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Published: Sunday, 11/20/2005

Local author draws reader into nature

BY STEVE POLLICK
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

GREAT BLACK SWAMP WOODS & WANDERS. By Jim Mollenkopf. Lake of the Cat Publishing. 105 pages. $19.95

Often we go to wild places, natural patches, and historic grounds to reconnect, to get in touch with roots and memories that can fade or become muddied by the noise and over-revved pace of modern living.

In Great Black Swamp Woods & Wanders, local writer-naturalist Jim Mollenkopf takes readers on a written and photographic tour of some of his favorite natural historic places in the region - "Nature's Jewels in Northwest Ohio," as the book's subtitle reads. It is a trip worth taking.

Mollenkopf's fifth book - he previously has written about the Lake Erie shore, Great Black Swamp (two parts), and regional Civil War heroes - again shows his sense of place and his knack for drawing the reader into nature and natural history.

He visits 29 locales - parks, nature preserves, a lighthouse, and more - from Seneca County to Williams County, tracing his meanders in word and 60 color photographs.

"In my history books I try to let people know that a lot more interesting things happened here than they might think," said Mollenkopf. "In the same vein with this book I want to let people know that this area has a lot more beautiful natural areas than they might be aware of."

Woods & Wanders is not intended to be an exhaustive compilation of every wild or natural area in the region. There are sufficient guides for that. Instead the author selects places that "were saved by people of vision over the years where the rustle of insect wings and the arguments of frogs can still be heard, places where even a majestic bald eagle can be seen on the wing."

Some of the sites are "of course" choices - the Oak Openings, Goll Woods in Fulton County, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Others may be less familiar, such as Wintergarden/St. John's Preserve, right in the middle of Bowling Green. Some are unique, such as Old Woman Creek Estuary in Erie County - a rare freshwater estuary that is conserved as both a state nature preserve and national estuarine research reserve, the only one in the Great Lakes Biogeographic Region.

After reading about these places you'll want to visit them all, even the familiar ones, and perhaps see them with new eyes. The author, in commentary about a site, tends to slip in the "gee-I-didn't-know-that" kind of natural or historic tidbits that deepen one's appreciation of each. Examples: The story of the name behind Old Woman Creek and the 1836 story of Peter and Catherine Goll, for whom the famed last stand of virgin woods in the region was named.

You may want to keep this handsome little volume, after digesting it, in the glove box of your family vehicle. That way you will have a natural history commentator with you on your wanderings in the woods of northwest Ohio.

The author will be available for a book signing Saturday, 1 to 3 p.m., at the Farmhouse Gift Shop at Wildwood Preserve Metropark on West Central Avenue just west of Corey Road.

Contact Steve Pollick at: spollick@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.



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