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Live like a Tourist

Morning. The first breath of dawn; sunlight melts through tree branches on the shoreline, giving the lake a soft orange glow. The water is tranquil, unperturbed and slick. Everything is silent except for breathing. The earth stretches its lungs as I bob on barely noticeable swells—life jacket above the waterline, legs dangling beneath, the tips of my skis protruding like partially submerged fiberglass monuments.

With a guttural howl, the outboard motor shifts from idle to full throttle. The line from the boat snaps taut, and in an instant I’m upright and skimming across the water’s surface, body flexed against the pull of the engine. I bump and bounce on the uneven backwash of the boat, droplets spraying over me before baking away in the rising sun. A slight push of my heel while pulling the rope handle closer to my body—I dip into a trough and then shoot out past the wake, speeding almost parallel to the left side of the vessel. I glide across the glass, the wind whipping around my face.

Up and down the waterway, big looping turns by the concrete walls of a dam, crisscrossing the wake and watching the scenery cruise past while my mind rids itself of anything but the present moment. Until my back or arms grow fatigued and then with a wave of my hand I submit and drop the line, sinking to the water from which I sprang, exhausted and refreshed.

I took up waterskiing after my dad bought a boat when I was 15, and from the first time the line yanked me upright, I loved the feel of it—near superhuman ability to carve a path through the water, seesawing back and forth at will. As much as the physical aspects of the sport appealed to me, it also forced a reverie of sorts, the whine of the engine and the buffeting of the wind carrying away all other sound and inducing extended moments of clarity.

My family traveled around the region each summer, testing out new lakes in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana and all over Ohio. Even when we weren’t on vacation, we took weekend trips to Sandusky Bay and spent weeknights exploring our home waters in Alum Creek and Delaware State Park reservoir. Wherever we went with our boat in tow, the waterways provided new experiences and challenges, but always the same sense of exhilaration.

That’s the goal of this section: seeking out Ohio’s myriad exploits to test your body or rejuvenate your mind—or ideally, both. We asked experts with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Tourism Ohio to provide insight, and they pointed us in the direction of the following places, most of them part of the Ohio State Parks system. Some of them are hidden gems within a few dozen miles of home. They are ready and waiting, whether you demand the thrill of boating and waterskiing—skipping like a sentient pebble across the state’s rivers and lakes—or the refuge of quiet moments of personal athletic achievement on disc golf courses, surrounded by the natural environs that measure your skill.

Fitness is about overcoming trials, not just results. And beyond fitness, life is about experience; it’s about the act of doing. This is your guide.

Waterskiing

Wake Nation Cincinnati, Fairfield Ohio

If the previous essay stoked your desire to glide across a lake, then here are your spots. These bodies of water are of the larger variety, generally a good idea for waterskiing, and they’re all unlimited horsepower venues, meaning most vessels are welcome.

Alum Creek  3615 S. Old State Road, Delaware

Grand Lake St. Marys  834 Edgewater Drive, St. Marys

Indian Lake  12774 State Route 235 N, Lakeview

Lake Erie  Multiple access points

Mosquito Lake  1439 State Route 305, Cortland

Canoeing & Kayaking

For those who want a bit slower pace, a more picturesque trip or to power their journey manually, Ohio offers plenty of fantastic paddle adventures. These scenic rivers and water trails are some of the best places around for anyone who loves the natural beauty of the state’s rivers, creeks and streams.

Little Miami River 8570 E. State Route 73, Waynesville (Caesar Creek office)

Kokosing River  1782 Lower Gambier Road, Mount Vernon (Lower Gambier River Road access)

Mohican River  3116 State Route Three, Loudonville

Mad River  Multiple access points (both public access and private guide companies)

Vermillion-Lorain Water Trail  51211 North Ridge Road, Vermilion (Vermillion River Reservation)

Hiking

If you’re more interested in journeys on dry land, check out these state parks with all skill levels of trails to hike and explore. Beginners can enjoy the amazing landscapes of Caesar Creek and Mohican, while more advanced hikers can attempt trails at Lake Hope or Shawnee. The most ambitious trekkers should consider the 1,200-mile Buckeye Trail, which is hiked in segments and circumnavigates the entire state. The Marion Area also just received a new trail worth visiting, Marion Tallgrass, currently 3 miles and growing.

Caesar Creek  8570 E. State Route 73, Waynesville

Lake Hope  27331 State Route 278, McArthur

Mohican  3116 State Route Three, Loudonville

Buckeye Trail  Multiple access points

Shawnee  4404 State Route 125, Portsmouth

Biking

Summit Lake Park - Akron, Ohio

Adrenaline junkies and naturalists alike can get their fix on the state’s network of biking trails. Cuyahoga Valley provides the unique Bike Aboard program, which allows enthusiasts to bike one way on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail and then take the train back the other way. Little Miami offers an extraordinary paved path all the way through Caesar Creek, and the other parks—especially the nationally renowned Mohican—all feature true mountain biking trails.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park  1550 Boston Mills Road, Peninsula (main visitor center)

Great Seal  4908 Marietta Road, Chillicothe

Jefferson Lake  501 Township Road 261A, Richmond

Little Miami  8570 E. State Route 73, Waynesville (Caesar Creek office)

Mohican  3116 State Route Three, Loudonville

Disc Golf

Disc golf is the perfect activity for those who want a little bit of everything in their Ohio adventuring experience—there’s physical activity, gorgeous surroundings, serenity and even competition, whether it’s amongst a group of friends or just attempting to beat your own low score. The state parks feature 22 courses around Ohio, with two more in the process of being built now. Here are some of the best:

Alum Creek  3615 S. Old State Road, Delaware

Findley  25381 State Route 58, Wellington

Forked Run  63300 State Route 124, Reedsville

Pike Lake  1847 Pike Lake Road, Bainbridge

Punderson  11755 Kinsman Road, Newbury

For more information about these activities and many more throughout the state, click here.

Photos courtesy office of Tourism Ohio.

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