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Sugarcreek MetroPark is located near the town of Bellbrook, 13 miles southeast of Dayton in southwestern Ohio. This family-friendly nature preserve is part of the Five Rivers MetroParks system of the Greater Dayton area. It surrounds a long stretch of scenic Sugar Creek and consists of several miles of easy to moderately difficult hiking trails along the creek and through the wooded hillsides. Specific trails lead to park features like the Three Sisters (a group of 550-year-old giant oak trees), the Osage Orange Tunnel, Sycamore Ridge, stand of beechwoods and a tall-grass prairie.
The temperature varies greatly with the seasons in this part of Ohio. Summer is the least appealing season in the park, with highs usually in the mid-80s to mid-90s and high humidity. Winter highs are often in the teens and 20s, but occasionally drop to single digits, with overnight lows of zero to -10. Autumn and spring can be pleasant, with moderate temperatures and humidity. Rain or snow is always a possibility. Come prepared by carrying sunscreen and wearing comfortable footwear and outerwear suitable for the conditions.
On weekends when the weather is nice, especially in spring and fall, the easier trails are fairly busy with family hikers, runners and dog walkers. Picnicking, camping and horseback riding (located in a separate part of the park from the main hiking trails) are also popular activities. The park usually is quiet on weekdays, however, and wonderful photographic opportunities abound.
Since Sugarcreek MetroPark is a nature preserve, wandering off the trails is discouraged. Fortunately, many of the best spots for scenic photos lie along the trails. Sugar Creek is easily accessible and is a noteworthy starting point for landscape photography. Many of the trails are quite scenic, especially in autumn and after a winter snow. A large variety of wildflowers, interesting fungi and other plants are found throughout the park. Also, many nesting bird species and other wildlife are well represented, especially along the less-traveled trails.
Foggy conditions, as well as mornings and evenings near sunrise and sunset on clear days, usually provide the best opportunities for memorable landscape and wildlife shots. Overcast conditions work well for close-ups on the forest floor, such as wildflowers and fungi. The park is heavily wooded and hilly, so with the exception of wintertime, many spots don’t get much direct sunlight.
A good, sturdy tripod is a must for the varied terrain and conditions that likely will be encountered. For landscapes, a wide-angle to moderate telephoto zoom lens is useful, as is a polarizing filter. For close-ups of wildflowers and similar subjects, carry a quality macro lens. A telephoto zoom is suggested for wildlife.
Fall and winter are the best times for scenic shots in Sugarcreek. In fall, spectacular leaf colors in various shades of yellow, orange and red from sugar maple, oak, ash, sycamore, dogwood and other tree species usually peak around mid-October. This is also the time when the trails are the busiest. In winter, capture photogenic landscapes after a fresh snowfall, especially along the creek. Be careful, though—the trails can be treacherous when icy! Spring is the ideal time for wildflower photos. Contact: Sugarcreek MetroPark, www.metroparks.org.
With its unpredictable, moody weather, winter is a marvelous time for nature photography. But trying to work your camera when your hands are freezing is just misery, and the alternative—wearing big warm gloves—just isn’t practical. Made of soft, moisture-absorbing Lycra, Lowepro’s Photo Gloves keep your hands warm and let you operate your camera and gear with no problem. Contact: Lowepro, (800) 800-LOWE, www.lowepro.com.