Winter offers new slate of local activities

Upper Falls in Hocking Hills State Park is apt to freeze throughout the winter, providing picturesque locations to observe wildlife while on a winter hike. (Photo courtesy of Hocking Hills State Park)

Winter blues have you dreaming of spring and summer?

Never fear, say local residents, activities both indoor and out are available in the area for all ages in the coming snowy days.

“It’s definitely a more challenging time to find things to do, but with a little investment there are many things you can do in winter,” said Matt Halfhill, co-owner of Halfhill Farm in Whipple.

And the opportunities locally, or even with a slight drive, abound.

“Even in cold weather I love walking by the rivers especially if the sun is shining,” said retiree Vicki Ayers, of Oak Grove. “(Then) if the weather gets really awful I love to read. I always keep a supply of books on hand. (The) Ely Chapman book giveaway and the used book sale at the Washington County Public Library help me build my winter stockpile.”

For the athletes: there are polar plunges, winter hikes, ski and snowboard spots dotting the tri-state area within a three-hour drive.

“The runners and walkers club in Parkersburg has a winter 5-kilometer series,” said Reanna Sturm, 23, of Marietta. “I just started doing it this year with my family but it’s fun and keeps you in shape in the winter.”

Snow Trails in Mansfield holds glow tubing Thursday through Sunday nights with tickets on sale beginning Monday mornings each week.

A polar plunge benefitting those with disabilities will be held in Albany on Jan. 26 at 10 a.m.

Oglebay in Wheeling is hosting a “Soup-er Bowl” hike on Feb. 2 with soups and hours of snow-covered trails planned.

And of course, Hocking Hills is still a destination for riveting visuals even in this coldest season with winter hikes available between Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls and Ash Cave (total 6 miles) both this Saturday and a guided hike available on Jan. 19.

“And we have many other activities throughout the season, but it’s truly a winter wonderland,” said Park Naturalist Patrick Quackenbush. “We are known as a cliff and gorge system with waterfalls and in the winter those waterfalls freeze, which is beautiful.”

Quackenbush said the park system also boasts greater wildlife visibility during the winter months.

“A lot more wildlife comes out because they’re searching for more food and they’re less shy,” he explained. “Some songbirds come just in the wintertime, too.”

He said if you’re venturing outside though, do dress for the weather and keep in mind where you set foot.

“Make sure to have hiking boots and it’s slick so good poles are also beneficial,” he said.

For those who are creative there are workshops, paint nights, classes and family craft nights scheduled across the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Today from 6 p.m. to 7:30 the Friendship Kitchen in Parkersburg is hosting a family night out to encourage wintery crafts.

Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. Building Bridges to Careers in Harmar is hosting a pour painting class.

Likewise, Marietta College is hosting a Maple Syrup Workshop with the Friends of the Lower Muskingum River from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s a hobby-level workshop,” explained Halfhill, who is also a board member of FLMR. “It’s mainly for people who would want to make enough syrup for family and friends over the winter. It’s an enjoyable hobby to get to do out when it’s colder.”

Additionally the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens is offering ceramics courses for adults and additional teen and elementary afterschool classes and singular workshops throughout the winter season.

“Plus we have the upcoming opening of our newest exhibit, Athens Voices, that opens Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. and we’ll have our cash bar and light hors-d’oeuvres,” explained Lyn Stanton, education director. “And at least once monthly, typically on the third Thursday, we make use of our liquor license for more than just special events and have a painting happy hour.”

That painting class will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m, and costs $25 per adult. The exhibit features voices of residents from different Athens cities across the country, she said.

“And our drop-in classes, they’re really relaxing,” Stanton explained. “My happy hour painting events are to painting what karaoke is to singing, it’s just fun.”

Also in Athens is the Bird Arena at Ohio University, home to the Bobcats hockey team (cue date night, family outing or parent-child outing plans) and available for daytime recreational skating Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and evening recreational skating between 6 and 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through the end of January and then again in the final three weeks of March.