee Underschultz is the owner of Firefly Hollow, located not too far off U.S. 50 in Little Hocking.
On her 95 acres of property - much of which used to be an apple orchard - there are more than 20 beds filled with day lilies for sale and myriad species of plants and birds. She also has a sign shop there and offers a service where she sandblasts designs onto stone and glass.
About three years ago, she started offering Segway tours. During the tours, Underschultz teaches visitors about the different types of birds and plants on the property.
Located at 29998 Houston Road, Little Hocking.
Call 989-2405 to schedule a visit.
Segway tours are typically offered from May to October. There is a $45 fee per rider, with veterans and active duty military personnel able to take the tour for free when accompanied by someone paying regular price. Up to five people can go on a Segway tour at one time.
Long pants and closed toe shoes are recommended. Riders must be 18 or older and weigh between 100 and 250 pounds.
For information, visit www.fhsigns.com
Directions from Marietta:
Take Ohio 7 south to U.S. 50.
Travel on U.S. 50 until reaching Federal Road in Little Hocking.
Turn right onto Federal Road and travel until reaching box number 29998, near the intersection of Federal and Sawyer Run Roads.
A total of about 150 people - some from as far away as Illinois and Pittsburgh, Pa. -have ridden Segways on Underschultz's property. October is the busiest month for the tours, when the weather is cool and the leaves are changing color.
"It's such a beautiful piece of land and the more I see places disappearing, I thought it was time to share what we've got," she said. "What got me into (the Segways) is the fact that they're quiet and electric and don't scare off the wildlife."
There are many different models of Segways available. Underschultz's Segways each have two tires and are each run on a battery. Riders operate the units by standing on them and leaning from side to side and using handlebars to control direction and leaning back and forth to control speed.
The large tires with low air pressure on Underschultz's Segways are perfect for the hills on her property. They're also ideal for folks who want to take in nature but are physically unable to hike.
"The terrain at Lee's farm would have been challenging to hike but the Segways shot up the hill," Vituccio said.
Before heading out on a Segway at Firefly Hollow, there is an instructional DVD visitors must watch. After that, they spend a little time riding around the day lily beds, getting used to the Segway.
After that, visitors head out on the three miles of wooded trails, some of which lie in Washington County and some of which are located in Athens County. Including the training session and the tour itself, the Segway tour is about two hours.
Underschultz said most folks pick up on how to operate the Segway very quickly but those who are uncomfortable on it are more than welcome to walk. Even one of her friends who was 65 and had never ridden a bicycle found it to be very easy, she said.
Although it will travel 12 miles per hour, she instructs riders to travel in "turtle mode," enabling them to go no more than six miles per hour.
Underschultz said more than 80 species of birds have been spotted on the property, including the blue-winged warbler, fox sparrow and green heron. She listens carefully during the tour and tries to get the attention of the birds she hears by using a bird calling program called birdJam.
She's also able to identify birds using the program, which is operated from an iPod.
"We have cerulean warblers - they're just around the edge of the threatened list," she said.
There are also several varieties of plants, including joe pye weed, jewel weed, pokeweed, spicebush and St. John's wort.
"You just never know what you're going to find," Underschultz said. "A few weeks ago I was on a tour and we happened to catch some baby hawks that had just left the nest."
"You just see all sorts of wild things out there," she said.