The events of the past week sparked a memory in my mind. I recall coming home from Oklahoma in 1999, the tornado that had touched down in Moore fresh in my mind. The sights of misery and destruction, the close calls and the too close calls all muddied up my mind, so many changes in my life, it was hard to get my bearings and my head seemed to spin around me in the tail winds of that twister. But it was autumn now, and I was home again, camping at what I considered my Home Base Campground, Findley State Park near Wellington. As the cool autumn air settled in and the morning sunlight climbed down from the treetops, the meddlesome cawing of crows was my waking alarm. Before I could even open my eyes, I smiled. Finally, I felt like I was really home.
There are dozens of state parks in Ohio, and I think I’ve visited most of them in my wide-ranging outdoor career. There are perhaps six I visit every year, like favorite grandchildren I want to spend more time with. But Findley will always feel like home base to me. I know every inch of shoreline, I’ve mapped every tree here as a boy pretending to be the fierce Erie warrior creeping through his woods. These pavilions will forever echo with the laughter of long passed relatives on a spring picnic, and my children will always whine when it’s time to get off the monkey bars and go home, like my sisters and I so many years ago . As beautiful as the weather might be today, in your memory all the blues of the sky seem deeper, all the greens seem greener, and life itself has a golden glow like an old Kodachrome snapshot.
I remember driving down to the boat ramp for a grandfather-father-son fishing trip, all piled into Grandpa’s behemoth Mercury, when a squall came in and it poured on us. We three generations sat happily in the car, eating chicken salad sandwiches from waxed paper wrappers while cans of Cherokee Red pop and Fresca rested on the open glove compartment door and the AM radio crackled with the lightning. As beautiful as the view is from the shore there today, I can’t shake the beautiful memory of that rainy day.
I recall winter camping when I sent two of the Scouts out to gather firewood and they came back dragging a twenty foot fallen evergreen like a couple of draft horses on the hitch. Or the memory sitting here on the top of that picnic table, our feet resting on the bench, eating fried chicken from a box with my high school girlfriend wondering what will happen after graduation day. You probably have your own special memory of Lorain County’s only state park.
Memories at Findley are for the making, and then you keep them handy in your pocket forever like so many lucky stones. Amongst the deer, turkey, red fox, beaver, raccoons, and shoreline wildlife you’re bound to see here on any given day there is a dedicated area of butterfly sanctuary. With 271 campsites, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, a nine mile bike trail, sixteen miles of hiking trail, dozens of picnic areas, some of the best and most diverse inland fishing in the area, a disk golf course and (Can you dig it?) ICE CREAM AT THE CONCESSION STAND…you’re not ever going to run out of things to do at Findley State Park in the summertime! Get going down Route 58 and get outdoors!