When coronavirus came to America, my doctors were pretty explicit with me: This is the sort of thing that can kill you. Stay home, go for walks. That’s it.

Being outside, for me anyway, is a balm for the soul, a respite from the sturm und drang around us. One night, my kids and I decided we were going to go experience all of the Wood County parks — 20 parks in 20 (or so) days. At first, we thought about evaluating them in brackets, a la the March Madness we all missed this year. We soon realized that you really can’t compare one park to another, because they’re all just a little different.

So instead, we present to you, with apologies to “The Regular Show,” The Parkies.

Best Place To Feel Like A Disney Princess Communing With Animals

The clear winner here was W.W. Knight Nature Preserve, near Perrysburg. We saw bass, bluegill and a giant carp. Then a water snake wriggled through the swamp grass. A muskrat smiled up at us. A few mallards landed nearby.

Beyond the wildlife, there’s just a lot to do. Pretty, well-maintained trails. Kids’ fishing. Sitting by the water. Playing in the woods. We loved everything about W.W. Knight.

Best Hidden Gem

We hesitated to even share this one with anyone, because it’s so well hidden. But we kind of fell in love with Cricket Frog Cove near Cygnet.

Well off Freyman Road, there’s a fishing hole for kids in the rear of the park, and a grass path around the perimeter. A nice observation platform overlooks it. Some hunting trails disappear into the woods, and we pretended to look for Aragog.

Cricket Frog Cove isn’t for everyone. No swingsets, no benches, no boardwalks. But if you want a nice drop into nature, it’s pretty great.

Best Place To Feel Like Jeremiah Johnson

You go down a dirt road to get into Baldwin Woods, and you go down a dirt road to get out. Chances are, you’re not going to see another human.

We saw a ton of birds, who seemed completely non-pulsed by the humans deigning to enter their space. It felt like we were a million miles from civilization, and that was pretty great.

One warning: Wear long pants and boots. The tick situation is intense.

Best Climbing

OK, brutal honesty, this is Wood County. It doesn’t take a whole lot for us to exclaim, “My God! Would you look at that cliff!” So, my Colorado-native friends will silently chuckle at the awe with which we beheld Sawyer Quarry.

If you haven’t been there, you really need to go. Most of your group will have a great time climbing around on the rocks, and it’s just about impossible to take a bad picture. Once you’re down among the rocks, it’s kind of easy to forget you’re in the flattest part of the world.

Best Place To Mimic The Lamest Avenger

Gamma rays. Super soldier serum. Russian assassin. Android. Genius in flying suit. And … the guy who’s really good with a bow and arrow?

Yes, yes, I’m a Hawkeye hater in the context of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate excellent archery. You can get your Hawkeye on at Arrowwood Archery Park, tucked in behind the Wood County Historical Center off Linwood Road. Super cool set up, and hard to believe you can practice on public land for free at such a great facility!

Just, uh, promise you won’t do the whole Ronin thing.

Best Place to Speak Sheep

Carter Farm. As is required by the Ancient Laws of Fatherhood, I embarrass my children in public. In an era of social distancing, it’s a little harder to find opportunities to hone one’s craft.

Trust me, 10 minutes of yelling “Baaa!!” at some sheep, even when the nearest human was a quarter mile away … it gets the reaction you’re after.

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